Back in 2011, when I was with CBSSports.com, I can remember walking down to the Ravens locker room and speaking with a fellow reporter. It was the week the Ravens were traveling down to Jacksonville to take on a lowly Jaguars team starting Blaine Gabbert.
I can't recall the exact phrase, but the reporter said something to the effect of, "Ugh, this game is going to be horrible. The Ravens are going to crush these guys." I nodded in agreement. There wasn't a chance for the Ravens to lose against a Jacksonville team that was absolutely dreadful.
Then I, among with every spectator, watched one of the worst displays of football at any level that particular Monday night. The offense mustered 16 net yards in the first half, with Joe Flacco only accounting for 137 passing yards in a 12-7 loss. And most of the yards came on a late touchdown drive.
And there's an argument to be made that the 2011 Jaguars roster is worse than the one that's being fielded this year.
It's incredibly easy to overlook a bad opponent. It's happened in college basketball this year, specifically with Michigan losing back-to-back games to NJIT and Eastern Michigan (OK, maybe Michigan is just a bad team). Even in the NFL, where players are paid to not overlook other paid professionals, it can happen. Jacksonville, Oakland and the New York Jets all have two wins apiece. Oakland has a win over San Francisco. It can happen.
That's not to say it will. But if history is indicative of anything, this Ravens team knows not to sleepwalk through this meeting with Jacksonville. And having this game at home certainly helps.
"I would just reject the whole principle of that it's really easy," Harbaugh said, when asked about preparing for a team with such a poor record. "And, it's not something that our guys would even consider. Maybe you can afford to look at it that way if you're not involved in it, but if you're involved in something in your job, or your life, or whatever, you don't take anything for granted, right? Like I said, we have a huge challenge in front of us on Sunday, and we understand how difficult it's going to be. So, we're preparing to meet that challenge, just like every week, but even more so, because as it gets later in the season, there's more on the line."