This week, I learned (or, rather, re-learned) two things about the 2011 NFL. One, all streaks in the NFL are bound to end, sooner or later (in fact, rather sooner than later). Two, any team can beat any team on a given Sunday (or Monday, for that matter), regardless of the records, hype and expectations.
The first bit is more about the Week 1 drubbing of the Steelers at the hands of Baltimore, it was a Super Bowl day in Maryland, as Flacco finally beat Big Ben. The second bit is about the MNF in Week 7, when the great Flacco lost to a rookie.
Don't get me wrong, I honestly believe that Baltimore has put together a great team, probably the best they in years. And it will be very, very difficult to win the division this season. But this team is not invincible, as, admittedly, even I have felt sometimes.
As I have written after the 35-7 embarrassment in Week 1, I had a very strong feeling that the Ravens had spent an entire offseason preparing for that matchup. Not even that, they had been building the team with a specific purpose of beating the Steelers. The other 10 teams on their schedule kind of got overlooked, and Baltimore is paying the price.
The other thing about the Ravens is that they got too confident. They couldn't get much higher following a massacre of the Steelers; next week, as predicted by yours truly, they came out flat and lost to the Titans. They followed up the loss with a bunch of blowouts and thought they had a W in their pocket in Jacksonville. Not so fast. A nitty-gritty team in a rare national spotlight played their own "Super Bowl", and took one away - deservedly, too! (BTW, this one puts the second half of the last week's Steelers-Jags matchup in a little bit of perspective, doesn't it?).
I am wondering to what extent "Mr. Perfect" John Harbaugh is capable to instill the right mood in the locker room. Just wondering at this point, but, you know, one time is a incident, two time is a coincidence (third time will be an evidence of a trend). It is not like the Steelers have never suffered letdowns. I remember losses to Arizona, to 4-12 Jets, I remember the 9-0 loss in Jacksonville a few years back. Finally, I remember the 5-game losing streak in 2009 with 4th quarter leads blown in 4 of those losses. So I wouldn't read too much into this.
Speaking of the Steelers, I have always said that I prefer to lose to the Ravens once by 28 points than to lose 6 times, by 1-3 points each time. We are now in our well-deserved first place in the AFC North - for better or worse, the only division without a losing team. Things are not going to get easy any time soon - the next two weeks may very well determine the outcome of this season. Two wins over Patriots and Ravens - and we have our division taken over and in great position for the 1-2 playoffs seeding. Two losses - and we are in a deep hole. Split - and it is neck-to-neck the rest of the way.
I am very uneasy about this coming Sunday afternoon, especially with all the injuries on defense and Pats coming off the bye. It is the Brady's bunch, after all, and they have had our number recently. But if this season is the season of reversal of trends, let's reverse this one too.