When the NFL schedule came out last spring, how many of you looked at the Ravens' challenging run from Week 5 through Week 13 and thought, "They're going to run that table"?
Didn't think so.
Honestly, the decision makers at the Under Armour Performance Center probably didn't imagine it could happen.
Along those lines, after the Ravens absorbed a 15-point home loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 28, how many of you thought, "No worries, they'll win their next eight games in a row"?
Again, no sweat if you didn't see it coming … no one did.
As you know, that's exactly what has unfolded. The Ravens have reeled off eight straight wins, barreling through a daunting gauntlet of quality opponents that included the 10-2 Seattle Seahawks, 10-2 New England Patriots, 8-4 Houston Texans and 10-2 San Francisco 49ers.
The run started inauspiciously, with a nervy overtime win in Pittsburgh and a one-score victory over then-winless Cincinnati. But a thumping of the Seahawks opened eyes, and a rout of the then-unbeaten Patriots sent a message that something big was happening. Subsequent routs of the Texans, Bengals and Rams confirmed that message, as did Sunday's intense win over the 49ers.
Check out the top shots from the Ravens' dramatic 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, which was billed as a potential Super Bowl preview.
It's the longest winning streak in Ravens history. Tied for the longest winning streak in the NFL this season and the longest in the league since the New Orleans Saints won nine in a row last season.
I don't know how long it'll go. The way the Ravens are playing, they might just keep rolling. They do have tough games ahead, starting Sunday on the road against the 9-3 Buffalo Bills.
But regardless, their eight-game winning streak is in the books, having delivered a bounty of riches. I mean, think about how the Ravens' circumstances have changed since they lost to the Browns in September.
They had a 2-2 record after that game. Now, they're widely regarded as the best team in the NFL, with the best odds of reaching the Super Bowl.
Experts figured them for the modest middle of the AFC playoff picture after they lost to the Browns. Today, they're the No. 1 seed in the AFC race, in control of their fate.
Before the winning streak, Lamar Jackson was still the subject of rampant skepticism. Can he pass well enough to consistently win in the NFL? Will his unique skillset really work in the pros?
Eight straight wins later, he is the favorite to win the league MVP award.
I don't think it's a stretch to suggest the winning streak has fundamentally transformed the franchise. Before, at least among fans beyond Baltimore, the Ravens were that gritty, over-performing team you respected but didn't necessarily fear. Now, they're must-see TV, the team likeliest to break Twitter.
If you've long believed the networks and national media overlooked them, it's time to find something new to grumble about. After eight straight wins, the Ravens and their star quarterback are cheered for, sought after and respected. You'll find them atop every power ranking. They'll be prime-time darlings in 2020.
That's what eight straight wins do for you.
Baltimore's sports scene has experienced few moments like it in terms of success that simultaneously surprises, exhilarates and transforms. The Orioles came out of nowhere to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers and win a World Series for the first time in 1966. That compares, as do the Ravens' Super Bowl wins, each achieved as a No. 4 playoff seed.
But this … somehow this feels different.
At 2-2, the Ravens appeared headed down the same road that produced a 50-46 regular-season record between Super Bowl 47 and the end of last season. But their best-ever run of regular-season performances – yes, ever – has changed everything.
I apologize for how my mind works, but as a college English major, I recall reading a great book about the 1917 Russian revolution. "Ten Days That Shook the World," it was called. A cool title, I thought then (and still do). And it works today with just a slight tweak:
Eight Games That Shook the Football World.
That nails it, don't you think?