Joe Flacco finds himself in familiar territory this weekend. For the second straight season, he has the Baltimore Ravens playing in New England for the right to go to the Super Bowl. As his rookie contract expires at the end of the year, the Ravens need to pay him top dollar for his services.
He is the first quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, and he and Eli Manning are the only quarterbacks to win five road playoff games.
That has to count for something. Furthermore, in three of the five seasons, Baltimore has advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, thinks, "He's a top-five elite quarterback."
Let's not get carried away, but a simple examination of the facts shows any money that comes his way is well-deserved.
Flacco has provided Baltimore with something that was hard to come by a few years back: consistency at the quarterback position. He has started every game for the Ravens since 2008. From 1996-2007 there were 15 guys who started games at quarterback in Baltimore.
Names like Stoney Case and Eric Zeier don't exactly roll off the tongues of Ravens fans. Even Jim Harbaugh, brother of head coach John Harbaugh, started 12 games for the team in 1998.
The fact that Flacco is still starting after five seasons proves that the Ravens have finally found their guy.
Though not the most accurate passer with a career 60.5 completion percentage, he's got a big arm and knows how to find the end zone. In 80 regular-season games, Flacco has thrown for 17,633 yards with 102 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.
Since becoming the main guy in Baltimore in 2008, Flacco has gone 54-26 during the regular season and 7-4 in the postseason. In his rookie season, he led the Ravens all the way to the AFC Championship where they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Few mention the fifth-year man's name when talking about the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks, nor should they. However, his value to the team cannot be denied.
While not elite, he is certainly in the top half of current NFL quarterbacks and has the potential to climb towards the top.
Sure, Baltimore has always been built around defense and a solid run game. However, with Flacco, opposing teams now need to respect the air attack when taking on the Ravens.
His performance in last week's AFC divisional round game at Denver proves his worth. Facing elimination in a hostile environment, Flacco put up a spectacular performance, throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday in New England, the Baltimore ownership needs to pay its quarterback as quickly as possible and ensure a few more years of consistency and winning in Charm City.