Here we are: the playoffs. The most exciting stretch in the NFL which culminates in the Super Bowl. A point in the year where records don’t matter a lot, as wins completely matter more so than individual statistics. For these games, even if a quarterback throws for an unbelievable 500 yards, if he loses then the feat is quickly forgotten.
When I say that records don’t matter, it is just that self-explanatory. The Giants last year played in all of the divisional rounds and won the Super Bowl, despite barely qualifying for the playoffs on the last week of the 2011 season with just a 9-7 record. In the 2006 season, the Colts ended up winning the Super Bowl despite having close to the worst defense in the whole league that year, but stepped it up vastly in the playoffs.
This can also apply negatively to teams in the playoffs who had a certain dominance in the regular season. The Patriots, during their quest for a perfect season in 2007, went and set many new offensive records which included most points scored for a season, yet only scored 14 points in losing that Super Bowl. Also, our own Ravens had Jamal Lewis lead the league in rushing and got close to breaking the record for yards in a season, yet his rushing dominance made no such dent in their first round loss for the 2003 season.
So, you may be asking, what does this have to do with Flacco?
Well, as you know, Flacco is in the last year of his contract and hasn’t received an extension yet, which would make him a free agent after the season if that holds. Despite all of his wins, he hasn’t exactly won over the Raven-faithful who every now and then call for him to be replaced. If that weren’t enough, in the media the good days he has can be seen as flukes and the bad days as expected, whether true or not.
Yet, here comes the playoffs roaring back into town for the 5th straight year under Flacco, Harbaugh, and Rice. When it comes to winning or losing games in the playoffs, most of the praise/blame will fall on the quarterback more than at any point in the regular season. Take Drew Brees and Eli Manning as examples, who for the first couple years of their careers were seen as busts until they started winning in the playoffs (also eventually winning the Super Bowl and getting more praise).
So with Flacco the previous four seasons, you got at least one playoff win and a lot of praise that followed. Although when the playoffs ended for the Ravens with a loss (which happened to be to the AFC team heading to the Super Bowl every time by the way), even if Flacco played an outstanding game like last year’s versus the Patriots, then Flacco’s ability & leadership would come into question again.
Currently, the Ravens that are in the playoffs this year are very different than any of the previous seasons they have been in the playoffs. This is because they did not end the season with a defense ranked around the top five in the league. So, the situation will be viewed as this being the offense having to win the game in spite of the defense, instead of usual other way around in all other playoff years. This is where Flacco comes in as starting a new chapter for his career.
Anything great he does in the playoffs this year will be magnified much more so than the previous four years as he will be seen as the sole reason the team can compete. Any remaining questions about Flacco can be answered during these playoffs, whether false or true. You better believe this guy will be thinking about the future in preparation for this playoff run. Since not only will he want to play well for the team’s sake, his own credibility and ego, and for Ray Lewis’ last season, but also to ensure his own financial future in securing a good contract.
This is the crossroads for Joe Flacco, and he must know that a lot of things hinge on his performance.
The Ravens will face the Colts this Sunday (1pm CBS) for the third time in the playoffs. This will be the first time in the playoffs however that the Ravens will face a Manning-less Colts, which may work in our team’s advantage. Andrew Luck is a great quarterback who had a terrific season, but he’s still a rookie and as such is prone to make mistakes in big situations (plus the fact he was third in the league for most interceptions thrown).
You will no doubt hear some talk about how the Colts left Baltimore back in 1984, most likely during the game on Sunday. These wounds get opened up every time the two teams face each other. Possibly a win by the Ravens here will put a temporary hold or permanent end on rehashing that event every time.
There is some good optimism to take note of: our defense is improving just in time for the playoffs! Check it out: the Ravens now have the 17th ranked defense in the league. Don’t you recall their ranking being between 24-26 for almost the entire season? I’ve been noticing this the past few weeks, yet sports analysts like to live in the recent past of weeks ago for material and never update their analysis in time. Like I said in the last post how momentum in the playoffs is more important than possible fatigue following a dominant season, isn’t this a great time for our defense to be really hitting their stride and complement our offense?
I will be looking forward to this game, as I do expect you to be as well. Enjoy your weekend!
P.S. Best of luck to our neighbors to the south against the Seahawks. Let us have a Ravens-Redskins Super Bowl to start off 2013.
PHOTO CREDITS: BALTIMORE RAVENS, J. EISENBERG