Ravens Suddenly Gain National Attention as Legit Contenders … Road to 10 Wins
On the heels of an impressive third defensive shutout and on the cusp of a Monday Night Football contest set for a national stage, people are starting to pay attention to the 5-5 Ravens.
With a home primetime matchup against the Deshaun Watson-less Houston Texans, Baltimore's defense could put on another show, and make more believers in the Ravens like it did with Good Morning Football's Kay Adams.
"The thing that I learned [in Week 11] is the team I have my eye on is the Ravens," Adams says in the video below.
"I think that they're pretty legit. I think they are going to make it in [the playoffs], and we know when they make it in, they take that wild card and they run with it. They are 7-1 in the wild card, which is pretty impressive. … If it were the Ravens and the Chiefs, I think the Ravens could easily win."
So, how legit are the Ravens as postseason contenders?
ESPN says they are "suddenly in excellent position" with a 73 percent chance of advancing. The next biggest threat is nowhere close. It's the San Diego Chargers with 22.8 percent odds, followed by the Texans (9.5 percent), Buffalo Bills (8.7) and Cincinnati Bengals (6.2).
ESPN's not alone. Statistical website FiveThirtyEight.com has similar projections, giving the Ravens a 65 percent shot of punching a postseason ticket. The 45 percent change from last week was the biggest playoff bump of any NFL team. The website also gives the other wild-card contenders less than a 20 percent chance of overtaking Baltimore.
Statistical projections say the Ravens will finish with nine wins, but both Adams and NFL Network's Maurice Jones-Drew see a path to 10 victories. That would be an incredible feat, as it would double the Ravens'* *wins by beating five of the next six opponents.
In the video to the right, Jones-Drew explains why he envisions the Ravens' season unfolding like this:
Week 12: Houston Texans ----------> Win
Week 13: Detroit Lions --------------> Win
Week 14: at Pittsburgh Steelers ---> Loss
Week 15: at Cleveland Browns ----> Win
Week 16: Indianapolis Colts --------> Win
Week 17: Cincinnati Bengals -------> Win
Jones-Drew's optimism and the new national attention is appreciated, but it won't completely calm all the nerves in Baltimore.
As good as the defense looked against the Green Bay Packers, Ravens fans have seen their team unexpectedly falter this season. The Chicago Bears (with a rookie quarterback's first road start) and Tennessee Titans (surrendering a late game-winning touchdown drive) losses won't allow anybody to get cocky.
"The defense might be strong enough to carry the Ravens to victory in any of their six remaining games, but the offense is also inept enough to lose each of those contests, making these final six weeks all the more unsettling despite the favorable circumstances," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"Their third road win of the season and a very favorable environment in the AFC have established the Ravens as clear-cut playoff contenders, but they still have a long way to go to prove they can be any sort of a viable threat to make noise if left standing in January."
Ray Lewis Makes 2018 Hall of Fame Semifinalist Cut … Duh, Of Course
Ravens legendary linebacker Ray Lewis has taken another step closer to becoming the first-ballot Hall of Famer that everyone expects him to become.
The Hall of Fame announced its list of 2018 semifinalists, and Lewis was among six first-year candidates, which also included cornerback/safety Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss and defensive end/defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
It's no doubt a strong class, but of those six, Lewis is the only "lock" to be inducted in his first year of eligibility, says 21-year Hall of Fame selector Jarrett Bell.
"No debate," Peter King, another Hall of Fame selector, wrote of Lewis' expected induction.
"Lewis is considered a near lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He'd be the second player primarily associated with the Ravens to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, where he's expected to join former teammate Jonathan Ogden," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "He’s] considered [one of the best defensive players of his generation."
Lewis was voted to 13 Pro Bowls during his 17-year NFL career, twice named Defensive Player of the Year and won two Super Bowl rings.
A Note to Skeptics Regarding Ravens' Three Shutouts
There are some skeptics who are downplaying the Ravens' three shutouts this season because it came against what they deem as weaker competition at the quarterback position.
Baltimore held Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Miami's Matt Moore and Green Bay's Brett Hundley and their offenses to zero points, not allowing as much as a field goal. Not impressed?
Well, Jones points out that the 2000 defense's four shutouts weren't exactly against the cream of the crop either.
"Anyone dismissing the defense's accomplishments because of the poor quarterbacks they've faced this season should note that the 2000 Ravens' four shutouts came against Kent Graham, Scott Mitchell, Tim Couch, and a broken-down Troy Aikman in his final season," Jones wrote. "Regardless of the opponent, give this 2017 unit credit."
No matter who the NFL quarterback is under center, a shutout should definitely be seen as a sign of dominance.
"I can't imagine what it would take to pitch a shutout," Adams said. "They've had three. I feel like it's such a crazy feat, and they've had three … I don't care who's at quarterback. I feel like the non-believers are like, 'Yeah, but who did they face? A bunch of backups.' I can't – you try to keep an offense out of the end zone or out of field-goal range. It happened three times and the season's not even over? That's crazy. That takes some swag."
NFL Power Rankings: Ravens Moving Up
Here's more evidence of national media believing the Ravens are serious playoff contenders. Instead of ranking in the bottom of the league, where they've been all season, Baltimore is now in the middle of the pack.
**CBS Sports**: No. 15 (up two)
"If the playoffs started today, they would be in the party. Their defense was impressive at Green Bay, but the offense has to do more."
**USA Today**: 15 (up three)
"They've pitched shutouts in two of last three games, feasting on backup quarterbacks. Next up, the Texans ... but not with Deshaun Watson."
**Bleacher Report**: 17 (up three)
"Of all the teams in the hunt for the AFC's sixth seed, I like the Baltimore Ravens' chances the best. They're physical on both sides of the ball, they've found a running game, and the defense is capable of making plays with its creativity and talent. I don't think Baltimore is going to the Super Bowl or even coming close to it by any stretch, but the Ravens can give superior squads a hard time and dominate lesser teams. We saw that against the Packers. If I were able to put together the playoffs myself, Baltimore would be my pick for the final postseason spot in the AFC. The Ravens aren't going to catch the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, but they're not a team the rest of the division should want to play."
**ESPN**: 17 (up three)
"Toss-up: The defense has been triumphant, pitching three shutouts for just the second time in franchise history (it had four in 2000). But the offense is leaving a lot to be desired, ranking 31st in FPI's efficiency rating. That makes the Ravens a perfect middle-of-the-road candidate."
**NFL.com**: No. 17 (up three)
"The Ravens continue to hang around in the AFC playoff race, with the rest of their schedule looking more than manageable. Dean Pees' defensive players were the stars Sunday, making Packers quarterback Brett Hundley absolutely miserable all afternoon. How much did this game feel like Week 1 in Cincy, when Joe Flacco and the offense hardly needed to lift a finger to grab a W? Looking ahead, Baltimore could finish with nine wins. John Harbaugh's group faces the Texans at home, then the Lions, then goes on the road to face AFC North rivals in the Steelers and Browns. A wild-card spot could be on the line during a two-game homestand against the Colts and Bengals. That's not exactly the Justice League. Don't know why I typed that, as I have literally zero interest in seeing that movie. Rental."
**Yahoo! Sports**: 17 (up one)
"Breshad Perriman, a former first-round pick, had seven catches for 54 yards this season and was a healthy scratch on Sunday. It's not like players haven't bloomed later in their careers after bad starts, but there are zero signs that Perriman is an NFL receiver."