For the second consecutive season, and just the third time in franchise history, the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 after eight games.
Aside from last season, the only other time Baltimore accomplished the feat was in 2006. The Ravens finished 13-3, won the division, earned a first round bye, and lost at home to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Indianapolis Colts.
History says the Ravens are a playoff bound team.
Since 1990, 96 teams have started 6-2, and 76 of them (79.2 percent), have made the playoffs. Obviously only a major meltdown would keep the purple and black form playing deep into January for a fourth consecutive season, which would be a Baltimore football record.
No professional football team has ever made four consecutive trips to the post season from the Charm City. The current Ravens team is tied with the 1975-77 Baltimore Colts, with three consecutive trips.
Ravens fans are feeling much better about their teams 6-2 record this season, than they did last season. The Ravens have already swept their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have victories over the Jets, and Houston Texans.
Despite being tied with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North, Baltimore holds the upper hand with two victories over the black and gold. As long as Baltimore continues to win, Ravens fans will need to be rooting for those same Steelers a lot during the second half of the season, and it begins this weekend, when Pittsburgh travels to play the Bengals.
Led by a trio of players, and two young tight ends, the Ravens are developing a balanced attack on offense. Running back Ray Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Anquan Boldin have all contributed to an attack that is seventh in the NFL with 208 points scored.
As the No. 2 ranked defense in the NFL, the usual cast of Pro-Bowlers have the Ravens defense feared as usual this season. Linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs fortify a Ravens defense that has safety Ed Reed, and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata playing at exceptionally high levels once again this season.
Although the team's two losses come against the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a combined record of 6-10, Baltimore is 4-0 vs. the Texans, Jets and Steelers, who are 17-9 combined.
The ideal situation for head coach John Harbaugh's team would be to win the AFC North, and possess one of the two first round bye's.
The Ravens second half schedule is very favorable, as the they face six teams with a combined record of 22-27 this season. They play just two teams (San Francisco and Cincinnati) that own a winning record. Duplicating their first half and finishing 12-4 would probably mean mission accomplished for the 2011 Ravens.
That mission is simply to have the road to Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI, running through Baltimore.
Can you see the headlines now Ravens fans "Baltimore wins AFC Championship, Will Play Super Bowl in Home of Colts".The irony would be nice, and after playing their last seven-playoff games on the road, the Ravens could use some home cooking in January.
Here are the grades for each unit after the first eight games of the 2011 season.