OK, raise your hand if you had Paul Kruger as the hero of Sunday night's Ravens-Steelers game. Yeah, that's what I thought.

In the abbreviated version of Prediction Friday, our free drink tab for the week goes to Sean Quinn, who nailed the final score, a 20-17 Ravens win. Sean didn't have it going into overtime, but when you get the exact score, you also get some slack.


One of our regulars, Kevin In Iraq, had the Ravens winning with an OT field goal, 23-20, so a handful of drink chips his way. And our old buddy Jack was just one point off, predicting a 19-17 Ravens win. So a drink chip his way as well (seems like I could send my kid to college for all the drink tabs I give Jack).

I'll be honest, I am not sure what to think about Sunday's win.

On the one hand, the Ravens have beaten Pittsburgh once, are now 6-5 and are in a three-way tie for the final AFC playoff spot. And they are just one game behind the Broncos, who have lost a head-to-head against the Ravens.

So your purple-and-black squad basically controls its own destiny – and that's all you can ask in the last five weeks of the season.

Now, let's look at that other, not-so-pretty hand. The Ravens were pushed into overtime at home by a team that didn't have its best defensive playmaker (Troy Polamalu) or its best offensive playmaker (Ben Roethlisberger).

I don't want to take anything away from Dennis Dixon, but the kid was making his first NFL start and he threw for a TD, ran for one and wasn't sacked once. There was a day when the Ravens' D would have feasted on such a neophyte, and this year it took until overtime to take advantage of Dixon's inexperience.

Of course, if you are a believer in positive thinking (and no one has ever accused me of that), you can be excited that Kruger and Mark Clayton made significant contributions and Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb both played well. And Ray Rice is becoming a force (maybe already is one) before our eyes. So maybe things are starting to click.

Honestly, I am not sure what to think about this team and its immediate future. Is it a playoff team? Will it play to a record (9-7, 8-8) that is indicative of the mediocrity it has shown much of the season? Are the Ravens good enough to beat bad or struggling teams but not good enough to win against the elite ones?

The latter is probably my take.

Now, it's time for you to jump onto the lawn of optimism or pessimism. I want no fence riders in this place, unless, of course you are a big tipper.

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