Last week's thoroughly dominating win over the defending Super Bowl champs reminded fans and even some experts why the Baltimore Ravens were a fashionable preseason choice to represent the AFC in New Orleans in February.
A couple of stumbling blocks early in December cost offensive coordinator Cam Cameron his job and left many wondering if Baltimore had the right man under center.
A three-game losing streak and a matchup against a talented Giants team equally desperate for victory gave even the most optimistic Raven diehards pause. A decisive win last Sunday re-affirmed faith in maligned quarterback Joe Flacco and helped build confidence that Baltimore can win without their best defensive players on the field.
The tide has turned somewhat at M&T Bank Stadium. Once known for its frighteningly aggressive and dominating defense, the 2012 Baltimore Ravens are beating people down with a healthy dose of offense. With almost all of their offensive weapons playing at full strength, Baltimore has shown that it can provide matchup nightmares for almost any defense.
The Ravens defense, which has played the last two weeks without its top three tacklers, seems to have found the right combination and rotation of players to stay fresh, aggressive and disruptive against some very prolific offenses.
With the regular season wrapping up Sunday, Baltimore will be tested by division rival Cincinnati as they prepare for the postseason for the fifth consecutive year. It could potentially be a preview of Baltimore's first-round matchup, as the final four AFC seeds will be determined by Sunday's results.
Here are five keys to success for a Baltimore playoff run.