The Ravens spent the past two weeks trying to figure out why their season seemed to be coming unraveled when they should have known that there is simply no point in trying to explain the unexplainable.
Was it jet lag that left them sleepwalking around Wembley Stadium and made the Jacksonville Jaguars look like Super Bowl contenders? Was last week’s embarrassing home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers just another manifestation of their London hangover?
That seemed logical enough until they traveled to the West Coast this past weekend and suddenly looked like the balanced, efficient playoff-bound team Ravens fans have been pining for since 2014.
Seriously, was there anyone watching on Sunday who didn’t — at some point — utter the phrase “Who are these guys?”
Joe Flacco apparently benefited from his week of self-reflection, once again looking like the calm, cool, confident quarterback who led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. Mike Wallace looked like the 24-year-old speed burner who helped lead the Steelers to their most recent Super Bowl appearance in February 2011. The depleted offensive line kept Flacco clean and found a way to neutralize Raiders superstar defensive end Khalil Mack for 60 minutes.
Anyone who says he saw all that coming had better produce the polygraph results, but the first five weeks of the NFL season has already proved that anything is possible, even for the team with the longest injured-reserve list in the league.
If you doubt this, consider those suddenly formidable Jaguars, who made Ben Roethlisberger look like Kyle Boller and all but skunked the Steelers on Sunday, helping the Ravens reclaim a share of first place in the AFC North. Or the fact that it’s the New York Giants who are 0-5 and the supposedly god-awful Jets who have a winning record five weeks in.
The Cleveland Browns also are 0-5, which means there are still a few things you can depend on during this age of NFL parity.
What you can’t know, however, is that the Ravens will return home to face the Chicago Bears next Sunday and present the same well-chiseled face that they did in Oakland, because you can’t predict anything with this team or this league.
John Harbaugh certainly knows that and articulated it after his team's uplifting 30-17 victory.
"We just have to figure out how to play the next game,'' he said. "It’s a one-week league. If this doesn’t show this, and when you look around the NFL. Any fan in the NFL should know that by now. It’s an every-week league. It can change. Every, every, every week is a different week, and you just got to come out and find a way to play your best football and try to win your next game."
It certainly is encouraging that Flacco seemed to find himself against a pretty good Raiders team that has been top 10 in most of the major media power rankings through the first month of the season. The Ravens scored on their first four possessions Sunday and proved they could finish after the Raiders battled back to within a touchdown in the second half.
Remember, that was repeatedly presented as one of the top offseason priorities — bolstering the defense and the improving the running game so that the Ravens could finish games after a 2016 season in which they left some potential victories on the field in the fourth quarter.
Of course, their problem in the previous two games was that they never got started. This time, Flacco hit Wallace with a 52-yard pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage and the Ravens scored a defensive touchdown on the Raiders’ third play from scrimmage and they never really looked back.
The Raiders were playing without starting quarterback Derek Carr, which certainly had an impact on the outcome, but the Ravens had no reason to apologize for finally getting a break after a 15-day stretch in which they played two games eight time zones apart.
We’ll find out soon enough whether they really got their groove back, but if they did there is opportunity ahead. The Bears certainly are a beatable team and none of the four opponents the Ravens face before their bye week currently have winning records.
It isn’t hard to imagine what the narrative would be if last week’s Ravens had shown up in Oakland, but there is no reason to dwell on that. They only thing that matters is which team shows up at M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday.
This is the NFL, so you can’t assume anything.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.