Super Bowl 2013: Joe Flacco's Arm Will Lead Ravens to Title Game‬

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIJanuary 15, 2013

Flacco is finally playing winning football for the Ravens.
Flacco is finally playing winning football for the Ravens.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The key to the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl hopes is the right arm of Joe Flacco.

In years past, the Ravens have won despite their big-armed quarterback, not because of him.

The most popular argument in favor of Flacco is that he knows how to win in the playoffs. In reality, however, his teammates pulled out those victories, while their QB was often a liability under center.

Flacco is now 7-4 in his postseason career. Not only is he the first QB to make the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, but he also won at least one game in each of his postseason appearances. That record gives the media a buzzworthy stat to tout, bestowing upon Flacco the mythical title of "winner" without taking the time to look at how those games were won.

In 2009, he led the Ravens to two wins as a rookie, but he completed just 20 of 45 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown in those wins. The next year, Baltimore put up 33 points on the New England Patriots, but Flacco put up a laughable 34 yards and an interception on four-of-10 passing.

He was able to rise above the dismal play of his formative years in the league, but he did not become reliable. He put together a nice performance in his 2011 playoff win, but last season, he posted a QBR of 18.7 as he ousted the Houston Texans and the incomparable T.J. Yates.

In that regard, Flacco's playoff bona fides are contrived. He was a successful postseason QB only insofar as wins are credited to the quarterback regardless of his impact on the game.

However, that narrative has shifted in 2013. Flacco has been an effective downfield passer, and he's a legitimate reason why the Ravens have a shot at the Super Bowl.

Though he's completing just over half his passes, Flacco is making them count. He has accumulated 613 yards on just 30 completions, throwing for five touchdowns and no picks in two games.

Those numbers speak to Flacco's ability to throw the deep ball. His scores have come on passes of 20 yards, 18 yards, 59 yards, 32 yards and 70 yards. Even if he might have had some help on that last touchdown, he has given Baltimore a true vertical element in its offense.

That will be vital when the Ravens face off against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

Flacco will need to stay hot if he wants to keep pace on the road against Tom Brady. Fortunately for the Ravens, the Pats ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in yards per pass attempt allowed. Considering Flacco just dropped 331 yards and three touchdowns on a top-five defense in that category, he should be able to find success in New England.

The one thing the Patriots have going for them on defense is their turnover ability. New England's defense was tied for fifth in the league with 20 interceptions on the season. Yet Flacco is prone to incompletions, not interceptions, putting his passes where the defense can't get it even if his receivers don't end up hauling them in.

It's an unlikely development, but Joe Flacco is finally maturing as an NFL quarterback. He has what it takes to put up points on New England's defense and keep pace with Brady.

We know Ray Lewis and the defense will do their job; it's Flacco and his aerial attack that will send the Ravens to the Super Bowl.