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Late for Work: John Harbaugh-Lamar Jackson Ranked No. 2 in Coach-QB Combos

HC John Harbaugh & QB Lamar Jackson
HC John Harbaugh & QB Lamar Jackson

John Harbaugh-Lamar Jackson Ranked No. 2 in Coach-QB Combos

History has shown that having an elite head coach and elite quarterback is crucial for a team to be a serious Super Bowl contender.

With John Harbaugh at the helm and Lamar Jackson under center, the Ravens check both boxes.

Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame ranked all 32 coach-quarterback combinations heading into the 2024 season, and the Ravens' duo was No. 2.

"The Ravens haven't broken through with this group, but it feels like only a matter of time," Verderame wrote. "Harbaugh is a championship coach with 160 career wins, tied for 20th all-time. Meanwhile, Jackson just won his second MVP, one vote shy of being unanimous once again. The Ravens need more playoff success, but this is an elite pairing."

The only coach-quarterback pairing ranked ahead of Harbaugh-Jackson was the Kansas City Chiefs' Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.

Ravens' Triplets Among Five Best in NFL

Verderame also ranked each team’s triplets (starting quarterback, top running back, top pass-catcher).

The Ravens' trio of Jackson, Derrick Henry, and wide receiver Zay Flowers was No. 5.

"Last season, the Ravens had the AFC's best record, only to fall short in the conference title game," Verderame wrote. "Then, General Manager Eric DeCosta added Henry to the backfield, giving the two-time MVP in Jackson another terrific weapon. Factor in Flowers, who registered 858 yards and five scores as a rookie, and Baltimore is loaded again."

It's probable that Verderame also considered tight end Mark Andrews for the Ravens' top pass-catcher. Before an ankle injury in Week 11 last year ended his season, the three-time Pro Bowler was on pace for one of his best seasons statistically.

Perhaps it's time for some quintuplets rankings.

Stephen A. Smith Is Adamant That Ravens Pose Biggest Threat to Chiefs

The crew on ESPN's "First Take" debated which AFC team is the biggest threat to the Chiefs winning a third consecutive Super Bowl. The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills were mentioned, but Stephen A. Smith wasn't having it.

Smith was adamant that the Ravens are the team most equipped to knock off the Chiefs, largely due to the addition of Henry.

"Lamar Jackson has Derrick Henry to give the ball to. I can't ignore that," Smith said. "So I'm looking at a team that since 2019 is the second-ranked offense in the National Football League. I'm looking at Lamar Jackson. I'm looking at the other pieces they had already, and a rough-rider defense, and the coaching of Mr. Harbaugh. And then you go out and get who the Dallas Cowboys should have gotten, which is Derrick Henry.

"I don't have to rely on Lamar Jackson running the football because I got that dude back there. I could play off of him to create opportunities in play-action to throw the football. And I got a defense that's gonna make up for any mistakes I make along the way. And I got a bell-cow to chew up the clock. I got Lamar Jackson, the greatest running back we've ever seen at the quarterback position doing what he's capable of doing. … It's gonna be the Baltimore Ravens."

Patrick Mekari Named Ravens' Most Underappreciated Player’s Gennaro Filice identified each AFC team's most underappreciated player. For the Ravens, versatile offensive lineman Patrick Mekari was the choice.

"The selection for Baltimore came down to a difficult decision between Patricks," Filice wrote. "'Project Pat' Ricard was an enticing option, especially considering the fullback will now be blowing open holes for Derrick Freakin' Henry. But despite the general lack of appreciation for his position, Ricard has received his share of individual shine in the form of four straight Pro Bowl selections from 2019 through 2022, as well as a second-team All-Pro nod this past season.

"So, Patrick Mekari, come on down! Esteemed colleague Kevin Patra recently spotlighted the biggest remaining question mark in Baltimore: the offensive line. Multiple spots appear iffy, thanks to injuries and inexperience. Fortunately, the Ravens employ one of the best swing linemen in football today. In five NFL seasons, Mekari has ably logged snaps at all five OL positions. This is a utility man with immense value, especially on this particular roster."

AFC North Is No. 1 in Divisional Rankings

The AFC North was the best division in the NFL last season, and that's not expected to change in 2024.

In CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr’s divisional rankings, the AFC North took the No. 1 spot.

"This division is still the best in football, just based on three teams making the playoffs and the only division with three teams having 10+ wins," Kerr wrote. "The AFC North will be a battle all season, as the division winner remains one of the biggest wild cards in the league."

Kerr noted that adding Henry to a team that won a league-high 13 games last season makes the Ravens a threat to repeat as division champions, but the three teams looking to dethrone Baltimore figure to be as good or better than they were in 2023.

"The Bengals got Joe Burrow back, the Browns have the majority of their roster intact, and the Steelers revamped their roster with Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, Patrick Queen and Donte Jackson in free agency," Kerr wrote. "Pittsburgh also had an impressive draft class, revamping the offensive line with Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier as the top two picks and adding linebacker Payton Wilson in the third round."

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