Baltimore Ravens Are Ready for Any Team in the AFC

Drew FrazierContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01:  Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a defensive play during the NFL game against  the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens and their fans like to talk about how they’re disrespected and overlooked by the national media and how, despite the positive things they’ve done this season, people aren’t giving them the credit they deserve.

A few weeks ago, Joe Flacco made headlines by pointing out that Tim Tebow gets a disproportionate amount of coverage and that the Ravens rarely get covered—even when they win a big game like they did versus the Steelers. After the Ravens' win over the Cincinnati Bengals, which clinched the division, Terrell Suggs said the media hadn’t been “treating” the Ravens like a 12-win team and that they had been “bashing” them.

The fact is that Flacco and Suggs are right and the Ravens really haven’t gotten the credit they deserve from either the media or fans around the nation. The Ravens won 12 games, have one of the best defenses in football and have one of the best ground attacks with the best all-around running back and best fullback in the league.

There’s no doubting the Ravens are a team built for January football—maybe more than any other team in the league right now. That in itself should get the Ravens a ton of respect. However, perhaps the most impressive thing about this Ravens team is that it has a perfect record at home and in its division—which happens to be the best in football by far.

The most ironic part about the Ravens' season is that none of the teams they lost to are even in the playoffs. The Ravens beat every playoff team they faced during the regular season, and although they did have a fairly easy schedule, they still had six games versus playoff teams: the Steelers twice, the Bengals twice, the Houston Texans and the 49ers.

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens throws the ball during the NFL game against  the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers. As already stated, none of those teams made the playoffs. The Chargers and the Titans almost made the playoffs, but critical losses late in the season kept them out.

The fact is, the Ravens would be the most talked-about team this season and in the playoffs if they had only beaten the teams they were supposed to beat during the regular season. The Ravens have the most undesirable trait an NFL team can have: inconsistency. And since the Ravens have been inconsistent this season, the national media are quick to write them off and slow to give them the credit they deserve.

Flacco and Suggs can complain about the lack of respect for the Ravens, but it’s really no one’s fault but their own. If the Ravens had taken care of business and avoided the let-down games this season, there’s no question they’d be getting the credit they deserve, but the fact is the Ravens do have concerns heading into the playoffs—just like every team. The good news is they have less to worry about that any other team in the AFC right now.

The New England Patriots, who probably get more coverage than they deserve because of Tom Brady, have many more concerns and weaknesses than the Ravens, and even though the Patriots are the one team the Ravens would have to face away from home, the Ravens have to like their chances if they did have to travel to New England.

The Patriots have one of the worst defenses in football, and despite their excellent 13-3 record in the regular season, the Patriots have only played three playoff teams this season and are 1-2 in those games. Furthermore, the Ravens just seem to match up well versus the Patriots and have always played them extremely tough—especially under John Harbaugh, who took the team to New England in the 2009 playoffs and came away with a decisive 33-14 victory.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 1:    Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammate  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots after a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the second half at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Foxboro
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

All of the other teams in the AFC would have to play the Ravens in Baltimore, where the team is 8-0 on the season, and the Ravens have to love their chances against any of them. The Ravens have already beaten the Bengals twice, and although the Steelers are always a huge challenge, the Ravens dominated the Steelers the last time they played in Baltimore. Furthermore, the Steelers are probably one of the most banged-up and injured teams in the league right now and really don’t want to face the Ravens, who pose a physical battle for anyone who faces them.

The only other teams in the playoffs are the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans, whom the Ravens have also already beaten this season. Not many people expect the Broncos to beat the Steelers, but even if they do, the Ravens would have to be heavily favored in that game. Tim Tebow is a fantastic competitor, but a team needs to be capable of throwing the ball to beat the Ravens. Tebow hasn’t shown the ability to do that.

The Texans would be a challenge for the Ravens, but even against them, the Ravens would have to be favored. The Ravens have already beaten them once this season, and when they played them, it was before Texans All-Pro quarterback Matt Schaub was lost for the season. If the Ravens can beat the Texans with Matt Schaub, then they should be able to beat them with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates.

The fact is the Ravens should be favored against any team they face at home, and even if they have to travel to New England, they have to love their chances. That being said, football is not played on paper, and who’s favored doesn’t really matter. Every game will be a battle, and every team will have to play their best.

The Ravens don’t like being overlooked, and to some extent, their feelings are justified. This is the time for them to prove themselves. As the old saying goes, respect is not given—it’s earned. If people aren’t going to give them respect, the Ravens are going to have to earn it, and the playoffs are where games really matter and real respect is earned.