With their dominant 49-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals this week, the Baltimore Ravens moved to 7-2 on the year. This is just the second time in franchise history that the Ravens have got off to this good of a start. The last time they did so was in 2012 and we all know how that season ended.
It’s hard not to be excited after a win like this. The Ravens were almost unanimously picked to defeat the winless Bengals but to put up another performance like they did in week one, says to me that this team should be looking beyond just a division title in 2019.
It doesn’t feel like it but it was not long ago that we were still debating who had the upper hand in the AFC North. The Browns had lost a few games out of the gate but they would surely turn things around and become the playoff team we expected right? Not quite.
The Steelers have managed to hang around, despite losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season ending injury, and recently picked up a pair of impressive wins over the Colts and Rams. Pittsburgh still sits 2 games behind Baltimore though and will likely need to win at least 5 of their last 7 games to catch up.
Forget a few weeks ago, let’s take it back a few months. A lot of us found it hard to pin down this Ravens team coming into the season. There were a handful of personnel changes on both sides of the ball, but all around it was clear there would be more of a reliance on the younger players. In addition to that, the Ravens were handed a really tough schedule after taking the division crown in 2018. I personally had them finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs in a crowded AFC.
We are over half way through the season and I could not be more wrong. Not only has the AFC proven to be less competitive, but the Ravens have emerged as a top five team in the entire league with the ability to beat anyone at home or on the road. Not only are the Ravens winning, they are winning in style and Lamar Jackson is leading the way as he continues to put together an MVP resume.
This may not be a perfect team, but the reality is the Ravens are Super Bowl contenders right now and they should be shifting their focus to securing a first round bye and hopefully hosting a divisional round game or even an AFC championship for the first time in franchise history.
I understand the schedule ahead still looks daunting. No one besides the New York Jets should be considered a pushover but after watching the Ravens pick apart Seattle on the road and then follow that up with one of the biggest regular season wins in franchise history last week, I think they can beat anyone put in front of them. That doesn’t mean they are going to run the table but their matchups against the Texans, Rams, and 49ers look a lot less scary right now and 10+ wins is very much in reach.
The Ravens are not out here picking up a lucky wins, they are bullying their competition with one of best rushing attacks in the league and forcing the other team to play from behind with little to no room for mistakes.
So far this season the Ravens have led all of their games except one (week 4 vs Cleveland) after the first quarter. These early leads, no matter how large, are forcing the opponent to be at least a little more aggressive in their play calling. While the Ravens defense certainly has its holes, they are not a unit you want to pass the ball against with four starting caliber corners patrolling the secondary and a future hall-of-fame safety lurking over the top.
Unlike last season, this defense does not have to be perfect in order to secure a win. Overall I think they are playing more loose and the result has been a flurry of turnovers in the past five games, many of which have been game changing as well. Of the Ravens last seven forced turnovers, five have been returned for a touchdown.
Between the early leads being picked up by the offense and the game breaking turnovers being forced by the defense, the opposition is left with pretty much no room for error as they attempt to dig themselves out of a hole.
Not only are the Ravens going to force you to play catch up, but they are going to give you no time to do so. That previously mentioned rushing attack is good for more than just putting points on the board and the Patriots learned that first hand last week. Following Marlon Humphrey’s fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Ravens had extended their lead to 24-13. The Patriots received the ball back with a little over 27 minutes remaining to stage a comeback.
Sounds like plenty of time for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Against your average team this would be correct, but the Ravens are not your average team. On their next two possessions the Ravens would eat up over 17:30 of those 27 minutes in route to a 37-20 win. If Brady doesn’t have enough time to stage a 10 point comeback against the Ravens, what makes you think anyone else will?
Maybe I should have waited 24 hours after the game to write this instead of feeding off of the emotional high, but that’s no fun. The division may not be completely set in stone yet, but I have my sights set on something more than a division title at this point and you should too.
Image credit: CBS