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5 reason to continue following the Ravens this season

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens have been wildly inconsistent in 2017. Excellent performances against Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland and Miami have been overshadowed by frustrating losses to the Jaguars, Steelers, Bears, Vikings and Titans.

A sense of apathy has pervaded the fanbase, as many are already looking forward to next season. With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule, five reasons to continue following the Ravens:

1. They are still in the playoff hunt

At 4-5, the Ravens trail Buffalo for the last wildcard spot. But the Bills have lost two straight and none of the other 4-4 or 4-5 teams have been impressive lately. With a soft schedule down the stretch, Baltimore still has an inside track for a postseason berth.

If the Ravens do earn their way into the playoffs, they could make some noise in January. It may be hard to envision right now, but they are poised make a run to the conference championship game if they can find a way to jumpstart their passing offense. Even the top contenders have flaws, the Ravens do have the ability to beat every single AFC team with their A game.

2. The defense has the ability to dominate

Dominating defense has long been a tradition in Baltimore. Watching the hometown defense impose their will on the opposition has been an absolute pleasure over the years. While this season’s version has played a part in some of the ugly losses thus far, they have also dominated each offense in their four wins.

The Ravens currently boast the third best pass defense in the NFL. Their thirteen interceptions lead the league. The play of the cornerbacks, Jimmy Smith in particular, has been outstanding. The defense will have prime opportunities to carry the team to victory against multiple unimpressive quarterbacks over their remaining games.

3. To appreciate Terrell Suggs

Suggs is the franchise’s all-time sack leader and arguably deserves a place on the Ravens Mt. Rushmore of most important figures in team history. He is a former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl champion. Terrell is a true leader, never backing down from a challenge and playing through painful injuries on several occasions over the years.

His 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles this season prove he can still rush the passer, but he is not the stout run defender he once was. Fifteen seasons of pounding in the rugged AFC North division and a variety of injuries have taken their toll. Now 35 years old, next season is no guarantee for Sizzle. Appreciate his greatness while we still can.

4. Development of young talent

Baltimore’s roster is one of the oldest in the league this season. Even worse, several recent early round draft picks have not developed at an encouraging rate. Specifically, Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi have not made nearly the impact hoped for.

Nevertheless, the Ravens do have a core of solid young players to build around for the future. On offense, tailback Alex Collins has outperformed all expectations and Nick Boyle has become one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Receiver Chris Moore has earned more opportunities and Matt Skura is playing well at right guard. Rookies Marlon Humphrey and Tyus Bowser have flashed their elite potential on defense this season. And second year players Matt Judon, Michael Pierce and Willie Henry are all developing into above average players at their respective positions.

5. They have earned loyalty from the fanbase

After twelve years without an NFL team, the Ravens have given the city of Baltimore a pair of unexpected Super Bowl championships in 22 seasons. Despite missing the postseason in three of the last four seasons, they still rank among the top ten winningest franchises of the last decade. Considering these factors, the noticeably declining attendance for home games at M&T Bank stadium has been a disturbing trend.

Whether optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the Ravens, fans should continue to show their loyalty. Even if the team’s downward spiral continues, fortunes can change dramatically in a single offseason. Look no further than all four of the teams currently leading their divisions in the NFC for proof that a change in coaching staff or impact draft class can immediately correct the Ravens trajectory.