I firmly believe in destiny. In sports, sometimes the stars align for a certain team to win a championship. It typically isn’t an easy road to victory, they often face adversity and there’s usually a point in which things look too dismal to believe that a certain group of guys could be champions.
Last week, I had a gut feeling that the Baltimore Ravens were going to upset the Denver Broncos. The emotion of Ray Lewis’ looming retirement, mixed with the team’s offensive upswing led me to that prediction. This week, I haven’t decided what I feel.
If the Ravens are the team of destiny that everyone in Baltimore hopes they are, they’ll redeem themselves in Foxborough against their toughest opponent yet. They’ll put behind them the drama of falling 23-20 a year ago and march into New Orleans as the AFC Champions.
I was hoping by this point in the week I would have decided the Ravens fate, but unfortunately I can’t give an unbiased prediction — not yet at least. What I do know is that if the Ravens do pull it off, it’ll be one hell of a story.
Yahoo’s Michael Silver detailed the triumphs of the resilient Ravens in his most recent column and I’ll admit that re-reading them made me feel confident that this battle-tested team could pull off another upset.
Silver points out that the Ravens bad luck began months before the team ever stepped foot onto the field. Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles in May playing basketball and would be out until October.
In September, Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith tragically lost his brother, Tevin Jones, in a motorcycle accident. That week, Smith caught six passes for 127 yards and found the end zone twice in front of a national audience.
Less than a month after, star cornerback Lardarius Webb was lost for the season with a knee injury and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis tore his triceps. Both were expected to miss the rest of the season.
In between, Baltimore soldiered on through a contentious, late-October team meeting in which several veterans challenged Harbaugh; a late-November game against the Chargers that required a fourth-and-29 conversion to force overtime, with an unlikely screen pass to Ray Rice paving the way for an eventual victory; another potential season-ending injury for Suggs, this one a torn biceps in early December that he was able to play through; the stunning mid-December dismissal of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was replaced by quarterbacks coach and neophyte play-caller Jim Caldwell; and a late lull that included four defeats in the Ravens’ final five regular-season games.
It’s been a crazy ride for the Ravens to get to Foxborough and to return to the AFC Championship. As a team, they’ve put together much better game plans, dramatically improved Joe Flacco’s pass protection and managed to solidify their defense in the middle of the field.
Getting this far given their challenges is remarkable, but losing again in the postseason may make some believe that the Harbaugh-Flacco combination just can’t get it done. And this could really be a make or break season for the Ravens given their tight salary cap situation next season and the potential losses of Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and/or Cary Williams.
Has all of this adversity made the Ravens an unstoppable force? Or will it ultimately catch up with them and lead to another postseason exit?