Once the teams playing in a Super Bowl become known, it's a teachable moment for the 30 teams that didn't get that far.
By comparing themselves to those at the pinnacle, those not in the game can see where they're lacking or what they need to work on to reach that pinnacle one day.
Some teams have a depressingly long must-do list, a clear sign they probably won't be making the Super Bowl anytime soon. Other teams are closer, but still have things to work on.
At different junctures in recent years, the Ravens have seen they needed a more explosive offense, better cornerbacks, more playmakers, etc. They aren't immune from having that teachable moment this year, too, but it's kind of a different experience.
The unveiling of the Super Bowl participants over the weekend only reaffirmed what the Ravens already knew, namely, that they were good enough to reach the Super Bowl this year. During the season, they beat one of the Super teams, the San Francisco 49ers, and had a better record than the other, the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Ravens learned anything during a season in which they went 14-2, won 12 straight games, set a slew of records and sent 12 players to the Pro Bowl, including the presumptive league MVP, they learned they're an excellent team, quite capable of reaching that Super Bowl pinnacle.
The fact that they fell short doesn't mean they lacked the wherewithal.
Heading into 2020, their larger challenge is to maintain the caliber of play they consistently reached in 2019, as opposed to addressing various shortcomings that may have kept them down.
Of course, it can't be assumed they'll maintain that caliber. Every offseason brings changes, some expected, some out of the blue. Big swings in either direction are routine in the NFL.
A year ago, the 49ers went 4-12 and the Los Angeles Rams played in the Super Bowl. This year, the 49ers are in the Super Bowl and the Rams didn't make the playoffs.
Bottom line, having a Super Bowl-worthy team one year doesn't mean you're assured of having one the next year.
But almost all of the Ravens' swarm of Pro Bowlers will be back in 2020 along with both unit coordinators. That's a great head start. And yes, the Ravens can benefit from observing how the Chiefs and 49ers reached the Super Bowl – especially the Chiefs.
After falling two touchdowns behind the Tennessee Titans early in their divisional-round playoff game, the Ravens "didn't play our game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week, and they lost a shocker. The Chiefs had a similar experience – two, actually – and survived quite nicely.
The Chiefs were 24 points behind the Houston Texans in their divisional-round game and down 10 to the Titans early in Sunday's conference championship. Undaunted, they roared back to win both games.
What's the takeaway? Even though the Ravens went 14-2 against an extremely tough schedule, the Chiefs, it turned out, were better able to handle January-style adversity. They stayed calm, stuck to their blueprint and won.
I don't know if it's maturity, experience, both or something else entirely, but the Ravens have room to grow in that area.
Yes, they also can take other lessons from the Chiefs and 49ers. Having a stable of offensive playmakers certainly helped the Chiefs in those comebacks. The Ravens are building a stable, but need to keep building. As for the 49ers, their offensive and defensive fronts are just mauling people. The Ravens love that style. They can always get better at it.
But what they need to do, mostly, is take this year's disappointment and make it work for them, as the Chiefs did.
The Chiefs didn't get to the Super Bowl last season even though they knew they were good enough. A year later, they're tougher, more battled-tested and Super Bowl-bound.
If I'm the Ravens, that sounds like a narrative to emulate.