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Are Ravens legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

Should the Baltimore Ravens be considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Not according to those who voted in the SportsNation poll.

Of the nearly 24,000 voters as of 8 a.m. Monday, 72 percent don't believe the Ravens have a realistic shot at taking home another Lombardi Trophy. Not surprisingly, the only state that considers the Ravens to be Super Bowl contenders is Maryland. And, at 61 percent, it's not a strong vote of confidence.

Though this gives us good fodder for September, it's way to early to ask this question of any team. It's tough to predict what a team will do week to week this season -- like the Pittsburgh Steelers -- much less figure out what a team will do four months from now.

At 3-1, the Ravens have established themselves as playoff contenders. The numbers support that. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 63.4 percent of the teams who started 3-1 have reached the playoffs. This is the fifth time in six seasons the Ravens have won three of their first four games, and they have advanced to the postseason the previous four times under coach John Harbaugh.

The Ravens' upcoming road stretch -- four of the next five are away from home -- will play a big role in how the season shapes up for them. So far, Joe Flacco and the offense are looking better every week, and the defense isn't allowing too people in the end zone despite the struggles in the secondary. But every team has its share of problems. There is only one remaining undefeated team in the AFC, and that is the Bengals, a team the Ravens led in the fourth quarter of the season opener.

The first month of the season provided a series of challenges outside of the distraction of the Ray Rice saga. The Ravens rebounded from a season-opening loss at home to beat the Steelers by 20 points only four days later. They won their first road game against a Cleveland Browns team that had just upset the New Orleans Saints. And, on Sunday, they routed a Carolina Panthers team that had just been embarrassed on national television.

The Ravens are in sole possession of second place in the AFC North and sit a half-game behind the Bengals (3-0). They are currently among eight teams in the NFL with three wins.

That is a good start for September. Whether that means the Ravens will be playing in February remains to be seen.