Baltimore Ravens could close a near-perfect Act III of 2019 season

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 06: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass in the first quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 6, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 06: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass in the first quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 6, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Baltimore Ravens 2019 season has been a magnificent run that we’re hoping ends with a complete sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’ve long considered NFL seasons to have four acts.

There is the offseason, which involves the initial wave of free agency, the draft and piecing together the original cast of characters that the team will use as the backbone of the next season. Then there is the preseason, consisting of OTAs, mandatory minicamps, training camp and the preseason. The regular season is the third act — the meat-and-potatoes of the season, where divisions are decided and the playoff cast of characters is determined. The final and most memorable act is the playoffs. Win that and your team goes down as immortal.

The offseason would have to be considered a success for the 2019 Baltimore Ravens, right? There was a national vibe that the proverbial sky was falling down because of the defections of several key contributors to last year’s top-ranked defense, but the team added Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram through free agency, and players like Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Miles Boykin, Jaylon Ferguson, and Justice Hill through the draft. They have all contributed.

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The preseason portion of the season featured another perfect record in “the games that don’t count,” which showed off the team’s depth, and, more importantly, the Ravens mostly dodged the injury bug. The only significant contributor to take a hit during the preseason was cornerback Tavon Young, a key piece for sure, but losing one starter before the season begins is not always the end of the world.

We’ll skip ahead to the fourth act for purposes of this article, which is the playoffs. I don’t think we need to spend much time on what makes the playoffs a success, right? Win it all. That’s it. That’s the measure of postseason success.

So, let’s talk regular season. Teams are in different stages of development, right? For a team like the Arizona Cardinals, which had the worst record in the NFL last season and selected who they hoped would be a franchise quarterback with the first pick of the draft, the goal for 2019 was to show progress going forward. Mission accomplished.

But for a team like the Ravens, which won the AFC North last season, the expectations are a little different for 2019. An ideal season would be to repeat as division champions, earn a first-round bye and, ideally, home-field advantage through the playoffs. For the Ravens, just like for the Cardinals, mission accomplished.

But we know there’s always that one last little nugget that Ravens fans want. A sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Big picture, it’s not the end of the world if those other goals are met. But, still… we all want that sweep. And, if the Ravens can obtain it, that would also bring a 14th win to the season, a mark the Ravens have never reached in their short but successful history.

Coach John Harbaugh has decided to rest some key contributors for this game with the big goals locked up, and you can see the logic. Why lose your MVP quarterback or Hall-of-Fame guard to injury when you can’t achieve anything of note in the season finale? So it will be Robert Griffin III taking snaps on Sunday against the Steelers, and some of that aforementioned depth taking starting spots in this last game of the regular season.

But we don’t want to hear that. We want the win. We want to knock the rival Steelers out of the playoffs, earn that 14th win and head into the playoffs as healthy as humanly possible this time of year. We want it all.

This has been a dream season for Ravens fans, and the future certainly appears bright — a young franchise quarterback, developing skill players up and down the roster, a little money in the budget to lock up some of these guys, an aggressive general manager and a head coach in John Harbaugh who seems to have embraced the concept of accepting new ideas and information.

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A sweep of Pittsburgh would be the cherry on top. You don’t really need that cherry to enjoy your sundae, but it sure does help.

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