I’ve been saying this all season and today, in Baltimore, it was all on full display once again.
The NFL is completely nuts.
Week-in and week-out, you have no idea who’s going to show up and who isn’t.
Take Sunday for instance — the Giants laid a gi-normous egg for the second straight week and the Ravens rebounded from an unthinkable two-game home losing streak to walk-in-the-park their way to a 33-14 victory that secured the team’s second straight AFC North crown.
Remind me again which of those two teams came in as the defending champs…
Week to week in the NFL, it’s a complete crapshoot…and week to week with the Ravens, it’s that way too. Joe Flacco had a terrific first half against the Redskins back on December 9th, then went missing in action for seven quarters before reappearing on Sunday to direct a suddenly-potent offense. Torrey Smith caught more colds than passes over the last month, but he rebounded in a big way against New York with a handful of electric catches. The Ravens defensive front has basically been useless for most of the season, but they showed up in a big way vs. the Giants, holding New York to sixty seven rushing yards and pressuring Eli Manning from the opening whistle. And the much-maligned Baltimore offensive line – with a major boost from a returning Marshal Yanda- held off the normally-fierce Giants pass rush all afternoon.
Flacco=potent. Torrey Smith=electric. Ravens defense=stingy. Ravens offensive line=reliable.
Like I said, “the league is nuts”.
This was precisely the kind of game John Harbaugh needed to see, for it gives him the opportunity to open his Monday morning meeting with the team by saying, “If we play like that over the next month, we’ll be in New Orleans in February.”
A lot of the fans might still be skeptical, but Harbaugh and his staff sure aren’t. And if the head coach can get the players to believe in themselves and follow that belief with the kind of execution we all witnessed on Sunday, who knows what lies ahead?
From a playoff standpoint, a lot could still happen for the Ravens.
They’ll either play host to the Bengals or the Colts in the first round of the AFC playoffs the first weekend in January. That much, we know for sure.
But the Ravens might host that game as the #4 seed or, if they win and New England loses next Sunday, the #3 seed.
After that, assuming they win, the Ravens might visit Houston or Denver, depending on whether or not they — oh, forget it, there’s just too many variables to break down.
You get the picture, though. The Ravens get a home playoff game for the second straight year and they won’t have to face Tom Brady until the AFC Championship Game. That’s a double bonus right there.
One game remains in the regular season and it’s the rarest of outings. It matters, but only a little bit. In a league where every single game can turn your season around, it’s a true oddity when a game comes around that doesn’t count for much. Harbaugh indicated after Sunday’s win over the Giants that he’ll go to Cincinnati with winning in mind, resting only those players who are “obviously injured”. He has to play it that way, for securing the #3 seed if New England loses would be much better than being the #4 seed.
Just a week after getting embarrassed at home by a much better and much healthier Broncos team, the Ravens turned the tables on the Giants Sunday, humbling them in a manner more befitting of their New Jersey neighbors – the Jets.
I didn’t expect it.
I assume most of you didn’t, either.
But that’s the NFL, where no team is safe and no outcome is predictable.
Just ask the Texans, who got slapped around at home by the Vikings on Sunday.
Or you can ask the Steelers, who saw their playoff hopes dashed in Pittsburgh by the Bengals.
The Giants would be another prime example, as they buzzed into Charm City trying to stay alive in the NFC East playoff race, only to get pounded on both sides of the ball.
More like “defending chumps”.
As for the Ravens, that 3-game losing streak is now a thing of the past. They just beat the Giants like a drum.
And “if they play like that next week and in the playoffs…”