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Mike Preston scores in the third quarter: the Ravens need better qualifications to become serious contenders

The Ravens were already set up at the start of the season because their last two games in 2017 are at home. Now, they are receiving a bonus because their last three games are against losing teams.

The Ravens' road to the postseason begins with away games in the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2) and Cleveland Browns (0-12) before finishing at home against Indianapolis Colts (3-9) and Cincinnati Bengals ( 5-7). This is not exactly the line of NFL assassins.

All right, three of the games are against opponents of the AFC North. But only Pittsburgh will likely continue in the postseason. Most of Cincinnati's ambitions in the playoffs ended with a 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night while the Browns and Colts were virtually eliminated at the midway point of the season.

The Ravens (7-5) ride the momentum of a three-game winning streak in Pittsburgh for their Sunday night meeting with the Steelers. If they win, it would be an affirmation game that the Ravens are serious competitors, not just one of those unique teams that wins a place in the wild card playoffs.

But before Sunday's game, we delivered the third quarter report card. The qualifications are similar to those of the middle of the period, although there is a slight improvement, especially in the offensive.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco had his best game of the season last week against Detroit Li ons, throwing for 269 yards and finishing with a quarterback rating of 105.0, the second time he had been more than 100.0 throughout the season. The question is whether you can repeat the performance and be more consistent. He played well early in the season against the Oakland Raiders, but had problems in the next game. Flacco has had poor mechanics and has been inaccurate most of the season. He has to play well for the Ravens to reach the postseason and be considered serious contenders. Grade: C

Corrientes: Alex Collins ran for 705 yards on 144 carries in his first 12 games and has been the team's best offensive player. Since the mid-point of the season, the Ravens have given him more ball, especially as a receiver of passes from the back garden. It's a good play because it's a big threat. Collins does not seem to have the same blast to go out on the street as he did earlier in the season, but he runs well inside the tackles and has good vision for the backstroke. Danny Woodhead has returned to the lineup after missing most of the first half of the season with an injury, but it has not been the weapon in the passing game that the Ravens thought it would be. Buck Allen is still the Ravens best runner in short-yardage situations, but the Ravens have also used him as a blocker or leader. Grade: B

Offensive Line: This unit performed well against the Lions. Maybe it's because the Ravens have had the same headlines in recent games or maybe because the Detroit defense was very weak. A better test will come on Sunday against the Steelers. The Ravens are solid in the tackle positions with Ronnie Stanley and Austin Howard, especially in the running game. But both fight with the sprinters when it comes to passing protection. Ryan Jensen has been adequate at the center and continues to improve. The Ravens lack power over the ball with the guards Matt Skura and James Hurst, but the blocking scheme works for them because it takes advantage of the angles and combination blocks. The Ravens have 33 sacks and yield 23. Grade: C-

Receptors: Closed end Benjamin Watson leads this group with 45 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. During the first half of the season, he was the most consistent interpreter of this group. However, opposing teams are putting Watson in brackets more. The problem with this group is that it seems that it is not synchronized with Flacco, but maybe that was corrected in the Detroit game. The Ravens have to get more out of veteran Jeremy Maclin (36 receptions, 391 yards). His presence opens things up for both Watson and Mike Wallace (34, 487). Watch second-year receiver Chris Moore. It seems he is responding well after replacing Breshad Perriman as the receiver n. 3. Moore has good speed and more reliable hands than Perriman, even though Perriman is a first-round pick in the 2015 draft and Moore was selected in the fourth. The Ravens can not afford to lose Nick Boyle. He is the best tight end blocking on the list. Grade: C-

Defensive Line: The Ravens have one of the best defensive runs in the NFL and that's largely due to nose tackle Brandon Williams. When he was out of the lineup early in the season due to injury, the Ravens had problems. Now, opposing teams find it difficult to compete against the Ravens and Williams, who have 22 tackles despite constantly being double-team. Tackle Michael Pierce has 40 tackles and is tough on the inside against the race as well. Young players like tackle Willie Henry and Carl Davis are solid and continue to improve. Davis is strong against the race while Henry is a better pass rusher due to his relentless pursuit. However, this group needs to exert more pressure when rushing to the passerby. Grade: B

Linebackers: When Terrell Suggs dominates, so is the Ravens defense. Lead the team in catches with 10½ and you have become more of a team leader than ever. C.J. Mosley leads the team with 101 tackles and has become the consummate professional both on and off the field. Matthew Judon has become a good versatile linebacker despite playing on the strong side. Patrick Onwuasor has reduced some of the costly mental mistakes he was making earlier in the season. Ideally, the Ravens need to get more out of the backs of Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser and Za & # 39; Darius Smith. Without Suggs, the Ravens pass fever has been missing. Grade: B +

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