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Late for Work: Ravens Are Clearly the Best Team in Football

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.

Ravens' Victory Catapults Them to Super Bowl Favorites

The Ravens are alone atop the NFL 16 weeks into the regular season. But they haven't just won their games; they've achieved something no team has ever done before, clobbering winning teams by two-plus touchdowns.

Monday night's performance was arguably the Ravens' best game this season, against their best opponent. In DVOA terms, the Ravens have returned to their historical pace.

They're also setting new records for their domination.

The Ravens appear to be on another level, and their win over the NFC's best has media members in agreement the Baltimore Ravens team are the best in football.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer: "You saw what I did—Baltimore totally choking out the presumed best roster in football. The final was Baltimore Ravens 33, San Francisco 49ers 19, and this one didn't even seem that close."

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens made it clear who the best team – and best player – in the NFL is right now."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The idea of a statement game is largely overblown because statements are made in the postseason. However, for the Ravens to go into San Francisco and blow out a team touted as the best in the NFL says a lot about the type of team Baltimore has. The Ravens outplayed the 49ers in every facet. Their defense overwhelmed MVP candidate Purdy. Their offense scored points on seven straight possessions at one point. It got hairy late, as it often seems to for the Ravens, but they produced one of their best performances all year."

CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan: "The Baltimore Ravens have put the rest of the NFL on notice. In what was billed as a potential Super Bowl preview as Lamar Jackson and Co. traveled to Santa Clara and delivered a 33-19 shellacking on the San Francisco 49ers to wrap up Week 16 and the Christmas Day slate."

The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "The Ravens' best is still better than any team in the league. Sure, they were fortunate to grab two interceptions on tipped passes and a third after Brock Purdy's arm was hit as he threw, but give credit to the defense for flying around, swarming to the ball and making it difficult for one of the league's best offenses to get comfortable."

The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz: "Name a team with wins better than the Ravens' against the Lions, Seahawks and 49ers? Not because those teams in particular are the best in the league, but the way they dismantled all three is what makes the Ravens the best team in football. There is no contest for that title right now. But as we all know in Baltimore, they will be judged on what they do in the postseason."

The Baltimore Banner's Kyle Goon: "They've decimated Detroit, Seattle, Jacksonville and now the 49ers. Mike Macdonald has shown the ability to construct a devastating scheme; Todd Monken has gotten more out of the passing game while preserving a prolific rushing attack. Assuming health (get well soon, Kyle Hamilton), the Ravens have a body of work that suggests they prepare as well as any team in the NFL — the one reassurance fans should want with the postseason ahead."

After resounding victories over some of the NFL's best, the Ravens find themselves as Super Bowl favorites; they'll have to fuel themselves on being Goliath, not David, from now on.

"They keep resetting our expectations, and there's really no reason left to put a limit on what they can accomplish over the next seven weeks," wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.

Resounding Praise for the Ravens' Defense

In what was their toughest task, defending the likes of two MVP-candidates in Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, to go along with tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. The Ravens dismantled the star-filled offense of the 49ers, and all are taking notice.’s Grant Gordon: "Among a galaxy of MVP-caliber stars, it was the Ravens defense as a whole that shined brightest in Baltimore's statement-making Christmas triumph. The Ravens, who had five takeaways, terrorized 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, picking him off four times and perhaps delivering a death blow to the second-year standout's MVP candidacy. This was an emphatic win by Baltimore and a sterling performance by its defense. Kyle Hamilton continued his ascent to becoming one of the NFL's elite safeties, stealing a Purdy toss into the end zone on the Niners' first drive and setting the tone. Hamilton, who had two INTs but suffered a knee injury late in the game, and Marlon Humphrey were sensational and so too was a pass rush that piled up 27 QB pressures and recorded four sacks."

CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan: "The defense is what continues to be the backbone of Baltimore's stellar season and the unit tallied five turnovers in the win, including four interceptions off of Brock Purdy. They stifled one of the hottest offenses in the NFL and proved that they can go into a hectic playoff environment and come away with a win."

The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker: "The Ravens' defense made the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft look like Mr. Irrelevant, harassing him into four interceptions after he'd thrown just seven all season."

The Baltimore Banner's Paul Mancano: "The defense is just that good. Menacing physicality. Stars at every level. An up-and-coming coordinator with brilliant game plans. This is the best defense in the NFL, and it's the best Baltimore has had in years."

Pundits Call for Jackson to Win Second MVP

Exiting this game, the winning teams' quarterback was always going to be talked about as the MVP favorite.

But with the Ravens' defense making Purdy pedestrian and Jackson dazzling in front of the nation on Christmas night, calls for Jackson to win his second MVP grew three sizes.

Hensley: "After a ragged first half, Jackson looked like the NFL MVP in a perfect third quarter. He was 6-of-6 for 121 yards and two touchdowns as Baltimore put up 17 points in the first three drives of the second half and blew open a close game. Jackson continued to shine in prime time. He's 5-2 on "Monday Night Football," producing 17 total touchdowns and no interceptions. Jackson also improved to 20-1 against the NFC, which is the best record by any quarterback vs. the opposing conference since the 1970 merger."

ESPN analyst Troy Aikman, during the broadcast: "I don't think there's a quarterback in the game who's asked to do more than Lamar Jackson does."

Mancano: "Just as the MVP conversation began shifting away from Lamar Jackson, the 26-year-old steered the discussion back towards himself with a dominant performance. … He finished 23-of-35 (66%) for 252 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Once again, his shiftiness in the pocket extended plays, kept drives alive and frustrated the opposing defense. Jackson was the best player on the field Monday night, and he may be the best in the league this season."

The play from Jackson this season, which is added to what he's been his entire career, has pundits mocking those who never thought to approach Jackson when he was "available" on the non-exclusive franchise tag this offseason.

However, Rich Eisen doesn't believe that was ever a reality.

Crediting the Offensive Line for Strong Play

Entering Christmas, one key matchup was the Ravens' pass protection unit, namely their tackles, going against the likes of 49ers' Nick Bosa and Chase Young. A week prior, the Ravens struggled to subdue the Jacksonville Jaguars edge rushers, and the 49ers' tandem was better on paper.

But by game's end, the two stars combined for a half-sack, and the pass protection and Jackson's elusiveness limited the 49ers to two sacks.

"What seemed a leading subplot going into the game turned out to be a minor one, however. Bosa and Hargrave did manage multiple pressures, and Young shared a sack with Randy Gregory, but they never kept Jackson from playing his game," Walker wrote. "Which means Stanley and Moses deserve credit for holding up better than expected, and Ravens coaches deserve credit for the tackle rotation they've implemented over the last three games."

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