Skip to main content
Presented by

Late for Work: Ravens on the Cusp of Going Down As One of the Best Teams Ever

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass during the second half of the NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass during the second half of the NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Baltimore.

Pundits Believe Ravens' Dominance Over Winning Teams Will Continue Against Chiefs

The Ravens' dominance against winning teams this season is historic, and multiple pundits believe the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are likely to be the next quality squad to be vanquished by Baltimore when they square off in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"Baltimore's gone into the teeth of brilliant coaches, great run games, highly effective potent offenses, star quarterbacks, and made them look awful," Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd said. "I think we've undervalued Baltimore because we've paid so much attention to San Francisco's roster, and [Patrick] Mahomes and [Josh] Allen.

"I think Baltimore could beat Kansas City badly. I'm just blown away by their physicality, their explosiveness, their twitchiness."

Sports journalist and unabashed Chiefs fan Jason Whitlock doesn't have high hopes for Kansas City against the Ravens.

"I'm a Chiefs fan. I want the Chiefs to win. I don't think there is any chance in hell they beat Baltimore, in Baltimore, this weekend," Whitlock said. "I think it's a 14-, 17-point game. I really do believe that.

"I think this is one of the great teams to ever be assembled. It is dominant and physical on both sides of the ball. I think the gap between Baltimore and everybody else is more pronounced than what we've seen in a long, long time in football."

Deadspin’s Stephen Knox said the Ravens are the best team remaining in the playoffs and it's not even close.

"The Ravens are not flawless, but they are far closer to it than any team remaining in the postseason," Knox wrote. "To get to the franchise's third Super Bowl, the final level-boss awaits them. Those who doubted Patrick Mahomes and Co. were reminded on Sunday night that he is the best, and the stout Chiefs defense made huge plays when necessary.

"Viewers are in store for a dynamic AFC Championship matchup. Never count out the Chiefs, but also don't lie to yourselves. The best team in the NFL is the Baltimore Ravens."

FTN Fantasy’s Aaron Schatz noted that the Chiefs are playing their best football right now but no team has ever been as hot as the Ravens this deep into the season, according to weighted DVOA. DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) calculates a team's success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.

"Are [the Chiefs] possibly hot enough to take out the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore? The Ravens are absurdly hot right now. Basically, they are the hottest team DVOA has ever tracked at this point in the season," Schatz wrote. "Baltimore's 34-10 win over Houston gets 52% DVOA which is the Ravens' seventh game over 50% for the season. Four of those games have come in the last six, which means that weighted DVOA — which gives more weight to recent games — absolutely loves the Ravens right now even without adjusting for the fact that they sat starters in Week 18. Right now, Baltimore has 55.2% weighted DVOA. The Ravens are the first team to ever be above 50% after the Divisional Round."

Regardless of what the pundits are saying or how outstanding the Ravens have played against good teams this season, Head Coach John Harbaugh and his players obviously won't take Kansas City lightly.

The Chiefs are making their sixth straight AFC Championship game appearance and have played in three of their past four Super Bowls, winning two. Mahomes and his teammates proved on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills that they can win a playoff game in a hostile environment.

"It's a huge challenge," Harbaugh said yesterday. "[We're] playing a great football team. [They're] very talented [and] very well-coached. [They] know how to win. They've been in these situations many times."

Shannon Sharpe: 'Lamar Jackson Is Best Story in NFL and It's Not Even Close'

Praise for Lamar Jackson after his performance in Saturday's divisional round win continues to roll in.

"Lamar Jackson is the best story in the NFL right now and it's not even close," Shannon Sharpe said on ESPN's "First Take." "Given what he's been through, given all the doubt that was surrounding him, you tell me a better situation. When somebody told you you can't be this and here you are now on the cusp, about to win your second MVP, an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, and he was spectacular on Sunday."

NFL Network's Shaun O'Hara said Jackson's growth as a dual-threat quarterback was on full display against the Texans.

"I think what Lamar proved to everybody is that he's a dual threat now as a passing quarterback," O'Hara said. "I'm not talking about running and passing. I'm talking about how he can beat you from outside the pocket and he can beat you from inside the pocket. That's been the biggest difference from Lamar this season from any other season we've seen before is his ability to stay patient in the pocket."

Harbaugh Went Against the Grain by Hiring Coordinators From College Ranks and It's Paid Dividends

Harbaugh is categorized as a CEO-type head coach in that he does not have play-calling duties but oversees the entire operation. That includes the hiring of coordinators who do call the plays, and Harbaugh is being lauded for bringing in Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator last season and Todd Monken as offensive coordinator this season.

"Baltimore's current coordinators, Todd Monken on offense and Mike Macdonald on defense, have both fielded top-10 units by EPA per play this season (No. 9 for Monken, No. 3 for Macdonald)," The Athletic's Mike Sando wrote. "Previous coordinators Greg Roman and Wink Martindale coordinated top-five units. Before that, Harbaugh hired Marty Mornhinweg, Marc Trestman, Gary Kubiak, Jim Caldwell and Cam Cameron on the offensive side. On defense, Harbaugh's pre-[Wink] Martindale hires included Dean Pees and Chuck Pagano.

"Could any coach hope to hire better coordinators over a 15-year period? This is where the other playoff CEO coaches must close ground."

The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz credited Harbaugh for thinking outside the box by hiring coordinators from college teams.

"Just over two years ago, the Ravens' current offensive and defensive coordinators were facing each other in the College Football Playoff semis," Ruiz wrote. "Mike Macdonald called Michigan's defense, and Todd Monken called Georgia's offense in a 34-11 win for the Bulldogs. On Sunday, the NFL's only pair of coordinators who were both hired directly from college football will be coaching for a spot in a championship game once again. But this time, they'll be on the same sideline.

"The Ravens would have been a good football team with any competent pair of coordinators this season. The roster is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, including the presumptive league MVP at quarterback, but it's fair to wonder where Baltimore would be if it hadn't looked outside of NFL coaching circles to find its top assistants. … No matter how this season ends for Baltimore, John Harbaugh found two coaching stars in Monken and Macdonald in places that other NFL head coaches don't tend to look. Maybe their success will change that."

Harbaugh's Authenticity Resonates With His Players

Another reason why Harbaugh has been so successful over his 16 seasons in Baltimore is his ability to relate to his players.

NFL Network analyst and former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who played for Harbaugh from 2014-2016, said Harbaugh's authenticity resonates.

"I met Coach Harbaugh my rookie year at the Pro Bowl," Smith said. "Because of our relationship that we cultivated at the Pro Bowl [it] was one of the reasons why, when I had the opportunity to go to a team, [it] was his constant communication and openness every time we saw each other at different events throughout the league. And then when the opportunity came to get with each other, it was one of those things, 'Of course.'"

Smith went on to say that it's not just star players that Harbaugh reaches out to. He said Harbaugh remains in contact with former NFL punter Jason Baker, who played just two games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002 when Harbaugh was the special teams coordinator.

"John Harbaugh still texts here and there, talks to Jason Baker, just the same way he talks and texts to me,[comma]" Smith said. "This shows the authenticity that Coach Harbaugh has. … He can be a little tough. He can be annoying. He can really push your buttons. But the thing that I respect and love about Coach Harbaugh that I can't say is throughout the league is you always know where you stand with Coach Harbaugh. And that is very rare."

Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who joined the Ravens in September after nine seasons in the league, said "it's awesome to be a part of a Harbaugh story."

"He's done an awesome job to have the whole family there. To get to introduce myself to all of them was awesome," Van Noy said on "The Pat McAfee Show." "That whole vibe of the family is just amazing. They're a football family. They eat, breathe, sleep football."

Former Ravens great Terrell Suggs, who played nine seasons with Harbaugh, poked fun at Harbaugh's locker room dance after Saturday's win but said he appreciates the coach's positive energy.

"Momentum is pivotal, it's crucial in the playoffs, and if you got your head coach with that kind of energy, you're gonna love that and you want to feel like that again," Suggs told Kay Adams on FanDuel TV's "Up & Adams.”

Quick Hits

Related Content