We’ll get a better idea about this over the next couple of weeks, but the 6-4 Ravens seem to be playing to a form that says they are good enough to beat the bottom half of the league, but not good enough to beat the best clubs just yet.
Victories over 1-8-1 Cincinnati, 4-6 Cleveland (twice), 6-4 Miami, 2-8 Oakland and 3-7 Houston are almost balanced out with losses to 7-3 Pittsburgh, 10-0 Tennessee, 6-4 Indianapolis and the 9-1 New York Giants.
One impressive win over a surprising team with a winning record (Miami) is what separates the Ravens from being a .500 club.
A 6-4 record is a vast improvement over last season’s nine-game slide and 5-11 overall record. Six wins is right at the number most everyone thought would be the 2008 win total before Steve McNair retired, and Kyle Boller lost out on the QB job to an unheralded rookie in Joe Flacco, a strong candidate for rookie of the year honors.
Is the Ravens’ glass ultimately half-full or half-empty with six weeks to play?
The half-full side would point to Baltimore’s #6 seed in the AFC if the season ended today and the one-game difference between the Ravens and Pittsburgh in the AFC North race. If you see it as half-empty, maybe you point to the group of five teams — four that are not division leaders — at 6-4 overall.
Half-full: Close losses in which the Ravens had a real chance to close the deal against the Steelers and Tennessee in consecutive weeks. Half-empty: The convincing losses at Indianapolis and the Giants.
Four home games, after a 3-1 mark at M&T Bank Stadium to begin the season, remain for those who see the glass fuller. Three of those will be against teams with a current winning record, say those who are looking for more water.
The question for the next six weeks is: Does the glass get filled to the brim with a playoff trip, or does the remaining schedule suck the glass dry after a promising start?
If you believe in Dennis Green’s “They are who we thought they were,” mantra, then the Ravens might be looking at 8-8 in a worst-case scenario with victories over the only two remaining opponents with a current losing record — Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
Or do you think, in the words of Jim Mora, about “Playoffs?” In that case, the road victory at a much-improved Miami that exorcised a leftover 2007 demon for the Ravens, tells the bigger tale going forward with a chance to win the AFC North as the prize.
It’s almost a sure bet a 9-7 record will not make the AFC playoff field as a wild card; 10 will be the magic number. But which two victories will Baltimore capture to get to 10-6, if we make the dangerous assumption that the Ravens beat both the Bengals and the Jaguars?
In that scenario, will it be a combined two home victories over Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh? If the Ravens can only win of those three, then the Tony Romo-resurgent Cowboys — in maybe the final game played at Texas Stadium — stand in the way of 10 victories and a surprising playoff berth.
As John Harbaugh tells his team every day, and by extension the fans, “What’s Important Now?” The embarrassed-to-tie Eagles are most important to the regrouping Ravens, because the next number to be turned over in the win column is seven, not 10.
So there will be no sister-kissing between the Ravens and Eagles in M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. Think of it as more of a brawl between cousins at the family reunion, with the winner surely wishing for a tall glass of water once the blood is washed off.