FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the past two games, the Ravens were 9.5-point underdogs. And, for the past two games, the Ravens have beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. You don't have to like the Ravens. But you certainly have to respect the playoff run they've put together. Now, Baltimore faces San Francisco in the Super Bowl, where the Ravens will be underdogs again.
The Ravens improved to 13-7 all-time in the playoffs. Their .650 winning percentage is the best in NFL history. The Packers (.625) rank second, and the Steelers (.611) are third.
This marks the fifth time in the past 13 years that the AFC North will have a team in the Super Bowl. The Ravens won in the 2000 season, and the Steelers captured the NFL title in the 2005 and 2008 seasons. The only loss by a division team during that time was the 2010 Steelers, who lost to the Packers.
In case you missed the late-night posts, here's my column on Joe Flacco and my quick take on the Super Bowl matchup. For those who feel that the blog has been too Ravens-heavy lately, I have some bad news: It's going to get worse for the next two weeks. That's what happens when they're one of two teams in the league playing. A day or two after the Lombardi trophy is hoisted up, we'll shift to offseason mode.
Here's your wake-up call ...
RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston says it was the Ravens' offensive line that paved the way to New Orleans. "The best move came two weeks ago when Ravens coach John Harbaugh inserted Bryant McKinnie at left offensive tackle, moved Michael Oher to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele to left guard," Preston wrote. "That's when the Ravens became championship caliber. There are always new schemes and philosophies in football, but there is one constant: If your front five can beat the other team's defensive front seven, you win games. On Sunday night, the Ravens' starting group of McKinnie, Oher, guard Marshal Yanda, Osemele and center Matt Birk were outstanding."
BENGALS: Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden didn't get hired as a head coach after four interviews over a six-day span, but it was still a productive experience for him. "It was an honor to be on those guys’ lists and to be able to talk football and philosophies," Gruden told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "You also learn that there are a lot of issues in a lot of different positions and sometimes our problems are not as bad.”
STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette believes the Steelers' priority must be to either re-sign Rashard Mendenhall or bring in another featured back. "They cannot go into their next season without one," Bouchette wrote. "(Jonathan) Dwyer and (Isaac) Redman are complementary backs and they have value in that. (Baron) Batch can be a good role player, one similar to that played by Mewelde Moore from 2008-11."
BROWNS: Former Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is returning to Philadelphia to be the Eagles' offensive coordinator, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. It's a curious hire considering Shurmur's background is running a West Coast offense and new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is known for his frenetic spread attack. In Shurmur's two years in Cleveland, the pace of his offenses would never be described as fast.