Almost everywhere you look – calendar, weather condition, schedule – is a sign that it's the time of the season when historically the Baltimore Ravens shift gears to make a playoff drive.
They're in position for a run to their seventh playoff appearance in 10 seasons behind the tandem of head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco – with a recent push that is typical of what has made the Ravens a consistent contender in the AFC North.
The Ravens have won two straight games and three of the last four heading into Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are 6-5 with five games left and currently in control of one of two wild card berths in the AFC.
The Ravens haven't done anything fancy or out of character. They've done it with strong defense, a solid run game and minimal turnovers.
It's a style that Flacco has been accustomed to in what is now his 10th pro season, all with the Ravens.
"A lot of it goes into how healthy you are and all those things," Flacco said in a conference-call interview Wednesday.
"We practice and work hard for this time of year. We play a physical brand of football, because we understand that late in the year you can really beat teams up and overtake them with that kind of football."
The Ravens have missed the postseason the last two seasons, but there are enough veterans on the team whose postseason experience is an edge when it comes to reacting to varying conditions and elements late in the season.
That's especially true this season of the defense. There are playmakers at all three levels on a unit that ranks second in the league overall.
"Really, it's all levels," said Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. "They get after the passer. They stop the run. They're tough against the pass.
"I mean, they're just a really, really solid defense."
The same cannot be said of the offense. It ranks last in passing and next-to-last overall. Flacco has only nine touchdown passes against 11 interceptions, and has an anemic average of 5.3 yards per pass attempt.
However, his record of leading the offense cannot be discounted. In the six seasons the Ravens have made the playoffs with Flacco at quarterback they've won at least one game.
It's part of culture created by Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome that gives the Ravens their edge.
"We're used to playing in elements," Flacco said. "We're used to being in tough games. Late in the year, when you're playing a bunch of teams vying for playoff spots, you've got to in some tough weather.
"We're definitely used to doing that. We're definitely used to playing in tight games, where it comes down to the last couple possessions. We know how to handle ourselves and react when the times get tough."
How the Ravens got to 6-5: It's been a season of mini-streaks in the first 11 games. The Ravens won their first two, lost four of the next five, then rebounded to win three of the last four and the last two -- 23-0 on the road against Green Bay, and 23-16 at home against Houston Monday night.
Caldwell connection:** Flacco has good memories of Lions head coach Jim Caldwell's time as offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Caldwell was promoted from quarterbacks coach when Cam Cameron was fired with three games left in the 2012 season. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
Caldwell remained with the Ravens in 2013 and was hired by the Lions in 2014.
"The best memories I have of him are up in that quarterback room, getting the game plan down, telling stories and all the things that you really remember when you look back on a season," Flacco said.
"Obviously, he stepped in at a weird time the year we won it, and did a great job of driving us, motivating us, and really just coaching us and calling the plays."
Air defense: In a passing league, the slogan for the Ravens' pass defense could be "Thou Shalt not pass."
The Ravens rank seventh overall on defense, and second in the league in points allowed with an average of 17 per game.
View photos of the starters for the Baltimore Ravens
A big reason for the Ravens' high ranking is their pass defense. There is no real weakness, as the following team statistics indicate:
Passing yards allowed: 189.9 per game, second.
Completion percentage: 57.2, second.
TD passes allowed: 11, third.
Passes intercepted: 18, first.
Passer rating allowed: 65.9, first.
Sacks: 30, ninth overall and fifth in sacks per play.