The Ravens did what was expected of them. They swept the three-game home stand and held serve. They put themselves back in position to make the post-season for a sixth consecutive year. They won one of the most wild, improbable finishes over the Vikings this past Sunday. They are playing better football now, than they have all season. All signs point up. In all fairness, I didn’t think this would happen. I thought the Ravens would stumble during one of these three games and would be 6-7 as opposed to 7-6. But before anyone else wants to tell me how wrong I am, wait. Wait for the next three weeks to play out. There is more left to prove for the 2013 Ravens.
The challenge is simply this. Go beat three teams all with winning records, all in first place and all heading to the post-season. And oh by the way, two of those three games are on the road. The other is against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Fact: the Ravens have won only one road game this year. Fact: the Ravens have only beaten two teams this year with a winning record. Fact: the Miami Dolphins are one of those teams and the Bengals are the other. And final fact: that win over Miami is the only reason the Ravens are holding the final playoff spot.
I have spent the better part of the last two months questioning this Ravens team and if they have what it takes to be a Super Bowl contender once again. They have cleared the first hurdle. But they didn’t exactly do it in impressive fashion. They struggled to score against a Jets team that was just awful, they needed to stop a 2-point conversion attempt to avoid overtime with the Steelers and needed the most miraculous 2:05 in a football game in recent memory to beat the Vikings in the snow. Can they continue to walk that fine line between winning and losing the final three weeks against better quarterbacks, better teams and on the road?
Predicting the next three weeks is about as easy as picking winning lotto numbers. The Ravens are better now than they were four weeks ago. The offense looks more fluid. They are healthier with Dennis Pitta back and Jacoby Jones returning to the player he was last year. Joe Flacco has weathered the storm. On the flipside, there is still minimal production in the running game, the offensive line is still awful and now the defense is failing late in games in the fourth quarter. Who are the 2013 Ravens? I still don’t think we know.
I can say that when the next three games are complete we will be talking about one of two things, either 1) a team that no one wants to play in the post-season, or 2) a team that couldn’t over come injuries, roster changes and tough competition to get back to the post-season. It is a complete indictment in both directions for the entire organization. John Harbaugh will be lauded as a coach who worked his way through so many obstacles to take his team back to the post-season or a coach who only achieved his success because of players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, whose coattails he rode all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
There are three weeks left in the NFL season and there is more left to prove for the 2013 Ravens.