Eisenberg: Best Ravens Team Ever, But Need to Seal the Deal

122419Eisenberg

Are we watching the greatest Ravens team ever in 2019?

With all due respect to several great ones that came before it, I think the answer is yes … and really not even debatable.

The 2000 team that won the Super Bowl had a defense for the ages, but nowhere close to as much offensive firepower.

The 2006 team that went 13-3 also couldn't score nearly as easily, an issue that arose in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The 2012 team that won the Super Bowl got hot at the right time after losing four of five games down the stretch. My two cents, the 2011 team may have been better.

This year's Ravens are more balanced from an offense/defense perspective, more consistently dominant and way more explosive than any team the franchise has fielded. They've barely trailed in a game since September, for crying out loud.

"This is the best season I've ever been a part of," said guard Marshal Yanda, a 13-year veteran, after Sunday's win, which extended the Ravens' franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 11 games (seven was the longest until now) and improved their record to 13-2 (another franchise-best through 15 games).

Despite those impressive achievements, I know the 2000 Ravens probably will disagree with the suggestion that this year's team is superior. The 2000 team won its final seven regular-season games and swept four playoff contests, allowing just 23 points in those 16 postseason quarters.

With that suffocating defense and an 11-game winning streak to close things out, those Ravens can match bona fides with anyone.

But in the regular season finale that year, the New York Jets gained 524 yards to Baltimore's 142 and generated 22 first downs to Baltimore's five. The Ravens still won, but I reference those statistics to dispute the notion that Lamar Jackson and the 2019 offense would just get shut down by Ray Lewis and the 2000 defense.

Please. It would be game on, for sure.

Jackson is doing things this season that no NFL quarterback has ever done. The fact that it's happening now doesn't mean it isn't historic.

There are so many records, so many numbers, that one almost becomes numb. Five touchdown passes in a game? Yawn. Jackson has done it three times in 2019.

With his dual-threat skills and intense drive, he might just be too dynamic right now for any defense, present or past.

The Ravens have already won 11 straight games, already beaten most of the other top Super Bowl contenders and already earned the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the first time. No, they've never had a team like this.

Hey, they've been so dominant that Football Outsiders, the statistical website, ranks them among the best teams in the entire NFL since 1985. That's how far back the site tracks Defense-adjusted Value over Average (DVOA), a metric measuring overall strength.

According to DVOA, the 2019 Ravens are the seventh-best NFL team since 1985 through 15 games. Only the 1991 Washington Redskins, 1985 Chicago Bears, 2007 and 2010 New England Patriots and 1987 and 1995 San Francisco 49ers are ahead of them.

Some legendary teams are in that group, which gives you an inkling of how historians may view the 2019 Ravens. The 1985 Bears lost one game on their way to a Super Bowl triumph. The 1991 Redskins lost two.

But not every team on that list won the Super Bowl. Neither New England team did, for instance. The Patriots' 2007 and 2010 teams rank ahead of their six Super Bowl winners from a DVOA standpoint, yet they didn't finish the deal.

The lesson is obvious. This is sports. It isn't scripted. It's unpredictable. Sometimes the best team doesn't win, souring that team's claim to greatness.

It's one thing to have potential and another thing to make good on it, deliver on that potential, reach the high ceiling you've exhibited.

That's the challenge facing Jackson and his teammates after all this success. They're the best Ravens team ever – no question, in my mind. But to get to shout that for decades, they still have to finish the deal, as their predecessors from 2000 and 2012 did.

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