Colin Cowherd: Ravens Have a Chance to Be Scary
The Ravens' 33-28 loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday has sparked a "glass is half full or glass is half empty" debate in regard to Baltimore.
Does coming up five points short on the road against a consensus Super Bowl contender and the reigning league MVP prove the Ravens themselves are legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Or does it show they're not among the elite teams at this point?
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley took the latter view.
"The Baltimore Ravens aren't ready to be mentioned among the NFL's elite just yet," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens (2-1) generated plenty of national buzz in routing the woeful Miami Dolphins and beating Kyler Murray in his first road start of the season. But when matched up against one of the best teams in the AFC in the Chiefs (3-0), the Ravens made too many mistakes to pull off an upset."
Others, such as NFL Network's Michael Silver and Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd, believe the Ravens' effort against the Chiefs in their home opener at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the toughest places in the NFL to play, established them as bona fide contenders.
"I'm really proud of the Ravens," Silver said. "Second year in a row they've gone into Kansas City and battled. You saw Patrick Mahomes when he closed out that game with a third down completion, he celebrated in a way that was exceptionally emphatic because he knows this is not just your run-of-the-mill, Chiefs-can-score-whenever-they-want victory.
"This is a sneaky Super Bowl contender. … The Ravens not only seem to have the best chance of winning [the AFC North], but I believe they're legit Super Bowl contenders."
Cowherd said: "Baltimore has a chance to be scary. You go look at that box score versus Kansas City –– the fireworks show of the league –– first downs, Baltimore had more. Passing first downs, Baltimore had as many. Fourth down efficiency, Baltimore was better. Total yards, close. Rushing, Baltimore. Rushing, both great. Possession, Baltimore. And that's in Kansas City facing the best offensive personnel in the league.
"Ninety percent of the teams in the NFL would have walked in there and gotten run over. Baltimore's offensive line was better than Kansas City's, their pass rush was more consistent, their running game was better, and their secondary was better. Yes, they couldn't stop Patrick Mahomes but nobody will for the next decade. Baltimore does what you have to do to beat great quarterbacks, control time off possession and make them watch the game from the sidelines."
Speaking of great quarterbacks and Super Bowl contenders, the road to the AFC Championship often goes through New England. So perhaps the real question is: How do the Chiefs and Ravens measure up to Tom Brady and the Patriots?
The question was posed on "Good Morning Football," and there were differing opinions. Peter Schrager went with the Ravens.
"I don't know if [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy Reid can beat [Patriots Head Coach] Bill Belichick in a big game. I've seen [Ravens Head Coach] John Harbaugh do it twice in Foxborough," Schrager said. "January football -- it's defense, it's running game, it's coaching, and John Harbaugh has out-maneuvered Bill Belichick before."
Lamar Jackson Is a 'Human Cheat Code'
Predictably, Lamar Jackson's uneven performance against the Chiefs provided the second-year quarterback's doubters with some ammunition.
Fox Sports Radio's Doug Gottlieb, who last week largely attributed Jackson's hot start this season to playing inferior teams, doubled down on that assessment after Sunday's game.
"He can run and hit you with the home run but he's just not efficient and able to throw the ball into tight windows," Gottlieb said. "If he gets behind the chains and it's 2nd and 15 or 3rd and 13 there's almost no chance. ... One guy [Patrick Mahomes] looked the part and the other guy looked like Lamar Jackson."
Conversely, "Good Morning Football's' Nate Burleson strongly disagreed with any suggestion that Jackson isn't a worthy rival for Mahomes.
"The score was 33-28. What more do you guys want?" Burleson said. "It was a competitive game, two of the best in the game. Of course Pat Mahomes is a prolific passer. But my guy Lamar Jackson did everything we wanted in the highlight film.
"He is a human cheat code."
Fansided’s Presley Meyer also had high praise for Jackson coming out of the Chiefs game.
"Though Mahomes and the Chiefs got out to an impressive 23-6 lead to start the game, it was Jackson and the Ravens who came roaring back to put the game in question with two impressive scoring drives in the fourth quarter," Meyer wrote.
"The national media-driven narrative that Jackson won't be able to sustain success in the NFL persists, but one thing remains: no team wants to have to defend Lamar Jackson for four quarters," Meyer added. "That speaks louder than anything else, and bodes well for a guy that could be the future of the next wave of NFL quarterbacks."
Mark Ingram Proving He's 'Worth Every Penny and Then Some'
Mark Ingram II has wasted no time rewarding the Ravens for signing him in the offseason.
The first time the former New Orleans Saints running back touched the ball in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins he ran for 49 yards. He finished the game with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. This past Sunday, Ingram rushed for three touchdowns, gaining 103 yards on 16 carries.
After three weeks, Ingram leads the league in touchdowns (five) and is fifth in rushing (257 yards, 6.0 yards per carry). He's on pace to rush for career-highs of 1,370 yards and 26 touchdowns in his ninth season.
"He's been a terrific addition," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "I was initially skeptical of the signing, believing the Ravens had to get a little more dynamic in the backfield. I've seen enough in three weeks to admit that I was wrong."
Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote that he had high expectations for Ingram, "and he's done nothing but exceed them."
"Ingram has been a perfect fit for this team," Bradshaw wrote. "With what we've seen thus far, Mark Ingram is worth every penny Baltimore gave him and then some."
Sports Illustrated’s Alaa Abdeldaiem wrote that Ingram's performance against the Chiefs was vital in keeping the Ravens in the game.
"When Jackson is struggling and the Ravens are in need of momentum, it's crucial to know there's someone the team can turn to," Abdeldaiem wrote. "Mark Ingram was as reliable as ever, proving on Sunday he can be that player."