Lots of people in town – me included, I’ll admit – breathed a huge sigh of relief on Sunday evening when Adam Vinatieri drilled that last second field goal through the uprights at Lucas Oil Stadium and it turned out that Rex Ryan, not John Harbaugh, would have to occupy the visiting coach’s office in Indianapolis this coming weekend.
Leave your macho “we’re not afraid of anybody” yappin’ at the door. It’s not about “being afraid” of Indianapolis. It’s about match-ups. And personnel. And history. And playing AT Indy instead of playing the Colts at home, in Baltimore.
It was a blessing when the Colts beat the Titans and moved the Chiefs to the #4 seed to take on the Ravens this Sunday in KC.
Or was it?
I’m hearing LOTS of people around town put this one in the win column for the Ravens, and most folks doing that are citing the Oakland beatdown of the Chiefs as the main reason they’ve raised the DISBELIEVE flag over the Kansas City team.
Don’t EVER let one game in the league — or one weekend of action — mold your opinion of a team. The Bengals went 4-12 this year. They beat the Ravens once, and if not for a late-game gaffe (make that, two gaffes) from Carson Palmer, the Bengals would have swept Baltimore AGAIN this season.
And I think we all agree that Cincinnati stinks.
But they don’t stink when they play Baltimore.
Oakland finished the season at 8-8. They went 6-0 in their division. Freaky, right? They won AT San Diego, AT Denver, AT Kansas City — then beat all three of those teams once again in their own stadium. And for those of you passing off the Raiders as a “bad team” because they finished 8-8, let me remind you that if they would have won just two more games, Oakland would be hosting Joe Flacco & Co. this Sunday.
The Steelers finished 12-4. They got two VERY fortunate wins in the regular season. They won AT Miami when the referees botched an OBVIOUS fumble from Ben Roethlisberger late in the game and they won AT Buffalo when Stevie Johnson dropped a pass in the end zone – in overtime – that Stevie WONDER might have caught. Two games. Suddenly, Pittsburgh’s 10-6, not 12-4 and the Ravens are hosting playoff games next weekend.
The Ravens finished 12-4. They got two VERY fortunate wins also, edging Buffalo in overtime after Ryan Fitzpatrick went Joe-Montana-Clone on them for most of the afternoon, only to be on the losing end when Ray Lewis stripped the ball from a Buffalo player in the 5th quarter that set up Baltimore’s game-winning field goal. And then there’s the Houston game, where the Ravens collapsed in the 4th quarter and squandered a pair of 21-point leads before Matt Schaub slipped on a Kyle Boller jersey and threw the ball right to Josh Wilson on his own 12 yard line in overtime and Wilson strolled into the end zone for the winning score.
It’s the difference between winning 8 games and 10, 12 games and 10, and so on.
So before you start penciling in Sunday’s win at Kansas City as a cakewalk “because Oakland crushed them last week and Oakland sucks”, you better think a little more clearly about the league and the way no team is ever a lock to beat anyone at any point.
On the surface, this contest with the Chiefs reminds me very much of the 2008 season when the Ravens finished the year 11-5 and had to play AFC East Champion Miami in the first round of the playoffs in South Florida after the Dolphins (continued)