2010 NFL Playoff Preview: Time For Flacco and Ravens to Take Place Among Elite

Alex GuyCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

Can Joe Flacco and the Ravens silence critics this postseason?
Can Joe Flacco and the Ravens silence critics this postseason?Larry French/Getty Images

Interesting fact: Joe Flacco is one of only six quarterbacks in NFL history to have 10,000 passing yards in his first three seasons. He also has joined a select group of passers to not miss the playoffs in any of his of his first three years. He has won on the road in the playoffs, including a stomping delivered to New England in Foxborough last year. He has a higher passer rating this season than Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, and Matt Ryan. He has gotten better each year in the league and has excelled at time this season.

Despite his improvements, both local and national pundits seem to decry his accomplishments, claiming he needs to "step up in the big one" or "get a signature win." Ignoring the fact that Flacco lead the Ravens on a game winning drive in Pittsburgh earlier this season and ostensibly on the game winning drive in Atlanta, sports people across the country seem to give Flacco almost no credit for his success. Similarly, the Ravens have come away with a 12-4 record despite a difficult schedule. Remove heartbreaking losses to New England in OT and Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter, an the Ravens could be sitting at 14-2 with a first round bye. Still, like their quarterback, the Ravens have been underrated all season. It's time for Flacco and the Ravens to change that this postseason.

You've heard all of the statistics, seen all the highlights, and watched all of the press conferences. What it comes down to is that the Ravens are playoff tested and championship ready. With Ray Rice and Flacco leading a dual threat offense, and Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata leading the typically stalwart Ravens team, the Ravens possess arguably the most complete team package. Even the suddenly infallible Patriots loss convincingly to the Browns and it looks as if knocking Brady down is the formula for an upset. Examining the records of all of the playoff teams shows that the Ravens might be the only team without an embarrassing loss. They keep games within reach and with effective special teams play could make a serious push to represent the AFC in Dallas.

Now, I am by no means suggesting that the Ravens have had a perfect season, or are even playing their best football. Flacco's four INT fiasco in Cincinnati has been a scarlet letter and fourth quarter defensive fatigue has cost Baltimore games all season long. In a year with few certainties, however, it's time for the Ravens to realize their potential and hoist the Lombardi. If they can gain some momentum, the Baltimore Ravens and its quarterback will take their place among the NFL's elite.