Just how good are the Ravens?

November 10, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

It’s not time to start printing playoff tickets just yet but if there’s any message that the Ravens sent to not only the Houston Texans but the NFL in general yesterday, it’s that this team is suddenly “for real.”

Any team that can go on the road and paste a team 41-13 in November to go to 6-3 must be taken seriously as a January threat.

Sure, it’s easy to say this: “Who have the Ravens beaten this year that matters?”

The answer: Cleveland twice, Oakland, Cincinnati, Miami and now Houston – combined record of 13-29.

Fair enough.

But the next seven weeks will work all of that out.

Are the Ravens a mediocre team that has bested a homely lot or an emerging playoff team waiting to break out and start beating some quality opponents?

There is one thing we know for sure.

With a date at the Meadowlands pending – and yes, we still have a handful of seats left on our “Miller Lite Purple Bus” to the swamps of Jersey this Sunday – the Ravens now control their own destiny in this chase for playoff football and a potential AFC North division crown.

It’s down to the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North and as tough as the purple schedule looks during the upcoming holiday season, it’s not any easier for yins’ donton either.

The Ravens have played nine games and have laid just one egg. They could easily be 8-1 with a little luck and some fourth quarter defense in the losses against Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

But I’m delighted with 6-3 and an emerging offense, stingy defense and the veteran play of Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and company leading the way for John Harbaugh’s troops. Yes, it’s been a VERY good year thus far, especially given the team’s modest expectations to be a .500 outfit.

There’s no crystal ball and no telling how the team will fare when the likes of the NFC East comes calling. But all of a sudden the upcoming matchups against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh at home don’t look so lopsided and quarterback Joe Flacco has looked less like a rookie than a veteran game manager and occasional long ball tosser who, combined with an effective three-headed backfield of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain, looks to be a factor in this run for January football.

It’s officially “Festivus” season in Baltimore.

Break out the purple lights.

Break out the expectations of fun on Sundays.

And by all means, enjoy this rarest of seasons – a November and holiday full of cheer, potential and hope for a playoff berth.

The good news came in waves yesterday.

The most significant developments happened on the offensive side of the ball, where Derrick Mason went down with a separated shoulder and Todd Heap got off the milk carton of the purple offense.

No doubt that No. 86 has heard the whispers of his pending demise and answered yesterday with his best game of the season.

Meanwhile, Ray Lewis turned in an effort with the impact he formerly had as a much younger man. Two interceptions, running sideline to sideline to once again hold an opposing offense’s star running back to less than 100 yards of rushing.

That makes 29 in a row, if my count is right.

Haloti Ngata’s interception at the goal line sparked a defensive effort that was classic Ravens defense but his contributions on every play should be earning him a grass skirt en route to Honolulu in early February. You’d be hard-pressed to find me a defensive tackle who is playing the game at a higher level right now as the defense continues to break the will of opposing running backs and frustrate and chase quarterbacks each Sunday.

Next up: the World Champion New York Giants.

They had their hands full with Philadelphia last night.

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