Are the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl contenders?


Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; A Baltimore Ravens fan holds a sign up after the team defeat the Cleveland Browns 20-10 at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

At no point during the season did the Baltimore Ravens look like sure-fire Super Bowl contenders. The secondary was too awful, the offense too inconsistent. Even in big wins over the NFC South, the Ravens did not have the look of Super Bowl contenders. Then, in the fourth quarter of their final game, everything clicked. The offense was dynamic, the defense dominant. In 15 minutes of fourth quarter play against the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens looked like championship contenders.

There is reason for pessimism here. That dominant stretch came on the heels of 11 straight terrible quarters, an ugly home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, an uglier loss in Houston and three awful quarters at home against Cleveland. That’s the Ravens at their worst, and if that team makes an appearance again, the Ravens won’t even compete in the Wild Card round.

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Further, this dominant 15 minutes came against a reeling Cleveland Browns team that was starting an undrafted  rookie at quarterback. If it had come against one of the playoff teams the Ravens had played, it would be more convincing.

All that said, shades of the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl run were obvious against the Browns. Torrey Smith‘s huge 53-yard catch that sparked it all was reminiscent of the plays Anquan Boldin made that were so instrumental. Joe Flacco was as pinpoint in that quarter as he has ever been. And the defense played with Ray Lewis-eque passion. It was beautiful to watch.

And that’s why the Ravens are Super Bowl contenders. When this team is playing its best football, which did not happen enough this season, they can compete with anybody.

Maintaining that level of dominance for four games against top competition will be difficult, if not impossible. This secondary, which performed pretty well against Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Connor Shaw, is in no condition to take on Andrew Luck (again) or Tom Brady.

That said, the Ravens secondary didn’t necessarily impress in their last championship run. It was Joe Flacco and the passing game that led the Ravens to a championship, and that passing game will need to be the catalyst again.

The tools are there to get it done. Now, the Ravens have to find a way to go do it.

Next: Baltimore Ravens vs Cleveland Browns: What We Learned