As the Ravens make their final month-long drive for the playoffs, they are right where they want to be: playing meaningful games in December.
Granted, they'd probably prefer a two-game lead in the AFC North, but they are once again right in the thick of the playoff chase, which is the way it has almost always been for the Ravens under John Harbaugh.
In fact, until last season, the Ravens had never played a game under Harbaugh in which they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Still, the team missed the playoffs in 2013 and then again last season. Many younger players have little to no playoff experience.
"The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have," quarterback Joe Flacco said after Sunday's 38-6 win over the Dolphins. "Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted."
Rookie first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley is one of those younger players, and he said from the minute the Ravens called his name with the No. 6 overall pick in April, he fully expected to be in this position.
"When I got drafted, I knew I got lucky in the sense that usually teams like the Ravens aren't picking this early," Stanley said after Sunday's game. "And when I say teams like the Ravens I mean teams that are usually in the playoffs every year."
"I definitely knew I was coming to a team that was used to being in the playoffs and didn't accept anything less, so I was very excited about that."
Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, and his return -- and a solidified, adjusted offensive line that features All-Pro Marshal Yanda shifting over to play left guard -- is a major reason the Ravens have reeled off four wins in five games after an earlier four-game losing streak.
Now they head to New England on Monday atop the AFC North, and win or lose in New England, they will head to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day with a division title still in reach.
That's exactly how Harbaugh, Flacco and the veteran Ravens are used to having it. Now the onus is on Stanley and other young players to keep it that way.
"Our goal is always to be relevant in December," Harbaugh said last week. "We like to be in the lead in December. We want to have the lead in December, if we can. We’re in that position right now. That’s as much as we’ll talk about. It’s a one-week season for us."
RELATED: Ravens run defense will have its hands full with LeGarrette Blount