Flip the Script: Ravens Now Control AFC
The Baltimore Ravens are in the enviable position of controlling their own destiny for the top overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
For once, it's the New England Patriots who need some help securing that home-field advantage.
Baltimore is riding an eight-game winning streak and is tied with New England for the best record in the conference at 10-2. However, the Ravens own the tiebreaker by virtue of a 37-20 victory over the Patriots on Nov. 3.
While excitement is building throughout the city of Baltimore about potentially hosting an AFC championship game for the first time since 1971, coach John Harbaugh does not have any interest in talking about hypothetical playoff scenarios.
“You control your destiny, in that sense, but they don’t have the No. 1 seed until they do the seeding. So, that’s four weeks away,” Harbaugh said.
Baltimore, which has a three-game lead in the AFC North, closes out the regular season with games against the Bills, Jets, Browns and Steelers.
The Ravens should be favored in each of those games behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is having an MVP-caliber season. Jackson has run for 977 yards in 2019, marking the second most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history. He is just 63 yards shy of setting a new NFL record.
Jackson has also thrown for 2,532 yards with 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has completed 66.5 percent (214 of 322) of his pass attempts. Jackson is just the sixth QB ever with at least 25 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores in a single season. The last player to achieve the feat was Cam Newton (35 and 10) during his 2015 MVP campaign.
Jackson is also the first player in NFL history with at least 25 passing touchdowns and at least 950 rush yards in a single season, according to NFL Research.
Even wet, rainy conditions could not stop Jackson against the 49ers. He carried the ball 16 times for 101 yards with a touchdown in the 20-17 victory. He also completed 14 of 23 pass attempts for 105 yards with a score. Jackson also converted a key fourth down on the game-winning drive.
Perhaps, more importantly ... at least to him ... is that Jackson has now won eight straight starts. His sole focus is on helping the team win its third Lombardi Trophy.
"I’m trying to win the Super Bowl and we take it a game at a time,” Jackson said. “I read about MVP. If it comes, it comes. I’ll be satisfied, but I’m trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s a team award that’s what I want. That’s the goal, we chasing that right now.”
The Ravens have now scored 49 total touchdowns in 2019, setting a new single-season franchise record. The previous best was 47 touchdowns from the 2009 campaign.
After a sluggish start to the season, Baltimore is also playing at a high level on defense. The acquisition of cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams has played huge dividends. Peters has three interceptions, with two of those returned for touchdowns. Baltimore has gone 6-0 with Peters in the lineup.
While the Ravens are clicking on both sides of the ball, the players claim that team unity has been the key to this season's success. That strong rapport in the locker room has translated to making plays on the field.
“We’re a family, and when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us,” Ravens running back Mark Ingram said. “That goes from the head coach all the way to anybody on the team. We’re going to have each other’s back, fight for each other, and if we feel like one of our teammates got wronged, treated unfairly, we’re going to get at you. That’s just the atmosphere we have, the family atmosphere, the brotherhood we have.”