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Late for Work 12/20: Ravens' History Says Super Bowl Run Isn't Out of the Question

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OLB Justin Houston

Ravens' History Says Super Bowl Run Isn't Out of the Question

The Ravens have been here before.

They are considered a virtual lock to make the playoffs — ESPN's Football Power Index gives them a 99.2 percent chance of playing in the postseason — but the Ravens' flaws are glaring and the team is not regarded as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

There's no denying the offense has been anemic of late (two touchdowns in the past three games), and the passing game in particular has struggled. The Ravens have had their share of ugly wins and an ugly loss in Saturday's 13-3 setback at Cleveland.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cincinnati Bengals (who now lead the Ravens by a game in the AFC North) have established themselves as the AFC's elite teams.

All that said, to lose hope on the Ravens making a playoff run would be to ignore the franchise's history, Russell Street Report's Dave Tieff wrote.

Tieff pointed to the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning teams of 2000 and 2012, as neither squad entered the playoffs as a popular pick to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The 2000 team went five consecutive games without scoring a touchdown at one point, and the 2012 team suffered a convincing loss to the juggernaut Denver Broncos at home in Week 15 (the Ravens would go on to beat the Broncos in the "Mile High Miracle" game in the divisional playoffs four weeks later).

"I'm not going to tell you that the Ravens look like the Super Bowl-winning favorite this season, but based on their history, it would be overly pessimistic to say that they don't have a chance," Tieff wrote. "In fact, I actually believe they have the players that can get it done – provided all of those players are on the field. Especially the quarterback.

"Right now we don't know when Lamar [Jackson] will be back, and while there's no question he's been inconsistent this season, it would be foolish to count out a quarterback who is three years removed from winning the MVP. He's shown signs of MVP level play this season, so we know what he can do, he just has to do it consistently."

Jackson (knee), who has missed the past two games, reportedly is expected to return for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

In addition to a healthy Jackson playing his best, the Ravens also need their defense to continue performing at a high level for the team to make noise in the playoffs.

"It's been a painful season to watch at times, with very few feel-good wins; but we all know that winning in the playoffs is what really matters," Tieff wrote. "Losing some ugly games during the regular season may even be a harbinger of good things to come. It certainly has in the past."

Fans' Frustration Is a Consequence of Ravens' Success

The point about the Ravens having a high ceiling is well-taken, but the current level of frustration among the team's fanbase also is high. In fact, Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich wrote that "it's hard to pinpoint a time when Ravens fans have been this frustrated."

The frustration is understandable, but it's also a byproduct of the organization's winning tradition and high standards.

"That's a credit to the franchise because the bar is set high and anything less than a championship is viewed as a failure," Karpovich wrote.

"Who's got it better than us?" has been one of the Ravens' mantras, and while fans in places such as Buffalo, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are justified at the moment in replying, "We do!" the fact is that the Ravens are perennial contenders and there are plenty of teams that have it much worse than the Ravens.

"While the play-calling has been questionable at times, the Ravens simply don't have the explosive personnel to dramatically alter the season," Karpovich said. "Every armchair quarterback thinks they have the answers, but the solution is much more complicated than altering the playbook.

"As far as the frustration goes, at least the fans still care."

Yesterday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he appreciates the fans' passion.

"I love the fans talking about everything they can talk about," Harbaugh said. " … We're going to work hard to do the best we can and give them something to celebrate come Saturday afternoon; that's our goal, because we want it to be great, and we want our fans to be happy with it and be excited about it."

Harbaugh added that he shares in the fans' frustration and disappointment when the team underperforms.

"Nobody's more ticked off about it or can't sleep about it more than the coaches and the players, but the thing is you have to pull yourself off the mat and go win the next game," Harbaugh said.

Ravens' Defensive Backs Among League's Elite

ESPN's Matt Bowen released his annual look at the best defensive backs and secondaries in the league, and the Ravens were well-represented.

Overall, Baltimore's secondary was ranked as the second-best, behind only the Philadelphia Eagles. Here's a look at the Ravens' individual accolades:

Best range: S Marcus Williams

"I'm going with Williams for the second consecutive year. His range from post and split-field alignments is still the best in the league. And Williams will finish when he overlaps throws to the boundary or at the third level of the field. A highly instinctual defender who can get a jump on vertical concepts, Williams has four interceptions and six pass breakups this season — in only seven games played."

Best rookie safety: Kyle Hamilton

"The splash plays are lacking with Hamilton in his rookie season, but we have to trust what we see on tape. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Hamilton has rare size for the position, with explosive top-down ability. It allows him to drive down on underneath throws, close on ball carriers and play as a multidimensional defender in the Ravens' system with sub-package versatility. This season, Hamilton has posted 36 solo tackles with three pass breakups, two sacks and one forced fumble."

Most versatile cornerback: Marlon Humphrey

"I like Humphrey here given his physical coverage traits, blitz ability and positional flexibility. The veteran has registered 555 snaps as an outside corner, with 147 snaps in the slot and 36 more as an outside linebacker/overhang defender. And the production is there, too, as Humphrey has hauled in three interceptions and registered three sacks."

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