Technically, the Ravens still have a shot at winning the AFC North, but let's face it, finding their way out of a five-way tie at 5-6 for the sixth and final wild card spot in the AFC sounds more feasible than surpassing the Bengals.
The 2013 season has been far from pretty, but I'm hoping that a few things I've been able to learn during my 18 seasons of Baltimore Ravens fandom will keep me encouraged that this team could actually make a legitimate run in the playoffs.
Could I be lying to myself? Probably. However, you can't really argue a few of these principles that previous championship teams have taught us.
"Defense Wins Championships"
Given the changing landscape in the NFL coddling to offenses, this saying may not remain true much longer, but I'll still believe it now. You can't blame the media for criticizing the Ravens as much as they do given the lack of "sex appeal" this offense really has.
It's boring. It's predicable. It's ineffective. However, Super Bowl's have been won with offenses that couldn't score a touchdown in five-consecutive games.
Sure, this defense is couldn't touch the 2000 squad with a ten-foot pole, but they're not that bad. Excluding the second-half collapse Week 1 in Denver, it's hard to solely blame the defense for the Ravens five other losses. The main job of the defense is to put the offense in the position to win, and of those five losses since Denver, the margin of defeat was only 3.4 points.
Each week, it seems like this defense is getting better and better. Throw rankings and stats out the window here, the defense does enough to win, but it's up to offensive coaches and players to coordinate and execute a game-plan that doesn't look like something you'd run while playing Madden.
"Just Get Into The Dance"
At this point last year, the Ravens held a 9-2 record. For as flip-flopped as the records are now, the Ravens have to hope to do the same through the final five games of the season. Last year, the Ravens dropped four of their final five, causing many to think that the wheels had fallen off at any Super Bowl aspirations.
For the playoffs to become a realistic possibility, these next five games are crucial, and the only thing losing four out of five will assure is a better draft pick in May.
Wild Card teams are feared in the playoffs because it's about getting hot at the right time. Last year, Ray Lewis' retirement speech was the flame that lit their torch, and this season it'll likely come from the hard work it took to make the post season, if they get there at all.
As the Ravens and many other teams have proven before, just get into the dance and see what happens from there.
So, even if I'm lying to myself thinking that the Ravens have the best chance to make the playoffs, I'll allow previous history to at least dictate how I'll treat the remainder of the season until the Ravens reach a point that their postseason hopes have dwindled - if they dwindle at all.