Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston gives his rant after the Ravens' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
On any given Sunday anything can happen in the NFL these days, and that appears to be the only saving grace for the Ravens.
They seem to be playing on borrowed time.
A week ago after beating the Miami Dolphins in South Florida, the Ravens looked like a team building momentum. But after they barely squeaked by a really bad Jacksonville team Sunday, it was back to reality.
The remaining schedule is set up for the Ravens to get into the playoffs, and even possibly host a first-round game, but they are going to need a miracle to go deep. They'll need an injury to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning or a blizzard in New England to slow Tom Brady.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh celebrated the win Sunday with his team, but there wasn't a lot to take and build on from this game. In December when playing at home, a serious contender is supposed to smash a team like the Jaguars (2-12).
They are supposed to control the tempo from beginning to end, and then send the Jaguars on a long flight back to Jacksonville. Instead, the Ravens had to sweat it out until kicker Justin Tucker converted on a 33-yard field goal with 1:11 left in the game.
The NFL is so unpredictable, but so much more was expected from the Ravens. Instead, the Jaguars were more intense and physical. If they were only a little smarter and had a tad more talent, they would have pulled the upset.
"We had too many long-yard situations, too many penalties, too many special-teams penalties again," Harbaugh said. "Things like that, we just have to get cleaned up. And we have to go to work hard on that. And our guys will.
"We'll go to work on that, and if we want to be the kind of team that we're going to be as we go forward here, those are the kind of things we need to clean up."
There aren't any excuses. Some will say the Ravens were playing in a do-or-die situation a week ago against the Dolphins, against whom they played their best game of the season, so a letdown was to be expected against the Jaguars.
It's December, the time of the year where a team wants an edge. They want to be physical. They want to send a message to other teams, especially playing at home.
The Ravens didn't have any swagger. Actually, they sent out the wrong message for a team that wants to be championship caliber.
They are in a good situation. The Ravens are tied for second in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) with two games remaining.
Next week's opponent, the Houston Texans, lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the season Sunday with a broken leg. The other opponent, Cleveland, is starting rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, who really should be sitting on the bench.
Meanwhile, division leader Cincinnati (9-4-1) plays in Denver, while the Steelers have Kansas City at home before closing out with the Bengals in Pittsburgh. The schedule favors the Ravens.
But when you watch the Ravens play there is never the feeling they are quite good enough. Jacksonville had receivers wide open, especially early in the game, but they either couldn't catch or quarterback Blake Bortles didn't have time to throw.
It will be different in Denver and New England with Brady and Manning. It was different here with San Diego and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Ravens were outcoached at times Sunday, allowing an onside kick and a fake punt. Really. Shouldn't those things be expected from an inferior team such as Jacksonville?
The play on special teams, especially the penalties, were poor for a second straight week and running back Justin Forsett looked a little slow after playing with a knee injury for the second straight week.
"It's the NFL man," Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "Everybody gets paid. They get paid, too. We'll take it."
Well, they can't give it back. Dumervil has to be happy because he had another sack Sunday to continue his torrid pace. The Ravens had eight against Jacksonville, which had surrendered a league-high 54 before the game.
But Denver and New England won't allow many. And unlike Miami and Jacksonville, those teams will throw downfield and challenge the Ravens cornerbacks, who can't cover.
It's scary what might happen when the Ravens play the big boys.
That's why Sunday was so important. You wanted to see if the Ravens had gained separation from the rest of the league. They got another strong effort from quarterback Joe Flacco and their pass rush was overwhelming against a team that failed to move Bortles out of the pocket in the second half.
But the Ravens struggled against Jacksonville. And at this point in the season, it's a concern.