Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer 16d

Just like Joe Flacco, Ravens' first half of season defined by mediocrity

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Baltimore Ravens and a preview of what to expect the second half:

First-half snapshot with grade: There were times when the Ravens looked like a playoff team. Their reinvigorated rushing attack and turnover-forcing defense took charge and led to dominant performances. But there were other periods when Baltimore looked like one of the league's worst teams. Joe Flacco's turnovers and inability to stretch the field, along with a surprisingly porous run defense, led to embarrassing losses. Flacco ranks 31st in the NFL in passer rating with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Injuries have also made a significant impact on this team since the start of offseason workouts. Still, Baltimore is currently one game out of a playoff spot. Grade: Average.

Midseason MVP: Cornerback Jimmy Smith. He is the top player on a defense that is changing games with turnovers. Smith has scored two touchdowns, running back a fumble in Oakland and returning an interception against Miami. Among Ravens players, only wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has reached the end zone more than Smith this season. Smith also ranks among the NFL's best in lowest passer rating allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. This could be the year that the seven-year veteran makes his first Pro Bowl.

Best moment: If you can overlook the gruesome shot on Flacco, it’s the 40-0 rout of the Miami Dolphins. A national television audience could have witnessed the demise the of the 2017 Ravens, who were reeling after losing four of their previous five games. Instead, the Ravens delivered the most decisive shutout in franchise history. Flacco set the tone with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Maclin, and the defense finished off the win with touchdown returns from C.J. Mosley and Smith. If Baltimore reaches the postseason, this victory will be remembered as the one that saved the season.

Worst moment: Losing to rookie Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears at home. This felt like the point when Baltimore's season hit rock bottom. The Ravens gave up a franchise-worst 231 yards rushing and failed to score an offensive touchdown in a shake-your-head, 27-24 overtime loss to Chicago. Baltimore had trouble coming to grips in losing to a rookie quarterback making his first road start and falling to a Bears team that had lost 10 straight road games. Linebacker Terrell Suggs summed it up best when he said after the game: "There’s nothing more disappointing in the world than mediocrity."

Second-half outlook: After facing the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers on the road, the Ravens finish out the season by playing four of their final six games at M&T Bank Stadium. Of those final six opponents, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have a winning record. It also marks the first time that the Ravens will end a season with two home games in the franchise history. But, with these unpredictable Ravens -- lose to the Jaguars by 37 points and beat the Dolphins by 40 --there are simply no guarantees that Baltimore will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

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