It’s taken Joe Flacco five postseason trips to finally make it to the Super Bowl. Now the team is in a must-win situation as it may be some time before they are able to make it back to the league’s championship game.
Retooling and rebuilding are unfortunate realities for NFL franchises and the aging Baltimore Ravens are not immune to that. Their championship window will not remain open indefinitely, especially because of the competitive division they play in.
That’s why winning this game is so important for John Harbaugh and his team.
No one is going to take anything away from Harbaugh if they don’t make it back to the Super Bowl in the next few years. He’s clearly done a remarkable job with the Ravens since taking the reins in 2008. However, the shelf life for a Super Bowl berth is so fleeting and so unpredictable that teams cannot afford to waste the opportunities they get.
Ozzie Newsome has proven to have an incredible eye for talent, so the replenishment of the team’s roster shouldn’t really worry anyone.
However, it takes time for new talent to come in, develop and replace the old guard.
And it takes some luck, too. There is no predicting things that happen during a 16-game NFL season. If Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis were unable to bounce back from injuries this season, would we even be having this conversation?
Baltimore looked atrocious at times down the stretch, losing four of its last five games without Lewis in the lineup.
Sometimes having a little luck and avoiding the injury bug better than everyone else is enough to distance a team from its peers.
Will the Ravens be title contenders again next season?
San Francisco, on the other hand, is in the beginning stages of its contention window. Its combination of promising youth and veterans will allow the team to grow together and be contenders for multiple seasons.
Now, this doesn’t mean Baltimore is going to slip from a 10-6 team to the bottom of the AFC North Division, but it’s not going to be easy for this team to sustain multiple Super Bowl runs in the near term.
Losing Lewis to retirement and a guy like Ed Reed to free agency is going to have its unwanted effects. There’s no escaping that or the huge challenge that awaits a team in its quest to return to a Super Bowl.
It takes a perfect storm. And even with a top-tier roster and coaching staff, there are no guarantees.