The Baltimore Ravens completed one of the most incredible turnarounds in going from a 5-11 team in 2007 to a playoff bound 11-5 in 2008. Winners of nine of their final 11 games, the Ravens proved they belonged in the post season by dismantling and demoralizing the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-7 yesterday in front of a loud crowd at M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore. Holding the Jags to a season low seven points, the Ravens defense created four turnovers, including two more interceptions for Ed Reed and the league leading interception team. Ray Lewis was everywhere, contributing two fumble recoveries as well as his usual beastly self.
While the game pretty much turned out the way it should have, the Ravens left nothing to chance after the New England Patriots won their final game 13-0 over the Buffalo Bills, making the Ravens game the deciding factor in the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Patriots now become one of the few teams to ever have an 11-5 season and still miss out on the post season. At the same time, the San Diego Chargers completed an unlikely comeback from a three game deficit with three remaining to win the AFC West and finish with an 8-8 record after pummeling the Denver Broncos in their ttle showdown.
The Ravens are now off to Miami for a rematch of their October 19th game, won by the Ravens 27-13. In that game, the Ravens defense befuddled the Dolphins, stopping their previously successful "Wildcat" formation and added to their highlight reel with an interception return for a TD by Terrell Suggs. I was at the Miami game and all I heard on the sports talk radio afterwards was how they were manhandled by a defense that wasjust too tough for them. I have a strong feeling that the Ravens were one team that the Dolphins, and perhaps everyone else just does not want to face in the post season. While I expect to see a slightly different Dolphins team this time around, they will also see a greatly improved Ravens team. Remember that Baltimore was coming off a three game losing streak and was actually an underdog to the Dolphins back in October. Now the Ravens will go into Miami as a three point favorite for the rematch this Sunday at 1pm. Ironically, all four Wild Card games this coming weekend have the visitor as favorites over the third and fourth seed division champions.
Baltimore certainly has the firepower on both sides of the ball to defeat the Dolphins and move on to face the Tennessee Titans in another rematch, this time of their week three 16-13 home loss. However, the focus needs to be on the next 60 minutes of football coming up this weekend. After that, we can refocus on the next step towards playing more football in January.
Happy New Year, Ravens fans!