We've still got a long way to go, but if you buy the idea that every season has a theme (and I do buy that, by the way), the theme of the Ravens' 2019 season is already abundantly clear.
For the fans, it's the season when many of their fondest dreams come true.
I'm not talking about winning the Super Bowl. I mean, that's obviously the big goal and everyone's fondest dream, and the Ravens, currently riding a seven-game winning streak, are very real contenders. But as Head Coach John Harbaugh said after his team blistered the Rams Monday night, no one gets crowned in November.
So … let's not go there … just yet.
No, when I reference dreams, I'm talking about a checklist that has circulated in Baltimore for years.
A high-flying offense? The Ravens haven't really had one since Vinny Testaverde was flinging the ball around Memorial Stadium. They've been all about defense for a long time. But boy, have they flipped that script in 2019.
They have the NFL's top offense, one so potent they've already tied the franchise record for touchdowns in a season. With five games to go.
Dream offense. Check.
League MVP? The Ravens have never had one. Three of their draft picks are in the Hall of Fame, but they played offensive tackle, linebacker and safety. They've never had an offensive star shine luminously enough to win the NFL's highest individual honor. But Lamar Jackson is well on his way.
Some might think I'm getting a little ahead of myself, but I don't think so.
See what I mean? There's a theme. Whatever your fondest dream is, this might be the year for it.
Hey, I've got one. When was the last time Baltimore hosted a championship game? Full disclosure, I had to look it up. Because it was a long time ago.
The last time Baltimore hosted a championship game was January 3, 1971. The Colts beat the Oakland Raiders, 27-17, at Memorial Stadium. It was the inaugural AFC Championship Game. That's right, the first one. The NFL had just merged with the American Football League. Basically, in football years, dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
That was 49 seasons ago and Baltimore still hasn't hosted another title game. The Colts played in one more before they skipped town. It was the very next season and they lost in Miami. The Ravens have played for the AFC championship four times, always on the road. They've experienced plenty of playoff glory, but they've done it the hard way, away from home.
A flip of that script is certainly worth shooting for as the Ravens angle for playoff seeding down the stretch.
Admittedly, they're playing so well and have been so dynamic on the road this season, going 5-1 with four blowouts, that I'm not sure it matters where they play in January. They seem to relish going on the road and silencing other team's fans.
But we're talking about dreams, right? The Ravens have played the New England Patriots four times in the playoffs, all at Gillette Stadium. Isn't it time one of their classic January confrontations unfolds in, dare I say it, Baltimore?
Am I getting ahead of myself with this? Oh, probably. The Ravens haven't even clinched the AFC North title yet. (But they're three games up with five to play.) And with several tough games looming, starting Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, they're far from assured of a first-round bye – a worthwhile goal in itself.
They're currently a game behind New England in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. Earning that top seed would assure them of hosting the title game if they get that far.
They're going to need help. The Patriots will work hard to hold on. And of course, other scenarios could arise.
But if you're wondering what to root for with the Ravens on such a roll, I'd say that's a good place to start. There are other teams and fan bases that take this stuff for granted. A home title game? The chance to shout yourself hoarse with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line? It's nice and all, but it does happen from time to time, right?
Not in Baltimore.
Not since Johnny Unitas was under center.
It feels like the right time to fix that, doesn't it?