Mark Viviano: I’ll Say It Again — Super Bowl Ravens
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I was swayed after the win over the Jets in week 4 and I’m only further convinced after the comeback victory in Pittsburgh in week 9 that the Ravens are paving a road to the Super Bowl- and there’s no one in the AFC to stop them, except the Ravens themselves.
The Steelers are the only team with the toughness and talent to derail the Ravens run and Baltimore’s now beaten their rivals twice this season- once completely dominating them at M & T Bank Stadium, then the Sunday night thriller in Steel Town. And it’s the divergent manner of those wins that serves to solidify the Ravens place as a Super Bowl favorite. In week 1, it was the Ravens defense that forced seven Steelers turnovers in a crushing 35-7 win. In Pittsburgh, it was the offense that delivered a magical last-minute 98 yard drive, on the road in prime time, led by quarterback Joe Flacco who many figured was yet to prove himself championship caliber. It could be a career-altering game for Flacco (or at least one that changes the perception of those who have doubted his ability to win big games late). Granted, Pittsburgh had two starting linebackers out with injuries (LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior). I picked the Ravens to win a close game based in part on the depleted nature of the Steeler defense, and the Ravens took advantage and won a huge game. No reason to apologize or hear about other team’s excuses when you’re riding what looks like a non-stop train to a title.
Who will stop the Ravens other than the Ravens? Again- Pittsburgh’s the team with the talent and toughness (if healthy) and the fierce rivals may meet again in the playoffs (it’s happened three times before). But the Ravens are setting themselves up for home field in the postseason, and they don’t lose at home. Other than Pittsburgh, the Patriots have a porous defense, the Jets have proven to be incomplete and completely beatable, the San Diego Chargers are in the midst of a mid-season reality check (they’re again not as good as advertised and again they prove to play soft in big games) and there’s no more Peyton Manning Colts to kick the Ravens to the curb as has happened twice before. Interestingly, the Super Bowl is in Indianapolis in February. I wonder if Manning will be in the stands to see the Ravens and Packers brawl for the Lombardi Trophy? It’s looking like a more likely reality with each week the Ravens play.