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Mailbag: Is There a Special Feeling Around Ravens?

Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) reacts after an interception during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.
Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) reacts after an interception during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Brown: Yes, I sense a special feeling inside the building, a belief that this team has all the ingredients necessary to win a Super Bowl. Current players and coaches feel it, and former players are tweeting because they're excited watching this team.

Why wouldn't they be? The Ravens are entering Week 17 with the NFL's best record, with a chance to finish as the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2019.

Players such as Lamar Jackson, Ronnie Stanley, Pat Ricard and Marlon Humphrey were on the 2019 team that finished 14-2 but didn't reach the Super Bowl and remember how disappointing that was. They've talked openly about it in recent weeks, which I think is a good sign. They're more experienced, and they recognize how precious this opportunity is.

Head Coach John Harbaugh recently called this a "mature" team, and it's extremely impressive that the Ravens have never trailed by more than seven points in any game this season. They've been mentally prepared to play every week. They're determined to finish their season in the Super Bowl and have the right mindset to accomplish that goal. Yes, it's special to be around the Ravens now, or to be rooting for them.

Downing: This is a very good question and a tough one to answer without knowing the full extent of Hamilton's injury. Harbaugh said Monday after the game that the Ravens were optimistic about Hamilton's status, and an encouraging sign is that the second-year safety was still on the sideline at the end of the game rather than going to the locker room after the injury. Hamilton has played through the knee injury the last two games, and he's a tough player who will do everything he can to get back on the field.

I think this will come down to two main factors. The first is simply whether Hamilton is healthy enough to play. If he's able to move on the knee at a level where he feels comfortable, I expect him to play. This is a massive game where the Ravens have the potential to lock up the AFC's No. 1-overall seed, and they want their top lineup on the field. The second factor at play is the risk of making the injury worse by playing on it. If the medical staff feels that Hamilton is at risk of a more significant injury by playing, the team could opt to be cautious to ensure he's healthy for the postseason. Hamilton has arguably been the team's best defender and they want him on the field – in this game and the playoffs – and that decision will sit in the hands of the medical staff, Hamilton, and the coaches.

Brown: The Dolphins have the NFL's top-ranked offense. It's going to be difficult for the Ravens not to surrender any big plays to Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert or Devon Achane. The same was true vs. the 49ers and their playmakers.

However, the Ravens rank third in red-zone defense and had five takeaways against the 49ers. That could be the winning formula against Miami. Keep the Dolphins from scoring touchdowns on big plays, play strong red-zone defense, and perhaps force a few turnovers.

Tua Tagovailoa has gone four straight games without throwing an interception and has tossed just 10 picks this season. Hill may be the league's fastest player, and when he gets open, Tagovailoa rarely misses him.

However, Baltimore's defense is loaded with versatile players that give them more ways to match up with Miami than most opponents. Despite the stats that Aiyuk, Kittle, and McCaffery had in Week 16, the Ravens held the 49ers to 19 points. If the Ravens hold Miami to 19 points or fewer, I love their chances with the way Lamar Jackson is playing.

Downing: Can't we just enjoy this season before worrying about free agency?!? It's natural to always look ahead, but I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about what's going to happen in March. The Ravens know they have a special group in place with this team, and that's part of the reason there's such a focus about taking care of business on a day-to-day basis.

The reality is that the Ravens will likely lose some key players this offseason. Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen, Odell Beckham Jr., Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy, Gus Edwards, Kevin Zeitler, Michael Pierce, Geno Stone and others are all set to become free agents this offseason. The Ravens won't be able to keep all of them, and that's part of the focus for this roster. Jackson has talked about that a few different times this season. He knows the window is open for the Ravens to win a title, and he also understands how hard it is to get to this point. That's a valuable perspective to have, and the Ravens are focused on doing everything they can to win a Super Bowl with the roster they currently have in place.

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