Being the No. 1 seed doesn't guarantee a Super Bowl trip, but it's a great place to start.
The Ravens are a No. 1 seed for the first time in franchise history, making them the AFC favorite to reach Super Bowl LIV in South Florida. Vegas also has the Ravens as the favorite to win it.
History says that it's a huge advantage for the Ravens to have this week's bye, coupled with having the AFC's road to the Super Bowl go through Baltimore.
Five of the last six No. 1 seeds in the AFC made it to the Super Bowl:
2018 – Kansas City Chiefs, lost in AFC Championship to New England Patriots
2017 – Patriots, lost Super Bowl to Philadelphia Eagles
2016 – Patriots, won Super Bowl
2015 – Denver Broncos, won Super Bowl
2014 – Patriots, won Super Bowl
2013 – Broncos, lost Super Bowl to Seattle Seahawks
The lone exception was last year, when the top-seeded Chiefs suffered a 37-31 loss in overtime to the Patriots in a classic AFC Championship game. Last year's No. 1 seed in the NFC was also knocked off in the conference championship, when the New Orleans Saints lost a 23-20 overtime heart-breaker to the Los Angeles Rams.
Those games are a reminder to the Ravens that for the No. 1 seed, a season's worth of excellence can quickly be ruined in the postseason. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the NFL's most valuable player last year, but he'd rather have a Super Bowl ring. Lamar Jackson is the expected winner of this year's MVP award, but the only way Jackson will be satisfied after his record-setting season is if the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
A few weeks ago, Jackson was asked if he would consider this season a disappointment if the Ravens don't win the Super Bowl.
"I'm not even putting that in my head, what you just said," Jackson said. "That's what everyone plays the game for. Everyone wants to get to the big dance. We're having such a great year, that's what we got to get to. Ain't no if's, and's, or but's about it."
This is Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda's eighth trip to the playoffs with the Ravens, but it's just the second time he's ever had a bye week (2011) and first with the No. 1 seed. Yanda believes wild-card weekend off, and two weeks to prepare for the divisional round, will pay huge dividends when the Ravens host either the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans on Jan. 11.
"It's awesome," Yanda said. "Obviously, rest is critical and we've played a lot of physical ball games this year. I'm an old man, so the rest is … I'm not going to shy away from it. I will take it. And when we play our football game, I'm going to have some juice now."
It has been seven years since the AFC's No. 1 seed lost its playoff opener. In 2012, the No. 4 seeded-Ravens knocked off the top-seeded Denver Broncos, 38-35, in double overtime in a classic divisional game that featured "The Mile High Miracle." Peter Schrager of NFL Network recently called Joe Flacco's 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones that forced overtime one of the coolest plays of the decade.
However, in 2014, the Ravens lost to the No. 1 seed in the divisional round, despite playing an excellent game. After beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round that year, the Ravens visited the top-seeded Patriots and twice led by 14 points – 14-0 and 28-14. However, the Patriots scored 21 unanswered points to hand Baltimore a 35-31 defeat, and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
Over the past three years, the AFC's No. 1 seed has been dominant in the divisional round, winning by an average of 19 points:
2018 – Chiefs 31, Colts 13
2017 – Patriots 35, Titans 14
2016 – Patriots 34, Texans 16
And being the No. 1 seed has been the best path to the Super Bowl in both conferences. Four of the last six Super Bowls have been matchups between the No. 1 seed in each conference:
2017 – Eagles vs. Patriots
2015 – Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
2014 – Patriots vs. Seahawks
2013 – Seahawks vs. Broncos
The Ravens love being the No. 1 seed, but they aren't resting on their position. They plan on taking advantage of it.
"That's our mindset, just stay focused, stay in the moment and don't worry about the Super Bowl," Yanda said. "We have to worry about just one game at a time right now. Everybody wants to talk about getting ahead of ourselves. We're already locked in for our first playoff game, whoever they might be."