A month or so ago I posted a thread about the 2-loss Ravens being "pretenders" as SB contenders:
KC Joyner on Why the Ravens are Pretenders, not Contenders
That was moved to the Football Forum (as I expect this will eventually be). But the bottom line was, Joe Flacco's inconsistency, the falloff in the defense, age and injuries, and a brutal late season schedule would all lead to a late season schedule.
A lot of people felt that the Ravens still had the inside track on the #2 seed, that they would be impossible to beat at home, etc. Hasn't happened. The past 2 weeks have seen the first back-to-back losses for the Ravens since 2009 and the first home loss since 2010. And the Ravens now face Petyon Manning and the 10-3 Broncos at home, Eli Manning and the playoff bound 8-5 Giants at home, and a season ending road trip to 8-6 Cincinnati, which is fighting for a playoff spot. They've fired their OC and are close to panic mode. Their LB and secondary corps have been depleted by injuries, and Ray Lewis, Daniel Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard will all be out for this game:
Injuries have forced Baltimore Ravens to lean on a patchwork defense - baltimoresun.com
Like the Pats last year, the Ravens will have to hope that James Ihedigbo can get the job done as a starter. Ihedigbo's a gamer, but good luck.
It will be interesting to see if the team can regroup, or if they fall apart entirely. Not only the national media but their local media seems to have lost all confidence in them. 5 out of 6 of the Baltimore Sun writers, for example, currently predict that the Broncos will beat the Ravens today - something that would have been unthinkable 2 weeks ago. The funniest comment was from Mike Preston, probably the most respected of the bunch:
Predictions for Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos picks from Baltimore Sun staffers - Baltimore Sun
The only Manning the Ravens can probably defeat at this point is Archie, the father of Peyton and Eli. If it rains, the Ravens have a chance.
A loss today to the Broncos and their confidence may be shattered. The Giants next week will be tougher, IMHO. A better and more physical team, and one with more on the line. 2 more losses is a real possibility, and would put the Ravens at 9-6 heading to Cincinnati week 17, with the Bengals either playing for the AFCN division title (if they beat the Steelers next week) or possibly a wild card bearth over the Ravens based on tie-breakers if both teams finish 9-7.
How different things look from a month ago. The Ravens could rally and win today (and I hope they do, to give the Broncos a 4th loss), but they look like they're barely holding on.