I'm sort of glad I scheduled having Christmas Eve and Christmas off a while back.
It's not because I'm not enjoying this current dazzling stretch from the Baltimore Ravens. It's actually quite the contrary. It's because I'm seriously enjoying this current dazzling stretch and I don't really want to talk about any of the other "what if" or "what could still be" or "what could come" scenarios that still exist.
Maybe I feel like this in part because of the holiday season. I mean, it's Christmas Eve and I already have at least 20 percent of my shopping done. But more than that, this is just stinkin' fun.
So since I won't have a radio show to spit it all out, I'll do that silly internet thing and share my "12 Ravens Thoughts Of Christmas" all right here. You'll have to supply your own turtledoves.
1. This could easily come crashing down against the Cleveland Browns.
Look, the Browns are playing very well. Quarterback Baker Mayfield truly looks the part. The Ravens have made fewer mistakes in recent weeks, but they've still made mistakes. The Browns knew all week that their playoff hopes were doomed, yet they didn't come out flat against the Cincinnati Bengals. With a chance to clinch a winning record, I expect the Browns to treat this like their Super Bowl.
2. But if the Ravens win, they're totally legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Which is to say they already are. The Kansas City Chiefs have lost back-to-back games. The Los Angeles Chargers just got pounded at home. The New England Patriots lost two straight before beating the Buffalo Bills this week. The Houston Texans have lost two of their last three. Every AFC playoff team appears to be flawed, and the Ravens are hot. Combine that with the ability to start the postseason at home and the Ravens have potentially as good a chance as anyone else to end up in Atlanta … as long as they get in.
3. That doesn't mean we can't still ask the "sustainability" question.
If Merriam-Webster had polled exclusively in Baltimore, "sustainability" would have beaten out "justice" for Word Of The Year via a score far bigger than 22-10. But the topic remains relevant -- the Ravens are still running a lot (Lamar Jackson included), and the risk of opponents catching up to the scheme or a quarterback injury exists. Perhaps no one will stop it this season, but there's still no certainty the style will work moving forward.
4. But there's greater reason to believe that if opponents catch up to the scheme, the Ravens can ask for more from their quarterback as a passer.
I'm not trying to shower Jackson with undeserved praise here. There are still plenty of things about his passing skill-set to be concerned about, namely deep passes to the outside. But he's proven to be an above-average passer in the middle of the field and, yeah, is still only six starts into his career. If an opponent is able to limit the Ravens on the ground moving forward, there's a non-zero chance Jackson can beat them anyway.
5. The timing of the John Harbaugh announcement wasn't just odd, it was borderline insane.
Most of the heat Ravens fans felt after the team's Dec. 21 announcement that they would be
keeping their head coach
has died down because of the
win against the Chargers
. And while I have absolutely no reason to think this would happen, could you imagine how the fan base would feel if the team were to lay an egg and lose 40-0 to the Browns?
Maybe owner Steve Bisciotti defaulted to his instincts; he's never been inclined to fire Harbaugh, with whom he has a close relationship. Maybe something (a conversation regarding another opening?) gave Harbaugh leverage to force the issue.
To be fair, if the Ravens made the postseason (and particularly if they made a run), Harbaugh wasn't going anywhere. But making the announcement when they did --particularly considering it was at the end of the week and didn't even serve to avoid distraction -- was an incredible head-scratcher.
6. Despite the turnaround, my gut still says this is a mistake.
I don't think the duo of Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is the right combination moving forward to help develop Jackson into the complete quarterback the Ravens want him to be. It's certainly possible that Jackson is so good that it won't matter, even if that's true.
But again, if this road takes the Ravens to the divisional round or beyond, even I would have been forced to say that keeping Harbaugh was the right thing to do.
7. The Ravens could still miss the playoffs and they've already decided to keep their coach. So since the whole "playoffs or bust" thing wasn't actually real, why didn't the Ravens just extend Harbaugh before the season so he could start Jackson in Week 1 and speed up the development process?
I guess that particular thought was rather detailed so no further explanation is needed here.
8. You guys don't really think there's a coordinator change coming, do you?
I saw a number of Ravens fans reacting positively to the Harbaugh news but suggesting it needed to come with a parting of ways for Mornhinweg. Allow Twitter's Glenn Clark to share a thought:
9. And while I understand your fears, I'd be fairly surprised if the other coordinator was going anywhere, either.
I noticed a lot of Ravens fans lamenting the possibility that defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale could become a hot head-coaching commodity after the team's torrid stretch. That's certainly possible, particularly if this rolls on well into January.
That said, we're still talking about a coach who has exactly two years of coordinator experience under his belt in a league that is likely to still skew toward offensive minds despite the Ravens' success.
10. Jackson has been fun, but cornerback Marlon Humphrey is the team's MVP.
I'd do a whole column revealing that Humphrey received my team MVP vote, but again, 80 percent of my shopping, you guys. We were given five candidates to pick from this year -- Humphrey, Jackson, linebacker C.J. Mosley, kicker Justin Tucker and offensive lineman Marshal Yanda.
It does seem to me that defensive lineman Michael Pierce would have been a worthy finalist as well. And if Jackson and running back Gus Edwards were co-candidates, I would be more willing to consider their significance even though neither was a regular for the entire first half of the season.
But to me, Humphrey has been the best from Week 1 to Week 16, with obviously his best football coming in recent weeks.
11. Receiver Michael Crabtree's issues against the Chargers were a reminder that the Ravens still have an overall talent problem.
The problem with the folks who want to believe Joe Flacco (and his contract) were the Ravens' only problems is that they're willfully ignoring the continued failures of the front office in drafting for a long stretch. While Jackson, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews look like pretty good selections from the most recent class, there were just far too many misses in the drafts before that.
Flacco will be totally out of the picture, but the Ravens still need to put better players around their quarterback, something they have done … almost never.
12. But again, this is super fun and I'm all for enjoying it until whenever it ends.
Merry Christmas. Glenn Clark Radio returns Dec. 26.
Follow Glenn on Twitter at @GlennClarkRadio
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox