Experts Still Back Ravens in AFC North Race
Last week, after a dominant 28-3 win over the Cleveland Browns on the road, experts picked the Ravens to win the AFC North. After a painful 17-10 defeat against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week later, the same pundits are sticking with the Ravens.
The Athletic's Ten Nguyen: "The Ravens are the favorites and should have won against the Steelers by multiple touchdowns. I've never seen receivers let down a quarterback like they did [Lamar] Jackson in this game. And these weren't just small drops. These were downfield, explosive passes that were in their hands. Zay Flowers even tripped on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown. The Ravens are just getting healthy, they have an elite defense and the receivers will improve. The Ravens are the team to beat."
The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "It's still the Ravens. I am going to assume that their receivers don't drop as many passes — Zay Flowers has so much upside — and that Lamar Jackson is not going to make terrible passes in the red zone. Jackson was doing so much better in that area under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken before Sunday."
The Athletic's Dan Pompei: "Any of the four teams can win this division, including the Bengals. Maybe especially the Bengals if Joe Burrow gets healthy. But for now, the Ravens, with a 2-1 record against North opponents, still look like the best. It was a bad loss to the Steelers, no question, but not a completely unexpected one given the nature of the rivalry. Baltimore had a really bad, out-of-character day offensively but remains tied for first in the division. There is a lot of football to be played, and this division surely will have many swings in power before the champion is decided — probably in the last week of the season."
Pundits: Ravens Should Be 5-0; But "You Are Your Record"
Twice, the Ravens have been stuck in the mud against opponents that pundits recognized as inferior. But miscues, miscommunication and poor execution have the Ravens at 3-2 rather than 5-0.
Pundits recognize just how close they could be to accompanying the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers as the NFL's lone undefeated clubs.
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "Given the slate of dreadful, inexperienced and/or injured quarterbacks they've faced, they should be undefeated and have a commanding lead in the AFC North."
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Ravens are oh so close to being 5-0 with a meaningful lead in the AFC North and as clear a path to the playoff as you could have in the second week of October. Instead, they're 3-2, headed for London with only their regrets to keep them company on the long flight."
Pressbox’s Bo Smolka: "The Ravens easily could be 5-0 and atop the AFC. But as Bill Parcells famously said, 'You are what your record says you are.' The Ravens are 3-2. Dangerous? Absolutely. Very good? At times. But also a team whose potential has been muddied by injuries, flaws and poor execution. Maybe the Ravens will look back in January and dismiss this as an aberration. But if winnable games dissolve in miscues twice in five games, as has been the case with the Ravens, is that an aberration, or is it who they are?"
Ravens Must Curtail Common Theme in Recent Losses
As of late, pundits have a belief the recent losses – trailing back to 2021, have a similar theme, and it's on this talented roster to abolish the mistakes.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "This is becoming a common theme for these Ravens, and it didn't just start at home two weeks ago against Indianapolis. They did it against the Steelers in Week 17 last season. They've done it a plethora of times in recent years. They get a lead and then, thanks to mistakes and missed opportunities, let a struggling opponent hang around. The game gets tight and the Ravens don't make the plays they need to in order to pull it out. Frustration ensues. Wash, rinse, repeat."
CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo: "The Ravens had several opportunities to put the game away, but they never did. Late in the first half, the Ravens came up empty after Lamar Jackson was able to connect with Zay Flowers on fourth down deep in Steelers territory. Two possessions earlier, the Ravens had to settle for a field goal after Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman both dropped passes in the end zone. Nelson Agholor would have likely scored (probably making it a 17-3 game in the process) had he hung on to Jackson's deep pass late in the third quarter."
The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker: "It was also one of those times when the Ravens beat themselves, again. As the case was in their Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, there were ample opportunities for the Ravens to come out on top. Again, they couldn't get out of their own way."
The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz: "Here we go again. The Ravens are finding ways to lose and making a master class of it. It's reminiscent of some of the 2021 disasters they had, and it's hard to put into words. … Just a perfect brew of disasters resulting in a gut-wrenching loss."
Russell Street Report’s Jared Pinder: "The Baltimore Ravens beat the Baltimore Ravens; the Steelers were just on the field. What makes this loss so bad is that this year was supposed to be different."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Dustin Cox: "It is hard to gather the appropriate words to put into perspective how preposterous, yet somehow predictable a loss like this is. Just as they did against the Colts a few weeks ago, the Ravens could not get out of their own way against the Steelers."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Baltimore went from seizing control of the division – over an 80% projected favorite, according to ESPN Analytics – to falling into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh and breathing life into its biggest rival. If the Ravens had won, they would have swept all three of their AFC North road games for the third time in franchise history. Instead, Baltimore let Sunday's game slip away with a Lamar Jackson interception in the end zone, five dropped passes, its ninth fumble of the season and a blocked punt. Now the Ravens head to London, the site of their biggest margin of defeat under coach John Harbaugh."
NFL.com’s Eric Edholm: "The Ravens missed myriad chances to beat their hated rivals on the road. Baltimore took a 10-3 lead, but Justice Hill coughed up a fumble that led to a Pittsburgh field goal. Jackson diced up the Steelers in the first half, throwing for 153 yards and running for 39, but the Ravens left points on the board. … All in all, this was a tough game for Jackson and a step back for the Ravens' evolving offense."