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Late For Work 11/29: Pundits Question Whether Ravens Are Really AFC's Top Team

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Are the Ravens Worthy of the No. 1 Seed?

Each week, it seems the Ravens find new ways to win in dramatic fashion. This week, they reached a milestone in such a pursuit, accomplishing a first in the Super Bowl era.

It was a peculiar primetime affair, an "ugly win" in the AFC North that featured three times more turnovers (six) as touchdowns (two).

But by the end, the Ravens sat atop the AFC with an 8-3 record.

"It's not perfect, but we're fighting to get there, right?" Head Coach John Harbaugh said in his postgame speech. "I don't know exactly what that was. I don't know how to describe it exactly. It really doesn't matter. But we all know what it was. It was a W."

It was a win with enough ugly that NBC Sports’ Peter King voiced his concern about the Ravens and their AFC-leading record.

"Something about the Ravens doesn't feel right," King wrote. "The defense felt right Sunday night, even though the Browns looked incredibly flawed, in a 16-10 Ravens win. But the carelessness of Lamar Jackson, who had his first four-interception game as an NFL player Sunday night, is going end up putting so much pressure on the defense if it keeps up."

The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker was a bit more direct, questioning the Ravens' performances as of late.

"The Ravens did not look like the best team in the AFC, even if that's what their record says they are for the moment," Walker wrote. "They made everything look difficult on offense, and that started with a dreadful passing performance by their franchise player, Lamar Jackson. They have scored a combined 42 points over their last three games. Right now, they are neither a grind-it-out running machine nor a big-play air force. Give their undermanned defense the game ball for a heroic performance against Cleveland's league-best ground game."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec offered somewhat of a counterpoint to King and Walker.

"I think [the Ravens] fit in just fine with [other AFC contenders]," Zrebiec wrote. "They are a flawed team, capable of beating anybody on any given day and just as capable of dropping games to teams in the bottom of the league. And can't you say that about just about everyone in the AFC at this point? "Nobody is playing any better than the Patriots, but otherwise, there seem to be a lot of flawed teams. The Ravens are a dangerous team because they have Jackson and Tucker."

While the debate as to whether the Ravens are really worthy of being the No. 1 seed in the AFC could fuel time slots all week, The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon isn't interested in the conversation.

"This offensive performance was one to forget, but the Ravens' place atop the AFC North and the entire conference at 8-3 is all that matters," Doon wrote.

Albert Breer Appreciates Jackson's Grace in a Poor Performance

After Jackson threw his third interception of the second quarter, the team's leader "was hot."

He was visibly frustrated, though it wasn't expressed by being animated on the sideline or the bench. Rather, Jackson went back to work, completed a few passes and put together a touchdown-scoring drive in the second half. He also threw another interception, his fourth and final one on the night.

But by the game's end and the ensuing post-game presser from Jackson completed, the Ravens' quarterback had made a fan out of Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who was impressed by Jackson's grace in a poor performance.

"… The quarterback's taking accountability in this sort of situation does two things, essentially," Breer wrote. "One, it ingratiates him to the rest of his teammates, who know he'll shoulder the blame when things aren't going well. And two, it raises the bar for everyone, because the quarterback's raising it for himself. Which makes this one more place where Jackson just sort of naturally gets it, when it comes to the position."

It's easy to forget Jackson is one of the youngest quarterbacks in the NFL; though he's entering his fourth season, he's the youngest quarterback in the division, turning 25 in January. It's this kind of attitude on the biggest stages that shows maturity from one of the league's best.

Tight End "Catches" Are the Talk of the Game

Two of Sunday's biggest plays featured the tight ends of both teams.

For Njoku, it was on a 20-yard pass from Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield that was initially ruled a catch.

Replays seemed to show the ball hitting the ground, but upon further review, the officials upheld the original call on the field.

Some did agree with the officials, though.

While Njoku's catch was debated, there was no deliberation on Mark Andrews' one-handed catch.

Odafe Oweh Delivers Another Standout Performance, Vying for Rookie of the Year

When the Browns were on offense, Ravens first-round rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh was frequently found in the backfield causing mayhem for Mayfield.

According to PFF's Austin Gayle, the rookie generated a team-leading six pressures. Those pressures helped create two turnovers for the defense.

The plays he made left many impressed, with one calling for him to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

If Oweh continues to deliver in such a fashion, it will be hard to deny him the award, even with former Penn State teammate Micah Parsons also standing out for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jackson Impresses Browns' Myles Garrett, Frustrates Jadeveon Clowney

The first person to tell you it was a performance to forget from Jackson is likely himself.

But for all the plays to forget, there was one that received applause not only from the viewers, but his opponents as well. It will go down as a 13-yard touchdown pass to Andrews, but in reality, Jackson threw it from the 35-yard line after evading enormous pressure.

Jackson's play caused Browns defensive end Myles Garrett to dap up Jackson and give him credit for the on-field brilliance.

While Garrett quickly arrived at acceptance in the stages of grief, his teammate, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, found anger more suitable, as he slammed his helmet to the turf following Jackson's touchdown.

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