There’s a lot I can write about last night’s game. We can discuss Joe Flacco, obviously bothered by his injury yet still being trotted out series after series. We can discuss the uninspired play of the entire team and how this has been a recurring theme of the John Harbaugh era. (Seriously, how is it that with all Harbaugh’s success, the team puts up clunkers like that every few weeks!) We can discuss how you NEED to beat the bad teams in the NFL today. (If we had beaten a bad Buffalo team, we’d be in the playoffs!) We can discuss how coordinators Dean Pees and Jim "I only was successful with Peyton Manning" Caldwell get consistently out-coached even in victories. Or we can rehash the same topics which have been the theme of this season, i.e. the O-Line, undisciplined play, etc.
But I don’t want to talk about any of that. You see, I don’t expect the Ravens to win next week. I didn’t expect them to win this week (though I didn’t think they would be blown out), ESPECIALLY after the whole nation got back on the Raven Bandwagon this week, and I don’t think they can win in Cincy next week.
(By the way, prediction: if the Raven’s lose, it will not be because of Joe Flacco.)
The Ravens lost this week to a very good New England team. Yes, despite all their losses and struggles, any team coached by Bill Belichek and QB’d by Tom Brady is a good team till proven otherwise. Next week they face a superior Bengals team at home, and you can bet that even if the Bengals have nothing more to play for, they would prefer to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs than to rest their starters.
Now don’t go thinking I’ve given up on this team, far from it. I’ll be watching the game next week in my Raven’s gear and cheering for every play, I just don’t expect a victory. So for all those fans who are in the same boat as me, I just want to put this season in perspective and show how historically, this season is already a success and could be even more so by the Raven’s making the playoffs.
Let’s remember what happened before this season. The Raven’s lost a record 8 starters from their Super Bowl team. Their expected Pro-Bowl LG, Keleche Osemele was done before the season began (though it wasn’t official till several weeks in). Dennis Pitta, their most consistent offensive weapon, almost had his career ended and he has somehow made it back quickly with good results so far. And they still had to adjust to the walking statue's…I mean, Jim Caldwell’s, offensive scheme. A scheme, by the way, which is based almost entirely upon the most inconsistent play in football, the deep ball. But that’s just the Raven’s trouble, let’s take a historical context.
Since the Raven’s first Superbowl victory, only two Super Bowl champions have won a playoff game the following year. The first is the Ravens who beat the Dolphins in the Wild-Card round before falling the next week, and the only other one is the Patriots who did it two straight years, first when they repeated as champions and winning in the Wild-Card round the following year. That’s it. Out of twelve champions (not including this year's Ravens), only three have won games and only one won more than one (that repeating Patriots team). Five of them didn’t even make the playoffs! If the Ravens don’t end up making the playoffs this year, it will be over 50%.
So putting this whole season in perspective, the Ravens are on par with history. If they make the playoffs, and if they can win a game, they will place themselves as one of the more successful post-Super Bowl Champions of this century.
And for those of you who are still upset at me for thinking this season is over, I firmly believe if the Ravens make the playoffs, they can win one game and maybe even claw their way back to the AFC Championship for a third straight year. And wouldn’t that be something.
So cheer on your Ravens, Baltimore! But remember, whatever next Sunday’s result, and as long and frustrating this season has been, our defending champs are no worse historically than past champions. Perhaps even a bit more successful with all their changes and the added fact that the Ravens were unexpected champions a year ago.
(Thanks to this site for the research. http://www.sportingcharts.com/articles/nfl/how-have-teams-performed-after-appearing-in-the-super-bowl.aspx)