Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

New-look Ravens look to end playoff drought

The revamped Baltimore Ravens begin their quest to end a three-year playoff drought when they open the regular season Sept. 9 against the Buffalo Bills.

There is a clear sense of urgency surrounding the team.

General manager Ozzie Newsome is stepping down after this season and the coaches and players are determined to send him out a winner.

“It’s upon us,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re ready to go. I think the fans are excited. I know the players are excited. We can’t wait.”

The Ravens have been trending downward since winning the Super Bowl in 2013. The team has gone just 40-40 and clinched one playoff berth since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Last year was especially disappointing when Baltimore was knocked out of the playoffs on one of the final plays of the regular season. The secondary surrendered a 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on a fourth-and-12 in the final minute that gave Cincinnati a 31-27 victory, allowing the Bills to overtake the Ravens for the postseason.

Harbaugh is feeling some pressure to get the team back on track. His job might depend on making the playoffs.

“I’m not going to give a ‘playoff or bust’ edict to my coach,” owner Steve Bisciotti said. “He’s under as much pressure, probably, then he’s ever been in his life. I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of this season.”

Baltimore spent much of the season revamping the offense.

The Ravens added veteran receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree via free agency. Newsome also signed Willie Snead IV to a two-year offer sheet that the New Orleans Saints declined to match. Baltimore grabbed two tight ends — Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews — in the first three rounds of the draft. Hurts is out the opening three or four weeks with a fractured foot. Andrews had his best game in the preseason finale against the Redskins.

As a result, the Ravens are confident they can make a run at the postseason this year with Joe Flacco under center. Newsome would like nothing more than to win a third title before assistant Eric DeCosta assumes the role as general manager.

“We’re trying to win this year. In order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco,” Newsome said. “That’s why we went and got the receivers. That’s why we went and got the tight end — to give Joe some help. So, we want to win this year.”

The Ravens also added some depth behind Flacco.

The team selected Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, will serve as an understudy to Flacco before possibly taking over as the starter. Baltimore also added Robert Griffin III, keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009.

SERIES HISTORY: 8th regular season meeting. Ravens lead series, 4-3. Baltimore won the last matchup 13-7 on Sept. 11, 2016, and finished that year 8-8. The Bills had won two of the past three games entering that matchup.