The Baltimore Ravens are one of two teams in the AFC who could earn up to a first round bye Sunday. The other team being the Tennessee Titans. Also like Tennessee, they could be eliminated from playoff contention completely.
Baltimore’s most likely scenario is that they defeat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and clinch the AFC North title. It would be their first playoff appearance since their Super Bowl run in 2012.
Baltimore has won five of their last six since losing three in a row before their bye week. The big change in Baltimore has been starting quarterback Lamar Jackson over veteran Joe Flacco.
Jackson, the Ravens first-round pick out of Louisville, has been a dual threat for the Ravens during their run. The stats sheet does not always tell the truth about Jackson as all he has done is win. Obviously, he’s a big reason they are fighting for their division in Week 17.
Surprise! Lamar Jackson has the #2 passer rating (121) when trailing, trailing only Patrick Mahomes.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 23, 2018
Jackson is 36/53, 8.8 YPA, 4:0 TD:INT when trailing
Top 3 QBs when trailing:
1. Mahomes: 130 rtg (10.2 YPA)
2. Jackson: 120.5 rtg (8.8 YPA)
3. Rivers: 115 rtg (8.8 YPA)
Not all of the credit can go to Jackson, of course. Defense wins championships (four of last five Super Bowls have been won or clinched by defense) and the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They lead the league in points allowed per game (17.5), yards per game (284.1), third in rushing yards allowed per game (85.1), and fourth in passing yards per game (198.9).
The Ravens have shown up big in big moments.
They almost won in Kansas City, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. In addition, they defeated the hottest team in the league right now in the Los Angeles Chargers last Saturday.
If they do win the division, Baltimore would most likely host the Chargers in a rematch of their Week 15 game. Having already beat them on the road, Baltimore would have a better chance of defeating them at the M&T Bank Stadium.
With a win in the Wild Card, Baltimore would (hypothetically) travel to New England to take on the Patriots. New England hasn’t had a wide receiver record over 100 receiving yards since Nov. 11. They have also only had one 100 yard runner since Week 13. The Ravens could dig in and make it an ugly contest, only increasing their chances of winning.
That would pin them against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game in a rematch of their Week 14 matchup. They came close to pulling off the upset against the Chiefs then and with a stronger offensive line, they could once more pull off a road upset to advance to Super Bowl LIII.
If the NFC plays out as everyone expects, Baltimore would see themselves playing against the New Orleans Saints for the Vince Lombardi trophy. These two teams met back in Week 7 in Baltimore. They were able to hold the running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to 96 rushing yards in that game and were an extra point away from overtime.
The Ravens defense has allowed the fewest yards, the fewest overall points, the fewest fourth-quarter points, and the lowest completion percentage in the NFL.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 27, 2018
Now, they want to finish the job. 📰: https://t.co/cMjhQl18Tj pic.twitter.com/lnHWGYVXFp
With two weeks to prepare for the Saints, the Ravens could give them a run for their money and with one big play on defense, could find themselves crowned Super Bowl champions when it’s all said and done.
The first order of business before doing any of that is beating the Browns this Sunday.