Baltimore Ravens: Why a playoff appearance could be historic
The Baltimore Ravens are on the cusp of a playoff spot, a division title, and potentially so much more because of an unreal second-half run in 2018.
How crazy is it that one little change could turn an entire season on its head for the better? The Baltimore Ravens 2018 season looked dead in the water when the team entered its week ten bye week at 4-5. Three-straight heartbreaking losses had us all frantic and of the mindset that the sky was falling. The 2019 NFL Draft couldn’t come soon enough and changes throughout the staff seemed inevitable.
But then, everything changed. The Ravens opted to roll with rookie first round pick Lamar Jackson while then-starting quarterback Joe Flacco recovered from a hip injury. The rookie quickly caught fire and led Baltimore to one of its best runs in franchise history. Jackson was so effective, in fact, that the team thought it best to keep him in as the starter, despite Flacco being healthy and ready to go.
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Baltimore is now sitting at 9-6 headed into week 17 with an AFC North division crown on the line. The Ravens must be resilient and find a way to beat the Cleveland Browns, who pulled off an upset vs. Baltimore earlier in 2018. This is no walk in the park, but it is entirely feasible.
The way this team is rolling right now has every single team in the NFL, both in the AFC and NFC, shaking in their boots. The Ravens are 5-1 since their week ten bye week, and a win vs. the Browns would put them at 10-6, which would win them the AFC North division. Technically, Baltimore can slide into the playoffs even if they lose, so long as the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, we don’t want it to come to that, and with the way this team is playing, perhaps we don’t have to be as afraid as we have been in years past.
Shedding the “choke” label:
The 2016 and 2017 Baltimore Ravens were both so close to the playoffs, but fell short because they simply couldn’t finish. In 2016, it was a devastating Antonio Brown touchdown on Christmas day. In 2017, it was an improbably 4th down conversion from Tyler Boyd. Will 2018 continue this dreaded trend for Baltimore? I don’t think so.
The difference in this team compared to its predecessors is its grit. The 2018 edition of the Baltimore Ravens features guys who have experienced this heartbreak and are sick and tired of the narrative that they can’t win when it matters most. This squad has youngsters and rookies who have told the team enough is enough. This team has decided that they control their own destiny, not anyone else. Because of that, 2018 has a different vibe to it.
As long as these guys can overcome the Browns efforts to crush their playoff hopes, we’ve seen before that this team has the determination to go as far as they want. We saw an unlikely run in 2012 that resulted in an insane Super Bowl XLVII title. 2011’s team was very close to a Super Bowl berth and potential win of its own. 2018, however, has a completely different, unique vibe surrounding them.
No, the way this Baltimore Ravens team is bustling right now has put everyone on notice. The Ravens have gone toe-to-toe with the best of the best that the NFL has to offer, and this was before Lamar Jackson revolutionized this offense. Now, teams can’t stop the Ravens run game and theie defense is dominating at a pace that we haven’t seen since 2011. Baltimore is the perfect storm right now, and a deep post-season run could be imminent.
The Baltimore Ravens are a great post-season team historically, and 2018 could prove to be another point to that argument. What this team has cooking right now is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Now, we won’t count our chickens before they hatch, because they need to beat the Browns on Sunday first, but we can’t pretend we aren’t excited. The Ravens could be in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and this team could go all the way.