Ravens running on all cylinders heading to Cincinnati

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense have been on fire the past few weeks.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Since Dallas is off to a 6-1 start, Jason Garrett might be the front-runner if you are talking about best coaching jobs for the first half of the season. But if you look closer there is one that has surpassed him.

After a 23-16 loss to the Bengals in the opener and Ray Rice’s release following the tape of his domestic violence incident being made public, many were starting to write off Baltimore’s chances of making the playoffs. But the Ravens go into Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium leading the AFC North with a 5-2 record. A lot of the credit goes to John Harbaugh, who kept things together, and to an offense that has found its stride after struggling last season.

The Ravens have scored on their first possession in four of the past six games — three touchdowns and a field goal. According to STATS LLC, they are tied for second in the league in first possession points with 24 after scoring 20 all of last season.

"We’ve worked on starting the game. That has been something we’ve done through training camp, and we do it usually about once a week. We have a first drive of the game. It’s nothing elaborate. It’s just a drill," Harbaugh told reporters earlier this week.

The bigger surprise might be the run game. Justin Forsett, who is fourth in the league in rushing, is second in carries with 10-plus yards with 18. That’s not good news for the Bengals, which are tied for fifth in giving up the most 10-plus yard rushes with 27.

In the Week 1 game in Baltimore, three of Forsett’s 11 rushes went for 10-plus yards. He ended up having 77 yards


"He (Forsett) actually wants it more. I can tell you that. But he has played really well for us," Harbaugh said. "He’s a three-down player, which is very important in the National Football League. So, he’s handling his business as a pass protector, too"

SPEAKING OF THE RUN GAME

The Browns Isaiah Crowell leads the league in highest percentage of rushes over 10 yards by a running back at 23.5 percent. Crowell also has fourth-highest percentage of being stuffed (carries of no gain or negative yards) at 15.7.

Cleveland has run the ball 49.4 percent of the time, which is third-highest in the league. Last year they went to the ground just 32.3 percent which was next to last.

STATE OF THE NORTH

The Ravens are presently in control and could put a firm hold on things if they can win the next two weeks at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. That would put them at 7-2 but more important 4-1 in the division with just the Week 17 contest against the Browns remaining.

At 4-3 the Steelers are also trending up after rallying to beat Houston last Monday but they have a huge test coming up against Indianapolis.

The Browns (3-3) and Bengals (3-2-1) are both trending down. Cleveland faces another winless team in Oakland while Cincinnati is trying to avoid a winless October for the fourth time in seven years.