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There's a lot more good than bad about Joe Flacco.

Flacco has taken nearly every snap in his 4½ years with the Baltimore Ravens. His 72 consecutive regular season starts at quarterback trail only Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.

He's incredibly sturdy. Flacco has never had to leave a game because of injury and he's never been pulled from one due to ineffectiveness.

Flacco has led the Ravens to the playoffs in his first four seasons, reaching the AFC Championship Game twice and losing to the conference representative to the Super Bowl the other two times.

With a 6-2 record, the Ravens look on track for a fifth consecutive playoff berth in the Flacco era. That would exceed the four playoff berths in the first 11 years of the Ravens' time in Baltimore.

This year was supposed to be different. Under the tutelage of new quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, who was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in the final years of Peyton Manning's time there, Flacco was supposed to thrive.

Baltimore was going to go no-huddle. After its first win, when the Ravens scored 44 points, won by 31 and Flacco threw for 299 yards and had a quarterback rating of 128.4, things looked good for Flacco.

Two weeks later, he threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 382 yards in an exciting win against New England. In three of the last four games, Flacco hasn't thrown for 200 yards and the Ravens lost badly to Houston and struggled to win against sad-sacks Kansas City and Cleveland.

Sunday, Flacco started off wonderfully, hitting his first 10 passes, missing eight of nine, and finishing well. It was barely good enough to beat the Browns, but probably wouldn't be good enough to beat most of the teams on Baltimore's second-half schedule.

It's not college football, so the Ravens can't choose their early season opponents, but they have had some help. In a game they struggled mightily to win a month ago in Kansas City, the Ravens allowed the Chiefs to run at will and barely won. Flacco was just 13-for-27 and 187 yards and the offense scored just nine points.

The Ravens host 3-5 Oakland on Sunday, and it's entirely possible they'll have a 7-2 record a week from now.

That will look strong because their 6-2 mark projects to 12-4. As erratic as the team has been, that looks unlikely.

Baltimore's defense is hardly what it was, and the schedule after the Raiders looks daunting: at Pittsburgh and San Diego, home against Pittsburgh, at Washington, home with Denver and the New York Giants before finishing at Cincinnati.

With Flacco's inconsistencies and the defensive shortcomings, 12 wins would be cause for celebration.

If you're a fan of passer ratings, and there don't seem to be many, Flacco is currently ranked 19th of 33 just behind two quarterbacks of elite teams, New York's Manning and Chicago's Jay Cutler.

Elite. That's a dangerous word.

During the offseason, debate raged over the use of elite to describe Flacco. He gave one radio interview where he insisted he was "the best" quarterback.

He's a confident man, but sometimes looks as if he's trying to justify his assertion. Flacco is still without a contract for next season. Most think the Ravens and Flacco will agree on a long-term deal as they did with Ray Rice just ahead of the deadline.

Is Flacco trying too hard to prove he's worth the Ravens' investment?

Perhaps he is, but Flacco isn't going anywhere. They've invested much in him, and he's delivered.

Wouldn't it be foolish to discard Flacco to try and draft another quarterback when there are so many defensive holes that need to be filled?

NFL quarterbacks are the most scrutinized of any position in professional sports, and that scrutiny will continue until Flacco leads the Ravens to a Super Bowl win - and maybe even after.

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