When the Ravens’ 2011 schedule was released, fans and pundits looked at the first five games on Baltimore’s docket and wondered how the team would make out.
In that time, the Ravens were set to face the two teams who were in the AFC championship game last year (the Steelers and Jets), another legitimate playoff contender (the Texans) and a young team which looked very much on the rise (the Rams).
Don’t look now, but what appears to be the toughest portion of the Ravens’ schedule is already behind them, and John Harbaugh’s team has an impressive 4-1 record to show for it.
Through their first five games, the Ravens have showed off the league’s top scoring defense (14.2 points allowed per game) and have outscored their opponents by 15.4 points per game, best in the NFL.
They’re forcing a league-best 2.8 turnovers per game and have a running back who is averaging 140 yards from scrimmage each time out, ranking third in the NFL.
We’re all aware of the “any given Sunday” mantra: Regardless of record, any NFL team can beat any other. It’s certainly true, as proven by the Titans game a month ago, when no one expected Tennessee to pull off the upset over Baltimore.
With that said, it’s not tough to realize that the Ravens could very easily be sporting a 6-1 record when they roll into Pittsburgh in two weeks to face the Steelers.
Baltimore’s next two opponents - the Jaguars and Cardinals - have a combined record of 2-9. They’ve been outscored by a collective 85 points, and neither has found the win column since Week 1.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are one of just six teams with one loss or fewer, and they appear to be hitting their stride.
With a win this Monday night over the Jaguars, the Ravens would reach the 5-1 mark for just the second time in franchise history. (I bet you can guess the last time Baltimore started 5-1. Yup, the correct answer is the 2000 Super Bowl-winning season.)
If the Ravens end up 6-1 heading into that match-up with the Steelers, they’ll be off to their best start ever.
It’s far too early to start mapping out your plans for a playoff bye week, although head coach John Harbaugh has already been asked by a reporter about the thought of hosting a home postseason game.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Harbaugh responded. “We have a long way to go before that comes up.”
Harbaugh’s right. But with his team’s toughest stretch apparently in the rear-view mirror, good things may be on the horizon.
Follow Dan Kolko on Twitter: @DanKolko