What's the biggest difference between how those on the inside and outside of an NFL team view things?
From week to week, while those on the outside focus on the game that just happened, those on inside focus on the game that's coming up.
It's a fundamentally different approach. While fans view things through the lens of the team's most recent game and spend the week talking about it and analyzing it, players and coaches pretty much file that game away as soon as it ends, forget about it and spend the week focusing on what's next. That last game is instant ancient history, if there could be such a thing.
That those on the inside forget about games as soon as they're played is understandable. They're paid to prepare for their next game, not wallow or luxuriate in what they just did. And they've learned that in today's NFL what happened the week before often has little connection to what happens a week later.
Quite simply, the league is nuts.
Strange occurrences have become so normal that they're not really very strange anymore. Bottom-feeder Jacksonville goes into top-ranked Houston and almost wins an overtime shootout? Yeah, figures. Baltimore goes into Pittsburgh and wins, then loses the rematch at home to ancient Charlie Batch? Doesn't make sense but what does?
Arizona, which hasn't won in months, actually took down the Patriots earlier this season at New England. You can look it up.
The Ravens have confounded their fans and a lot of experts at times with their up-and-down performances this season, and their current three-game losing streak certainly has brought gloom and depression to Ravenstown. After watching the Denver Broncos take them apart last Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, it's not easy to envision them winning another game, even though they've qualified for the playoffs.
But while you might think you know what's going to happen when they take on the New York Giants Sunday, believe me, you don't.
"It's a bounce-back league," running back Ray Rice said earlier this week.
Sure, there's a chance the Ravens' late-season tailspin will continue. But there's also a chance you'll see an entirely different performance from them on Sunday. They're still the same team that won 15 home games in a row before losing these last two.
The Giants are in the same position, by the way, so guilty of up-and-down performances this season that they have backed themselves into a desperate position and need a win just to keep their playoff hopes alive. The reigning Super Bowl champions are coming off an equally unsettling game, a 34-0 loss in Atlanta.
But they're not feeling down and out in the wake of that game, and neither are the Ravens after their loss to Denver. This is where the differing mindsets of those inside and outside the walls of the organization come into play.
"You know what I do? After a game, if you lose, go home, kiss my daughter, come back to work (on Monday), lift weights and get ready to go to work," Rice said.
Next game, please.
If players spent the week focusing on what just happened instead of what's about to happen, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wouldn't be able to move this Sunday, much less play a game. He's been torn apart all week on radio shows and Internet boards in the wake of his losing performance against Denver. His face-down pose at the end on his infamous pick six has been hilariously spoofed online as "Flacco-ing."
To those outside the locker room, it might seem impossible to imagine him coming back from such negative scrutiny to play well. But all of the Ravens, not just Flacco, have been in that mode all week. The Denver game is long gone from their thoughts. Another week brings an entirely different set of circumstances, matchups and potentially crucial lineup changes related to injuries.
"I'm confident, our team is confident," Flacco said. "These are tough situations, but it's about how you stand up, and you can't blink … we know how to move forward and push through."
They already have, in fact, leaving this week's game as yet another 50-50 tossup, complete with a whole range of possible outcomes.