By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens are considered by many to be one of the most successful franchises in all of football. However, their approach to this success has been different from that of many other teams.
Most of the perennial playoff teams can string together 12 or 13 wins a season while dismantling their lesser competition on Sundays. The Ravens aren’t built to bully teams on a regular basis. The formula for Baltimore has been simple: Improve as a football team from September to November while winning as many games as possible. When December arrives, Baltimore is usually prepared to make a run towards the postseason.
This year is no different for the purple and black. The Ravens find themselves at 6-6 this season and have gained control of the sixth and final AFC playoff seed. If the Ravens win their next three games and the Bengals lose one during that time period, the season finale will be for the division championship.
The circumstances may change for Baltimore during a given season, but the story remains the same. Play well in December and you’ll be in the playoffs. The Ravens have made five consecutive trips to the postseason since 2008. This season appears to be their biggest challenge to date. For starters, the Ravens offense has struggled this season. Ray Rice has always been relied upon to carry the unit through its tough times, but even he has struggled this season as he’s mustered only 482 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games this season.
Without the usual productivity of Ray Rice, the Ravens will be leaning towards their defense once again to save the day. At this point in the season, any hopes of a decent running game for this football team should be long gone by now. As Dennis Green would say, “They are who we thought they were.” And that’s a defensive football team with a strong armed quarterback.
Their first test will be against perhaps the most dynamic running back in NFL history. Though the league has now become the “land of the quarterbacks,” the most feared individual could very well be Adrian Peterson. In what appears to be the easiest of the four games left on the Ravens schedule, their may not be a more dominant player left for the Ravens to play. An argument can be made for Calvin Johnson but his production is too dependent on that of his quarterback. Peterson needs only take two steps before he becomes an immediate threat.
Those hoping the Ravens will be able to shut Peterson down will be discouraged when they look at what Le’veon Bell accomplished against Baltimore on Thursday with the Steelers. Bell averaged 4.6 yards per carry against a defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Of course, the treat of Big Ben Roethlisberger made life easier for the young tailback. Peterson won’t have the luxury as the Vikings possess little to no real threat through the air.
The Ravens are right in the thick of things as the playoff picture begins to clear up. They’ll have to take care of business at home against the Vikings before a brutal, three-game stretch begins against the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals. With those high-profile games on the horizon, it is easy to look past a struggling Vikings squad. But with All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson in the backfield for Minnesota, refusing to take things one game at a time would be unwise.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.