The Ravens have hit the quarter pole of the 2011 season, and have an impressive 3-1 record to show for their effort to this point.
Home wins over both of the teams that appeared in the 2010 AFC Championship (the Steelers and Jets) have made that record seem particularly impressive, and with Pittsburgh struggling and battling injuries, Baltimore's early division lead has a little extra weight to it.
Given the fact that we don't have a game to preview tomorrow, I figured I'd take a look at the Ravens' remaining schedule, and pick apart the games which should slot in as wins compared to the games which might be trouble.
For those who are interested in taking a look at what the Ravens have ahead of them the rest of the way out, here you go. Clicking on that link will give you the Ravens' entire 2011 schedule.
Overall, the current record of the Ravens' remaining opponents is 22-26. Among those 12 teams, only the Texans, Chargers and 49ers (that's your Harbaugh Bowl) currently have winning records, while four opponents - the Jaguars, Cardinals, Seahawks, Colts - have losing marks at this point. The remaining five games come against division rivals who all currently have .500 records.
After having played two home games and two road games to this point, the Ravens obviously have six road games left, and six contests in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium the rest of the way.
Of those six road games, only one comes against a team which currently sports a winning record. That team is the Chargers, who have fought through tough games over the Vikings, Chiefs and Dolphins - seemingly not the toughest of competition - to earn their three wins.
The Ravens have played just one division game through the first four weeks, leaving them seven division contests remaining over the final three months of the season.
Baltimore will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in Week 9, while they still have four games remaining with the Browns and Bengals. Both of those teams have surprised and posted 2-2 starts to the season, but it's hard to imagine either squad giving the Ravens all that much trouble this year, especially given the inexperienced quarterback each team is trotting out.
While we certainly know that any team can pull a surprise on any given day and no matchup sets up as a guaranteed win for any squad, there are only three games on the Ravens' schedule the rest of the way out which appear to be legitimate question marks: Week 6 against the Texans, Week 9 at the Steelers, and Week 15 at the Chargers.
It's unfair and silly to write in the remaining nine games as guaranteed victories for the Ravens, because that's not how the NFL works. As Al Pacino taught us, any team can earn a win on Any Given Sunday.
Having said that, there are very few hurdles remaining for the Ravens the rest of the way. They've already beaten two teams who they will be battling for playoff position, and given the way they've performed in those two "big-time" matchups, they apparently gear up well for the battles against major competition.
After looking at the remaining schedule, does this seem like a 12-4 team to you? 11-5? Are there a couple landmines in there which you think could knock the Ravens out of the playoff picture?
Personally, I won't go and project a final record or guarantee a playoff appearance at this point, but taking into account what John Harabugh's squad has in front of them, they should at the very least give themselves a shot to have a nice postseason run. Who knows, maybe even a long-awaited home playoff game or a first-round bye is in the cards, as well.