Every year, 32 teams start the season out with one goal – to win a Super Bowl. The first step in that process is to make the post-season. Recent years have taught us that it doesn’t matter how you get to that second season, only that you get there. And while some teams take an easier path by winning divisions and securing home-field advantage, others must fight just to get in. For those teams, controlling your own destiny is all you can ask for. The Baltimore Ravens now are in that position. With four games left, they only can look at themselves to continue their title defense.
Is it time to hand out some credit? Maybe even eat some crow? Not exactly yet, but let’s recognize what the Ravens have accomplished to get to this point. They’ve dealt with major injuries to key players, a totally inept running game and poor production from tight ends and wide receivers. They’ve had to side-step questionable play-calling, weather-related delays and even opposing team’s head coaches to earn their way back to .500 and holding that final playoff spot.
But there is a catch to this whole scenario. Controlling your own destiny isn’t always as cracked up as it seems to be. There is a certain amount of being exposed that you face. Sure the Ravens are very likely to run the three-game sweep at home when they beat the Vikings this coming weekend. But the final three games of the season could do just that – expose the Ravens. Road trips to Detroit and Cincinnati with Tom Brady and Patriots sandwiched in between could prove to be the downfall. Or it could be wins over three playoff-bound teams as the Ravens get hot at the right time. That’s the exposure piece.
Who are the Ravens? I don’t know if anyone really knows yet. Eight of their last nine games have been decided by one score or less. They are 3-5 in those eight games. Is that an indicator of future failure? Or have they turned the tide because two of those three wins came in the last four weeks? You can look at it from several different angles and each point of view would be right … and wrong.
Plain and simple, the Ravens season will be decided in the next four games. And who they are, and how they will be remembered is ultimately up to them. In today’s NFL, that’s all you can really ask for.
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