OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes that one of the benefits of playing on Thursday night is gaining some perspective on Sunday.
Given a chance to watch all the games, Harbaugh was able to sit back and appreciate how crazy the league can be, from how many games come down to one play to teams unexpectedly getting blown out.
He also realized that you can't make knee-jerk reactions about teams two weeks into the season.
"Nobody in the NFL is a good football team yet," Harbaugh said. "So it remains to be seen who the good football teams are, and that’s what we’ve got to try to become."
In order to become a good football team, Baltimore has to figure out consistency. In a span of five days, the Ravens went from routing the Buffalo Bills in the season opener to imploding in Cincinnati.
Perhaps more than any team, Baltimore understands that it's more about how you finish than about how you start. The Ravens have reached the postseason four of the previous five times they've started 1-1. In each of the past two seasons, Baltimore began 2-0 and failed to make the playoffs.
"Everything's still attainable,” safety Eric Weddle said. "The world's not falling, but we do have to correct some things, obviously. And that's why you have practice. That's why you have great coaching. Everyone's accountable in the room, and we look at ourselves first, see what you can do better, whether it's schematics or you individually or technique or fundamentals, and you get back to work."
There have been some unlikely turns in the first two weeks. At the start of the season, there was just a 0.25 percent chance that the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would start 2-0, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. That is equivalent to a 1-in-400 chance.
Even in the AFC North, who predicted the Bengals would be undefeated and the Steelers would be winless after two games?
The Ravens are among 14 teams with a 1-1 record, which essentially amounts to half the league. From 1990 to 2017, half of the 1-1 teams made the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"Going forward, we just have to keep our heads up and keep believing in what we're building around here," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "This is the NFL. You're not promised anything in this league. We know that. This is a long season, and we have to keep our heads up and be positive about who we are as a football team because I think we've got a really good football team."
The biggest challenge for the Ravens these days is injuries. After one of the healthiest summers in team history, Baltimore will play host to the undefeated Denver Broncos (2-0) with four starters banged up.
In going against the NFL’s third-leading rusher (Phillip Lindsay), the Ravens could be without middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is dealing with a bone bruise around his knee. In lining up against the league’s current sack leader (Von Miller), Baltimore might not have left tackle Ronnie Stanley at full strength. He missed the last 12 snaps of Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury.
"What it’s going to boil down to in the end is who is mentally tougher over the long haul. You have to keep grinding,” Harbaugh said. "You start with a lead? Keep grinding. You start out down in a hole? Keep grinding. It’s a long game. If it’s tight? Keep grinding. Someone has to pull ahead. I think it's true for a game; I think it’s true for a season. That’s where we’re at right now. It’s early, and we just have to grind and become better and become mentally tough and fight and become a good football team."