It doesn’t feel much like a playoff race, probably because most of us believe that the Ravens can’t win the Super Bowl anyway. So, what’s to get excited about if all that a playoff dance afford you is a beating in January in some other AFC city?
Yesterday, the Ravens did their part to stay on track to keep the 2009 season alive with a convincing beatdown of the lowly Detroit Lions, who barely qualify as NFL-eligible these days and whose team literally quit in the cold and rain at M&T Bank Stadium.
So, the Ravens are now 7-6 and will be favored in each of their three finales here vs. Chicago and on the road in Pittsburgh and Oakland. Really, the Ravens SHOULD make the playoffs now. Pretenders like Jacksonville and Miami and the New York Jets seem to have more difficult matchups throughout the holiday and the purple birds will have no one to blame but themselves if they cramp up against some of these dregs left on the schedule. (And, yes, Steelers fans if you lose to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland, you suck!)
So, where are the pitfalls for John Harbaugh’s squad?
Obviously the glaring mistakes over the past 13 weeks can rear their ugly heads at any point.
The secondary can continue to atrophy and play with confusion, especially with the injury bug attacking the Ravens with regularity over the past month. Ed Reed is MIA. Terrell Suggs isn’t healthy. Fabian Washington is gone. Lardarius Webb is young. And the pass rush is a rumor most weeks, especially against stout offensive lines like the one we saw in Green Bay last Monday.
The offense looked like the ’99 Rams yesterday in running through the Lions’ matador rushing defense but the Bears, Steelers and Raiders won’t allow the Ravens to put up 48 points with ease.
At different points yesterday Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Ray Rice, Derrick Mason and Kelley Washington all pulled up lame, gimpy or breathless. Make no mistake about it, the Ravens are a beaten-up bunch of purple birds.
But they have made it 25% of the way to the playoffs here in December. One down. Three to go.
Next up: the Bears, with a passing offense that will look to go down the field with quarterback Jay Cutler in a big-strike attack. Assuming the weather will be better, the backside of the Ravens’ defense will be tested.
Tens wins is all but a guarantee of the playoffs. Harbaugh, Flacco, Ray Lewis and the leadership of the team seems poised to lead them in the right direction before 2010.
One game at a time.
But it’s strange that it always feels like the end is near with the 2009 Ravens.
We all get the feeling that they’re a “dangerous” team for many playoff teams but they’ve put themselves in a “zero tolerance” region for mistakes.
The Bears and Steelers won’t be quitting like the Lions did in the muck on Sunday.
You can count on that…