The Baltimore Ravens sat at 3-4 following back-to-back losses to the downtrodden Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. The football authority collectively decided John Harbaugh's team would be an afterthought.
Joe Flacco's offense dead in the water. The offensive line couldn't block a fake Twitter account. The receivers couldn't get open. And the special teams were giving up huge returns.
Still, with a stout defense that forced turnovers by the bucket-load, and Justin Tucker hitting every field goal, the Ravens pressed on. Finally, they turned a corner. Harbaugh's squad has won five of its past seven games to sit at the 8-6 mark. If Baltimore wins out (vs. Colts and Bengals), it'll make the playoffs.
"I do appreciate the character of our team and the resilience of our team and the mental toughness and the focus and the ability to get right at the task at hand and push aside the stuff that is not important and get right at what is important and deal with adversity when it happens, with the different injuries," Harbaugh said this week, via ESPN.com. "You are right; it is all around the league. Every team deals with it to one degree or another. We dealt with it quite a bit early and then middle of season. Our guys handled it, and they kept fighting through it. The reports of our demise, I guess, were greatly exaggerated."
Injuries decimated the Ravens, especially along the offensive line where starters Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis went on injured reserve early on. Baltimore has 14 players on IR, more than any other team in playoff position in the AFC.
The offense finally found its legs behind better protection, Alex Collins in the running game and more explosive plays.
"We may not do it pretty, but you definitely can't come after us when it comes to the end result," Flacco said. "We have dealt with a lot of stuff this year, and we could be in a better position than we are right now. But the bottom line is, we still control our own destiny, and we are an 8-6 football team. A lot of people wish they were in our position, so you can't argue with the fact that we are in position to be a playoff football team, and we are ready to do it."
We'll forgive Flacco for falling into the December lie that one can 'control' his or her 'destiny.' Most wrote the Ravens off early. They survived and advanced. Two more wins and they'll make the tournament. We've seen Joe Flacco get hot in January before.