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Are the Baltimore Ravens a sleeper in the AFC?

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

At 5-4 atop the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens are pretty much considered an afterthought in the AFC playoff race while the Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-5 are still being mentioned as a dark horse for a Super Bowl run. That doesn’t make any sense and it is telling that people only see star names on paper as it relates to the Steelers and not the actual performance on the field.

Right now in the AFC, following teams are ahead of the Ravens by record:

  1. 7-2 New England Patriots
  2. 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs
  3. 7-2 Oakland Raiders
  4. 7-3 Denver Broncos
  5. 6-3 Houston Texans

Are the Ravens playing well right now? Not exactly. The team has played better overall since the bye week but the Ravens offense can still get a lot better especially quarterback Joe Flacco. However, if Flacco can get his offense going with the no huddle that worked against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday and continue that momentum, the Ravens can be very dangerous down stretch considering the team also has the NFL’s number one ranked defense.

The biggest factor determining how much of a sleeper the Ravens can be all depends on how productive Flacco is down the stretch. Flacco doesn’t have be the 2012 playoff run Flacco, but if he can be what he was during the 2014 season from this point forward, the Ravens not only would be a sleeper, but the team could end up being the most balanced team in the AFC. Right now, Flacco has nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has to be much much better than that.

The second biggest factor determining how much of a sleeper the Ravens can be is the schedule going forward. The Ravens still have to play the following teams:

It is a tough schedule for sure, but the Ravens have enough talent to survive it and none of the top three teams in the AFC North have broken away from each other at this point. The best thing the Ravens can do at this point is win its remaining three home games which puts the team at eight wins.

If the Ravens can survive its remaining seven games and enter the playoffs, it is going to be a team that nobody in the AFC wants to face. The Ravens are not afraid of going on the road in the playoffs and the Texans, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos and Patriots all know that.

Since the start of the 2010 season, the Ravens are a combined 5-2 against the Chiefs, Broncos, Patriots and Texans in the playoffs. All four of these teams are ahead of the Ravens currently in the AFC standings.