Why have the Ravens struggled before their bye week?

Why do the Ravens struggle before their bye week? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has a reputation as one of the best coaches in the NFL coming out of a bye week, and it’s well deserved. In his 12 full seasons in Baltimore, he has won 10 post-bye games and done so in impressive fashion — those 10 wins came by an average of 13.6 points.

So the Ravens are winning post-bye games by two touchdowns since 2008. But the Ravens are heading to Philadelphia on Sunday for their pre-bye game this week, where they’ve curiously struggled.

When it comes to games before each season’s bye week, the Ravens are below .500 under Harbaugh. Are they looking ahead? Tiring out? Or is it just a meaningless small sample size?

Let’s take a look at those games.

We aren’t going to count 2008, Harbaugh’s debut season, because the Ravens’ bye was forced to move to Week 2 as a result of hurricane damage in Houston. It doesn’t make sense to count the season opener as a pre-bye game since those are such unusual circumstances.

Beyond that, the Ravens are 5-6 in the weeks leading into a bye since 2009. Their wins have come against the 2019 Seahawks, 2015 Chargers, 2014 Titans, 2011 Jets and 2010 Bills.

The losses, on the other hand, have come against much stiffer competition. Of the Ravens’ six defeats, two came against 12-4 teams (2012 Texans and 2009 Vikings) and another came against a 9-7 Titans team in 2017. Two more came at the hands of the Steelers in 2018 and 2013. As the Ravens’ biggest rival and one of the best-run organizations in the league, games against Pittsburgh are always among the season’s most difficult.

Just one of their pre-bye losses came to an actual bad team, the 5-11 Jets in 2016. So it hasn’t been an easy stretch of games by any means.

Harbaugh has been excellent in his career, not just out of a bye but overall with a 122-75 record. He is clearly a terrific coach whose record speaks for itself, and is known as a CEO-type who thrives on motivation and focus.

His relatively poor record before the bye? Likely just a product of small sample size combined with more difficult than average opponents. Compared to the rest of his career, it’s a small blip on the radar.

The Ravens head into Week 6 at Philadelphia with a Week 7 bye on the horizon. This time Baltimore is a heavy favorite and in great position to improve its pre-bye record.

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