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Why not us? Without a clear favorite, the Baltimore Ravens can make a deep playoff run

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The road to the Super Bowl is wide open

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Each year there appears to be a clear-cut favorite to represent each conference in the Super Bowl, or even win the championship outright. Very rarely do those predictions actually play out, but they seem fairly easy to make.

This year is different from previous years.

With injuries ravaging the NFC’s best players, any team from that side of the bracket stands a legitimate chance of making a run. Flip to the AFC, and that seems to hold true, despite the Patriots’ annual success.

Over the last three weeks, the Patriots have looked very beatable; losing to Miami, narrowly avoiding defeat against Pittsburgh and struggling for the better part of three quarters against Buffalo. Flip to Pittsburgh, a team that the Ravens scored 38 points on, and narrowly lost against and the AFC looks wide open. Jacksonville, a team that embarrassed the Ravens early in the season, gave up over 30 points to the 49ers last week in a loss and Kansas City went on a major losing streak in the middle of the season where they struggled defensively.

The Ravens obviously have their own issues of inconsistency, scoring 38 against Pittsburgh, but narrowly avoiding defeat against the struggling Colts. We’ve all heard the phrase “Any given Sunday,” but this year, more than others, that seems to be a motto that can provide hope to any team that enters the playoff field.

The Ravens should have that hope and belief as well. For as much as Joe Flacco has struggled over the last few regular seasons, historically he’s shown an ability to win in the postseason with a good ground game and tough defense. This year the Ravens bring a top-notch defense to the table with an emerging ground game. While it’s not something that’s necessarily tangible, Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh have playoff experience that has translated into a Super Bowl win, along with some of the most successful postseason runs in franchise history.

The Ravens have yet to clinch a playoff spot, and they may ultimately fall short, although that looks unlikely. But if the Ravens can get into the big dance, all it takes is a hot streak to launch a run that could end in Minnesota.