The Ravens' path to Oakland and Week 17 is lined with highs and lows that boggle the mind and test the imagination.
There was the emergence of second-year running back Ray Rice - coupled with the six-game drought on offense when the Ravens failed to score a first-half touchdown.
There was the arrival of linebacker Jarret Johnson as a defensive force - juxtaposed against a Ravens pass rush that couldn't sack the quarterback and a secondary that gave up big plays by the bushel.
Working through an identity crisis on offense (running team or passing team?) and a change in defensive coordinators (Rex Ryan to Greg Mattison), the Ravens are still alive at 8-7. A win Sunday ensures a wild-card playoff spot.
This is the winding road they took to Oakland for Sunday's game against the Raiders:
Game 1: Ravens 38, Chiefs 24High:
Opening at home in the no-huddle, Joe Flacco threw for 307 yards and three TDs, en route to a team record 501 total yards. Rice had a breakout day with 108 yards rushing, and Johnson had two sacks.
Low: Still, the Ravens needed a 31-yard TD pass to Mark Clayton with 2:06 left to break a 24-24 tie. Special teams gaffes and breakdowns in the secondary allowed the Chiefs to threaten late in the game. In a sign of things to come, the Ravens were flagged eight times for 65 yards in penalties.
Game 2: Ravens 31, Chargers 26High:
The visiting Ravens won a rare shootout when middle linebacker Ray Lewis dropped Darren Sproles on fourth-and-2 at the Baltimore 20 in the final minute. The Chargers had the ball inside the Ravens' 10 four times and settled for four field goals.
Low: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw for a career-high 436 yards, shredding the Ravens for pass plays of 81 (TD), 45, 37, 35 (TD) and 38 yards.
Game 3: Ravens 34, Browns 3High:
Scoring on their first four possessions, the Ravens opened a 20-0 lead and pummeled the sleepwalking Browns. Flacco passed for 342 yards and Derrick Mason electrified the home crowd with a 72-yard catch and run. The defense came up with four interceptions.
Low: Even in a rout, the Ravens weren't perfect. They had eight penalties for 84 yards and lost a shutout bid when the Browns' Billy Cundiff - now a Raven - kicked a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Game 4: Patriots 27, Ravens 21High:
The Ravens were great on third down, converting nine of 14 chances, but they only scored two offensive touchdowns. Rice rushed for 103 yards, averaging 9.4 a carry, compared with the Pats' totals of 85 and 2.8.
Low: Clayton dropped a fourth-down pass at the 8 with 28 seconds left to let the Patriots off the hook. Flacco threw 47 times to only 17 team rushes. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata were both hit with phantom roughing-the-passer penalties on the road.
Game 5: Bengals 17, Ravens 14High:
Rice gained 143 scrimmage yards, including a 48-yard, catch-and-run TD in the fourth quarter to give the Ravens a 14-10 lead at home. Safety Ed Reed scored on a 52-yard interception return against Carson Palmer.
Low: The Ravens gave up a game-losing TD pass to Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds left when Caldwell threw Chris Carr to the ground by his face mask and no flag was thrown. Still, the Bengals beat up on the Ravens. Cedric Benson rushed to 120 yards to end the Ravens' streak of 39 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Game 6: Vikings 33, Ravens 31High:
Flacco was unstoppable in the second half, throwing for 244 yards and two TDs as the Ravens erased a 27-10 fourth-quarter deficit on the road. Rice again was spectacular, gouging out 194 scrimmage yards and two TDs.
Low: The loss marked the beginning of the end for kicker Steve Hauschka, who missed a 44-yard field goal try with two seconds left after a 10-play drive put the Ravens at the Vikings' 26.
Game 7: Ravens 30, Broncos 7High:
After a tight first half, the Ravens thumped the then-unbeaten Broncos with a 24-point second half. The highlight was a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by rookie Lardarius Webb. Flacco completed 20 of 25 passes.
Low: Penalties again (eight for 94 yards). The Ravens were guilty of two pass interference calls and a defensive offside in Denver's only scoring drive.
Game 8: Bengals 17, Ravens 7High:
Rice kept the Ravens competitive in Cincinnati with 135 scrimmage yards, but not much else worked.
Low: Flacco threw two interceptions and was sacked on three straight plays at the end. Just when it looked as if the Ravens might make a game of it, Hauschka missed a 38-yard field goal try to short-circuit a comeback.
Game 9: Ravens 16, Browns 0High:
On Monday night TV, the Ravens went back to the running game. They threw 19 passes and ran the ball 36 times. Dawan Landry scored the clinching TD in the third quarter with a 48-yard interception return.