There’s no nice or gentle way of putting this on a purple weekend and on Friday The 13th – the Baltimore Ravens are under the microscope this Sunday against the Houston Texans and winning isn’t just expected it’s almost a pre-supposition here in the Charm City.
Most of my week has been trying to figure out how many buses we’ll need for New England next weekend and how big of a tent we’ll need in Indianapolis for the fan parties.
And before I go any further with the pressure cooker that is NFL Playoffs, I will make my fearless prediction: Ravens 31, Texans 16. And I think it will be the defense that creates points on Sunday and I expect the usual workmanlike day from Joe Flacco and Ray Rice on the offensive side. Nothing flashy, nothing showy – just solid, mistake-free football and another home victory, just like the previous eight we’ve all witnessed.
But if the aforementioned happens to be inaccurate and somehow, some way, through some series of mistakes the Ravens find themselves eliminated at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, this would go down as the biggest disappointment in modern Baltimore sports history. It would be right up there with the 1969 World Series.
Make no mistake about it: this is a dangerous game for the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s unthinkable that a third-string quarterback could come to Baltimore and beat the Ravens. It’s unthinkable that after three years of playing road games in January – and winning some of them against all odds – that the Ravens could somehow lose a home playoff game with a bye week of rest after a season of flawless home football at The Big Crab Cake. And especially with the Pittsburgh Steelers already out of the tournament.
For Ed Reed, who is probably playing the last few weeks of football of his career, it could be the end. For Ray Lewis, who has looked a shadow of his former self since the toe injury in Seattle, it could also be the end. For Matt Birk, it’s most certainly the end. And for Cam Cameron, who is the most maligned member of the franchise, it would absolutely signal the end of four straight playoff years of scrutiny halted.
I’m not really sure what people would say about Joe Flacco if the Ravens don’t win on Sunday, whether it’d be his fault or not. And John Harbaugh is (and should be) Teflon after four straight years of playoff appearances.
If the Ravens lose on Sunday there’s no doubt scapegoating would be the flavor of the day on Monday and all sorts of changes would be made.
It’s just the way it works in the NFL. The last 16 weeks don’t matter. The four straight years of playoff appearances don’t matter. The undefeated home record doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters are the next 60 minutes. That always makes me a little tense.
Terrell Suggs said it best on Wednesday: “We’re aware of the consequences of playing poorly.”
It’s all purple roses today and most everyone reading this blog believes the Ravens CAN’T lose on Sunday. And count me as one of them.
And it’s not like the Ravens need even more pressure from the media or the fanbase regarding expectations. Hell, they put those same weighty expectations on themselves. They expect to win the Super Bowl, too.
But let’s just hope they back up all of this hype and hope and prosperity with a rare home playoff victory.
You do know that in the history of the franchise, the Ravens have only won ONE playoff game – the wind-swept day against the Denver Broncos on New Year’s weekend 2001. The Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans in January 2004 and again to the Indianapolis Colts in January 2007.
The Ravens are 1-2 in home playoff games.
We all believe they’ll be 2-2 come Sunday night and headed to their third AFC Championship Game appearance.
But if they’re not I’m not sure I’m ready for all hell to break loose around Baltimore.
And it will if this result goes wrong at 1 p.m. on Sunday…