The Baltimore Ravens started this season about in the middle of the pack, as far as Super Bowl odds went. Most people didn’t even pick them to win the AFC North.
Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been much talk about the possibility of the Ravens being an all-time great team. We’re still getting used to the idea of Baltimore being this good.
There’s a lot of football left but if the Ravens can win a title, not many teams throughout NFL history will have a better résumé.
The Ravens have a chance to finish this season as a 17-2 Super Bowl champion. Here’s the list of teams that have won more than 17 games and a Super Bowl: 1984 San Francisco 49ers. 1985 Chicago Bears. That’s it.
The Ravens could be the ninth 14-2 team to win a Super Bowl in the 16-game schedule era that dates back to 1978. The list includes some of the iconic teams in NFL history (the rank of each team on the NFL’s top 100 all-time teams is in parentheses):
1978 Steelers (No. 3)
1986 Giants (No. 12)
1989 49ers (No. 5)
1991 Redskins (No. 15)
1998 Broncos (No. 14)
2003 Patriots (No. 32)
2004 Patriots (No. 16)
2016 Patriots (No. 21)
Other than that 2003 Patriots team — which, like the 2016 team, was likely underrated because this New England dynasty has so many teams to get on the list — any team that finished the race with a 17-2 record or better and a Lombardi Trophy was considered one of the 21 best teams in NFL history.
We probably haven’t heard much about the possibility of the Ravens being an all-time great team because they still need to win a title and they were a surprise. Sports fans might claim to love Cinderellas, but are also skeptical of surprise teams until the bitter end. Also, this Ravens team is harder to evaluate because it is different than anything we’ve seen.
The Ravens set an NFL record with 3,926 rushing yards, carrying an amazing 5.5-yard average. The Ravens edged the 1997 Detroit Lions for the best team per-carry average in the Super Bowl era. No other team has used their quarterback as the centerpiece of a running game like the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson, and it was unstoppable. Jackson is going to win MVP with just 3,127 passing yards, and that would have seemed like an impossibility a few years ago. The Ravens led the NFL in scoring and were second in yards, which is hard to do for a run-first team in a pass-first league. The Ravens were dead last in the NFL in passing attempts.
We’re not used to great offenses looking like this anymore. But it was a great offense. Jackson’s gifts as a runner and a passer are unique in NFL history.
And we haven’t mentioned the defense yet. Baltimore was third in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. The Ravens were top-six in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and passing touchdowns allowed. Their 77.5 passer rating allowed was second in the NFL. And to complete the balance, the Ravens had the 10th best special teams in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, led by incomparable kicker Justin Tucker. There’s nothing the Ravens don’t do well. It’s a team without a weakness.
That’s reflected in most of their total stats. The Ravens plus-249 point differential is seventh-best of the Super Bowl era. They rank No. 7 all-time in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which dates back to 1985. They finished the regular season on a 12-game winning streak, and eight of those wins came by double digits. In Week 17, the Ravens rested key starters and their backups beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-10.
There are more than a few numbers that point to the same conclusion: Baltimore is three wins away from “2019 Ravens” being shorthand for greatness and deserving a spot alongside the best single-season teams in NFL history. Jackson gives the team a trademark that will be easy to remember long after the details of the games have faded. Jackson’s season is historic in many ways.
Now all the Ravens have to do is win three more games. A spot in history awaits.
Here are the Power Rankings at the end of the NFL regular season:
32. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14, Last Week: 32)
The college football title game will be a long one for the Bengals, as they spend four (five?) hours praying that Joe Burrow doesn’t get hurt.
31. Detroit Lions (3-12-1, LW: 31)
I’m not sure there’s a much better fit between team need and player in the first round than Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah going No. 3 to the Lions. They need to fix the defense and an elite cornerback is a great piece.
30. Washington Redskins (3-13, LW: 30)
The funniest thing on Monday in the NFL was Redskins fans wondering why the team couldn’t do better than Ron Rivera. Have they been paying attention for 20 years? That franchise has killed multiple coaching careers under team owner Daniel Snyder. I’m not sure why Rivera wouldn’t wait for something better.
29. Carolina Panthers (5-11, LW: 29)
I get that it’s hard to play out a lost season, but the way the Panthers gave up is really bad. Three of their last four losses were by 20, 32 and 32 points. Not good.
28. New York Giants (4-12, LW: 27)
I’m still a little confused how Pat Shurmur got fired, but Dave Gettleman didn’t. Are the Giants saying the roster is fine, but the coaching screwed it up? It seems weird to keep one and not the other.
27. Miami Dolphins (5-11, LW: 28)
That’s how you go into an offseason. We could look back on Sunday’s win at New England as a big moment for Brian Flores. At very least, the Dolphins should feel great about their coach after one year.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10, LW: 26)
I’m not sure why the Jaguars are bringing Doug Marrone back. Is he going to generate a lot of optimism? Getting rid of Tom Coughlin was the right move, but it’s not like that changes everything.
25. Cleveland Browns (6-10, LW: 23)
Josh McDaniels is a very smart Xs and Os coach. I also don’t understand the fascination with him. He’s a tease, as the Colts can tell you, and his only head-coaching turn was a debacle in Denver. But here we are again, with the Browns courting him like they don’t recall anything that happened before.
24. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1, LW: 22)
David Johnson was active and didn’t have one carry in Week 17. He has a $10.2 million salary in 2020 that is guaranteed, so the Cardinals are in a tricky spot. A trade has been speculated about, but it’s doubtful there would be a great market after the Cardinals effectively benched him for Kenyan Drake. He’s an interesting name to track.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11, LW: 25)
It seems like Philip Rivers will be back. The Chargers have no other obvious plan, and it is unlikely Rivers wants to move his huge family. But if Sunday was the end, that’s a long era that just closed. Chargers games won’t be the same without Rivers.
22. New York Jets (7-9, LW: 24)
Not all 7-9 teams are the same. The Jets seem more like a 12-loss team. Maybe that’s piling on, but the Jets need to have a good offseason and it wouldn’t be bad if Adam Gase worked on his people skills.
21. Indianapolis Colts (7-9, LW: 16)
Maybe I’m the only one willing to give Jacoby Brissett a pass, but before his significant knee injury at Pittsburgh, his first seven games were good. He was on a 16-game pace for 3,634 yards, 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It wasn’t good after that. He also had multiple injuries around him, and an injury of his own. I’m not saying Brissett is a top-five quarterback, but I’d give him another year.
20. Oakland Raiders (7-9, LW: 20)
It’s weird that the next time we do power rankings, this spot will be for the “Las Vegas Raiders.” The Raiders’ 2019 rookie class was fantastic, with standouts like running back Josh Jacobs and defensive end Maxx Crosby. That should provide the hope for 2020, a lot of which was washed away in a really bad finish to this season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9, LW: 15)
Jameis Winston’s 5,000-30-30 club season is one for the ages. A quarterback getting 30 interceptions in a season is mind-boggling in this era, only because most quarterbacks are benched after half that. Only two other quarterbacks had more than 16: Baker Mayfield with 21 and Philip Rivers with 20. We’re going to marvel at that stat line for a while.
18. Atlanta Falcons (7-9, LW: 21)
The Falcons will be tough to figure out going into next season. Do we view them as the team that went 6-2 in the second half and ignore the 1-7 start? The Falcons also rallied in 2018, winning their last three after their season was done to make their final record look better. That’s not an ideal trend.
17. Denver Broncos (7-9, LW: 17)
I don’t think people realize how close the Broncos were to being a playoff contender. They lost games against the Bears and Jaguars on bad penalty calls and last-second field goals. They lost by two points at the Colts and blew the Vikings game, including having first-and-goal at the end and not being able to score. This is an interesting team, though its future fortunes depend on Drew Lock’s development.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8, LW: 14)
It’s hard to have any reasonable discussion about the Steelers next season until we see Ben Roethlisberger throw. It’ll be a major story before we kick off next season.
15. Chicago Bears (8-8, LW: 18)
I’m sure we’re going to see plenty of “Marcus Mariota-to-Bears” speculation, but that’s the problem. Mitchell Trubisky’s poor third season put the Bears back in the place no NFL team wants to be at quarterback. Mariota, or almost any replacement or competition for Trubisky, wouldn’t be the answer. They’d just be the next mediocre guy Chicago complains about.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8, LW: 19)
All Cowboys offseasons are crazy, but this one will be their wildest in a long time. The decisions they make the next few months are going to shape a good part of the next decade. Get ready.
13. Los Angeles Rams (9-7, LW: 12)
Here’s what’s kind of funny: After an offseason of angst about Todd Gurley’s health, keeping his carries limited for most of the season, the Rams gave him 22 touches in a meaningless Week 17 game. It’s not what I would have done, but whatever.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7, LW: 13)
The Eagles are in the playoffs, and that’s deodorant for what was mostly a disappointing season. When teams make the postseason, we generally forget any other bad parts. The same happened with the 2018 Eagles. Now we’ll see if they can make any noise in the postseason, which would further make anyone forget any regular-season issues ... which is what happened to the 2018 Eagles.
11. Houston Texans (10-6, LW: 10)
It was good to see Deshaun Watson get a week off. Hopefully he’ll be healthy because one of these years he’s going to have a playoff run that validates his greatness.
10. Tennessee Titans (9-7, LW: 11)
A.J. Brown didn’t reach full-time status until Week 10, and that was after 100 yards in the opener and two touchdowns in Week 4. Why do the Titans have such problems figuring out who their best offensive players are? At least they didn’t take the Derrick Henry timeline for Brown and wait until Brown’s fourth season to really use him. Either way, Brown is a big reason the Titans might be a dangerous playoff team. He’s good.
9. Minnesota Vikings (10-6, LW: 9)
Dalvin Cook should be back this week and that’s huge for the Vikings offense. They have a tough assignment playing at a 13-3 Saints team in the first round, but Minnesota is as good of a No. 6 seed as you’ll find.
8. Buffalo Bills (10-6, LW: 8)
The matchup that could determine the first wild-card game is Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White against Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. That’s as good as it gets.
7. New England Patriots (12-4, LW: 5)
It was impossible to see that Dolphins loss coming. Even if the Patriots have slipped, they still shouldn’t lose to Miami at home. And if they can lose to the Dolphins at home, it’s possible they can lose to the Titans at home.
6. Seattle Seahawks (11-5, LW: 7)
We know what happened in the final few plays on Sunday night. Let’s not overlook what happened for most of the game. The Seahawks got outplayed most of the night. San Francisco is very good and there’s nothing wrong with losing to the 49ers, even at home, but Seattle needs to rediscover its running game after all those injuries at running back.
5. Green Bay Packers (13-3, LW: 6)
If you’re 13-3, at some point it doesn’t matter who you beat or how you look. Is it troubling that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers struggled for so long against the Lions? Sure. But they’re two wins from the Super Bowl so maybe nothing else matters.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, LW: 4)
The Chiefs got an incredible break when the Patriots lost. Now with a bye, they’re a much more serious Super Bowl contender. Chiefs-Ravens on championship weekend would be phenomenal.
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3, LW: 3)
Has there ever been a better team to play on the first weekend? To go 13-3 and not even get a bye is crazy. The Saints can still make a run but it’s so much tougher.
2. San Francisco 49ers (13-3, LW: 2)
The 49ers have played many games that have come right down to the final seconds, and none was more stressful than that Week 17 thriller at Seattle. Now that they have the No. 1 seed secured, this is the obvious favorite in the NFC.
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2, LW: 1)
In trying to think who could upset the Ravens, their first playoff opponent will be Houston, Buffalo or Tennessee. It’s hard to see any of those three teams going to Baltimore and winning. And while it’s hard to rule out the Patriots winning in the AFC title game, it seems like the Chiefs are the only team that can stop the Ravens from the Super Bowl.
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