As they enter Week 9 of the NFL regular season, the Baltimore Ravens have found themselves at a crossroads.
Sitting at 4-4 and third in the AFC North, the 4-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers will roll into Baltimore Sunday looking for redemption from their Week 4 loss on home turf. Then enters the 5-3 Cincinnati Bengals who handed the Ravens their first loss of the season on national television.
Getting a win against the Steelers and Bengals hasn't always been easy, and after dropping their last two, the Ravens' season depends on the outcome of the next two weeks. But for the man under center, all the big-picture stuff is getting pushed aside.
"It's very tough to play in this league when you're constantly thinking about the outcome of so many different things," Joe Flacco said Wednesday. "Our job is to go play football. When you worry about the outcome of things before it has actually happened, that's when you start making mistakes. That's when you start playing tentative."
Flacco's play in 2018 hasn't been the issue. After a lackluster 2017, Flacco has looked sharper, more mobile and has a group of receivers and tight ends he connects with. It has been the Ravens' No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense that has allowed matchups with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers to slip through the cracks the last two weeks. The recipe to rebounding and fixing all of the problems of the past two losses on Sunday, he says, is simple.
"The way that you do those things is to just go out there and play," Flacco said. "The outcomes - the wins and losses - they end up falling into place because of the way that you were able to keep your focus for a full 60 minutes. If you're thinking about all kinds of [things like] 'Where are we going to end up after this?' [or] 'Who do we have next?' all that stuff, it just gets in your way. It puts little blocks in your head, in my opinion. Obviously, there's a certain awareness of it, but you have to try to put it out of your head."
What the Ravens do have in their favor is history.
October has historically been a bad month for the Ravens, but the month of November has been historically good. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 7-0 at home in November against AFC North rivals.
"Don't jinx it," Flacco said jokingly. "No, we don't pay attention to that. It's one of those things when we've been grinding to go win football games ... We've had a couple close ones, and obviously, a couple that got away from us a little bit [in October].
"It's a little disappointing to be where we are, but it is the reality of it. What our record is, is reality of the situation. We just have to continue to press forward and do the best we can to turn that around."
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