In the 2008 draft the Baltimore Ravens selected Joe Flacco, the Delaware quarterback who had transferred from Pittsburgh. That season he started all sixteen games. He became the eighth rookie QB to start a playoff game and then went on to win two playoff games, the first rookie to ever accomplish that feat.
But let's not kid ourselves, it was the Ravens' defense that was their biggest weapon. Flacco averaged only 185.7 yards per game his first season. He threw only fourteen touchdown passes. In the three playoff games he was 33 of 75 for 424 yards. They won the first two games in part to Flacco's not turning the ball over, and the defense holding two opponents to nineteen total points. In the loss to the Steelers, Joe was intercepted three times.
This year has seen a quick increase in Flacco's numbers. He is averaging 36.4 passes per game, compared to 26.8 last year. His percentage completed has risen from 60 to 64.3. Yards per game is up from last season's 185.7 to an average of 257.8 this year. Already he has 9 touchdown passes, and is on pace to double last year's output.
One would think that this kind of improvement would mean even greater things from Baltimore in 2009. And they started out making believers of most. After three games, they were 3-0, scoring 103 points, with an average win margin of nearly seventeen points per game. Flacco set career highs in yardage twice, while throwing three touchdowns in the opener versus the Chiefs. The AFC North saw the Super Bowl Champion Steelers two games behind the Ravens three weeks into the season.
Then something changed. Maybe it was due to the next two opponents being the Patriots and the Bengals? Whatever the cause, the offense suddenly began to slow down. They were held to twenty-one versus New England, and then fourteen by Cincinnati. Now 3-2, they find themselves tied with the Steelers and behind the Bengals. The glory of the first three successes tempered by the realization that the Chiefs and Browns are both very bad. And now they come to Minneapolis.
Minnesota is 5-0, coming off a convincing win over yet another poor opponent in the Rams. But they have also defeated the 49ers and the Packers. Critics point to both of these games being home games and that the 49ers game was a last-second win.
But then this is a home game. The Ravens could be sliding into town at just the right time.