I’ve heard and seen it suggested that we don’t know anything about the Ravens after six games of the 2019 season. But that’s not the case. We actually know quite a bit.
For instance, we know they’re quarterbacked by one the NFL’s most unique and dynamic talents. Lamar Jackson has become more impactful more quickly than anyone imagined. His NFL bona fides are no longer in doubt, right?
We also know the Ravens’ defense simply didn’t measure up after losing so many leaders to free agency and several key players to injury, prompting a flurry of on-the-fly changes that may well continue.
So, yes, we do know some things. But as far as what it all adds up to, I agree, we just don’t know yet.
The Ravens have won four of six games to earn first place in the AFC North, but their wins came against two winless teams already battling for the first pick in next year’s draft (Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals) and two other teams with a combined 4-7-1 record (Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers).
True, you can only play who the schedule says you play, and consistently holding serve against non-playoff teams is a promising sign – as is beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which should never be downplayed. (If you didn’t notice, Pittsburgh rebounded from its overtime loss to Baltimore by soundly whipping the Chargers in Los Angeles Sunday night.)
Still, the Ravens have only played one opponent who currently has a winning record, and they lost to the Chiefs in Kansas City. That’s relevant because their remaining schedule features a bunch of opponents with winning records.
We’ll begin to find out more about the sum of the Ravens’ parts when they face the Seattle Seahawks and currently undefeated New England Patriots in their next two games. But honestly, the measuring-up process will continue for the rest of the season. Fully half of Baltimore’s remaining 10 games are against winning teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Along with the Patriots (6-0) and Seahawks (5-1), the San Francisco 49ers (5-0), Houston Texans (4-2) and Buffalo Bills (4-1) also would make the playoffs today (as would the Ravens as the No. 4 seed in the AFC).
The Ravens’ remaining schedule also includes a West Coast trip to face the defending NFC champions (Los Angeles Rams) and divisional rematches with the Steelers, Bengals, and Cleveland Browns, none of which figure to be easy.
It’s a daunting schedule, no question. As things stand now, in just one of their remaining games will the Ravens likely be comfortably favored – at home against the New York Jets in December.
But by the same token, the Ravens are quite capable of winning any of these games, including the two tough ones coming up next. They’re 10-3 in the regular season since Jackson became their starter last season. They lead the NFL in total offense in 2019. Are we really dismissing it all as happenstance? I’d be careful with that. It’s quite possible something important is happening here.
“He is the man,” running back Mark Ingram II said of Jackson. “And he is only going to get better. And that’s us. That’s our offense.”
Yes, the offense has been dealing with penalties, turnovers and the inability to finish drives – self-inflicted problems that obviously can’t persist.
“We need to keep improving our efficiency,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said after Sunday’s win. “That’s the thing that we have to continue to keep working on. That’s the difference between good and great in the National Football League.”
That just might be what the rest of this season is all about – seeing whether the Ravens can cross the bridge from good to great.
It can’t happen without solid play from the defense, too, and that unit continues to experience bad injury luck, making the job of reinventing itself on the fly that much harder. Losing safety DeShon Elliott for the rest of the season is the latest setback.
But anything becomes possible with Jackson on the field, both for the offense and for a team that we already know a lot about, but soon, will know more.