3:14 PM EST, December 11, 2013
Ravens fans have been waiting all season for their defending Super Bowl champions to start looking like defending Super Bowl champions, but there really is no way to draw any legitimate parallel between this season and the circuitous route the Ravens took to New Orleans last year.
If you need a valid comparison to get you through the final weeks of a very uncertain season, it might be more comforting to look back on 2009, when the Ravens hung around .500 for much of the schedule after reaching the AFC title game in John Harbaugh’s rookie year as head coach.
They were 6-6 going into a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions that they won by a lopsided 48-3 margin, and they went on to win three of their last four games to capture the fifth playoff seed in a three-way tiebreaker with the Jets and Steelers.
Trouble is, this year’s Lions team bears little resemblance to the one that arrived at M&T Bank Stadium with a 2-10 record in 2009. Matthew Stafford was still feeling his way around the NFL in his rookie year. Now, he runs an offense that averages almost a touchdown more a game than the Ravens and features the best wide receiver in the NFL. And he’ll be back in the friendly confines of Ford Field after last week’s ice bowl in Philadelphia.
The Ravens need this game to stay ahead of the pack for the last wild card berth and give themselves a chance at another 3-1 final quarter of the season, though splitting the final four (including Sunday’s snow-capped victory over the Vikings) might be enough.
If you recall, the Ravens were 9-7 in 2009 and went to New England as a decided underdog for the wild-card round. Maybe the Patriots underestimated them, because the Ravens torched them before losing in the next round to the Colts.
It’s within the range of possibility that the Ravens could end up in another first-round game game in Foxboro, Mass. – since the Bengals are only one game behind the Patriots in the overall AFC standings and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker for the second seed if it came to that – but it’s not likely the Ravens will be able to sneak up on anyone.
They are the defending Super Bowl champions, after all.