The Ravens of 2011 in some ways are a microcosm of the Ravens of the past handful of seasons. This is a 5-2 team that has talent, but you're not quite sure what you'll get. In the same way, the Ravens have bobbed up and down in recent years, winning 6, then 13, then 5, then 11, then 9, then 12 games.
Their pair of losses this season have been puzzling performances, a game in Tennessee where they were torn apart by Matt Hasselbeck in just his second game with the Titans a week after they dominated Ben Roethlisberger and a loss on "Monday Night Football" to the Jaguars in which they put up one of the NFL's worst offensive performances of the season -- 146 total yards, with an hour passing between first downs. Again, that was just a week removed from a 402-yard outburst against Houston.
Last week, the swings became even more acute. Down 24-6 at home to the hapless Cardinals, they came back and won. The swings have infected a fan base that goes from encouraged to hypercritical almost play to play. Living nearby, I see it up close.
Asked to assess where this team stands as it heads into a huge game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I'm afraid I tend to see it both ways too, with signs of optimism and reasons to wonder.