The Ravens became the third straight team to win the Super Bowl thanks to a late-season hot streak.
Baltimore stumbled at the end of the regular season, losing four out of five to end up 10-6. That was good enough to win the AFC North -- by tie-breaker -- over the Bengals, also 10-6. But during that time, a lot of injuries to players like Ray Lewis were healing up, and coach John Harbaugh had a better team when post-season play started.
When the playoffs began, quarterback Joe Flacco took his game up another level. Anquan Boldin became his go-to guy and made numerous big plays in wins over the Colts, Broncos and Patriots before capping it with another big performance in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers last weekend.
The late-season hot runs seem to be turning into the rule rather than the exception in the NFL in the last three years.
Last year, the New York Giants did the same thing, winning their final two regular-season games to end up 9-7 and then took four in a row in post-season.
Two years ago, the Packers snuck into the playoffs as a wild-card team on the final day before reeling off four straight post-season wins, the last being a 31-25 decision over the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Teams who have to play on the wild-card weekend are seeming to have a bit of an advantage in recent years. If they win, to go to the following round to play a team that had a week off. It helps injuries but does seem to do something to disrupt timing. There's no question the Broncos and Peyton Manning just weren't as sharp when playing the Ravens in the second round this year. That certainly helped the Ravens.
So playing in the first round may not be as bad as once thought. It seems to help teams get some things together. That was the case for teh Giants last year, the Packers the year before that and the Ravens this season. All three teams walked away with Super Bowl trophies.