AFC North: Reality Check

Reality Check: Ravens

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
12:00
PM ET

Other 3-0 teams: Giants | Vikings | Saints | Jets | Ravens | Colts | Broncos

Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


Are the Ravens for real? The NFL Blog Network breaks down each of the seven teams that started the season 3-0.

What they’ve accomplished: The Ravens have jumped out to a 3-0 start, but they’re also 7-1 in their past eight games dating back to their playoff run last season. (They also went 4-0 in the preseason.) So this is a team accustomed to winning and that had high expectations even before the national media began to catch on.
James Lang/US Presswire
A fast start to the season has Joe Flacco in the early MVP conversation.

Second-year quarterback Joe Flacco placed himself in the early MVP conversation with 839 yards, six touchdowns and a 101.4 passer rating in his first three games. His maturation has single-handedly altered Baltimore from a defense-heavy team to a balanced team that can beat you in a variety of ways. The Ravens are second in the NFL in total offense and seventh in total defense.

A fast start has Baltimore one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) and two games ahead of the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) in the rugged AFC North.

What’s ahead: The Ravens have three very tough games coming up, starting Sunday on the road against the New England Patriots (2-1). That will be a statement game involving two AFC contenders who may also meet at some point in the playoffs. Then the Ravens face the upstart Bengals (2-1) and NFC powerhouse Minnesota Vikings (3-0) in back-to-back weeks.

Baltimore will learn a lot about itself in those three games. The Ravens could certainly benefit from winning in this stretch not only in terms of respect, but also from the standpoint of potential tiebreakers. Barring an unexpected collapse, the Ravens will be one of the six AFC playoff teams this year. So seeding is very important.

Last season, Baltimore was able to win two straight road games in the playoffs before running out of gas in its third road game in the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh.

Realistic outcome: Health permitting, the sky is the limit for the Ravens. AFC North teams have a great track record in the playoffs this decade, and it seems that it took a fast start to remind people Baltimore was just one quarter away from reaching the Super Bowl last season.

The Ravens are picking up where they left off and appear even more dangerous this season. They're one of the few teams that can win games in a lot of different ways. The Ravens can beat you running the football. Now they can beat you passing the football. And they were always able to win with defense.

Baltimore nearly reached the Super Bowl the hard way last year. But if the Ravens continue to take care of business in the regular season, making other teams come through M&T Bank Stadium would make their goal of getting to Miami a lot easier to achieve.

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