Well, if finally happened. Somebody beat the Patriots. New England’s perfect record stops at 8-0 (actually 13-0 if you started counting last year). It had to be done eventually, right? Not that it gives us any less confidence in New England, but it certainly brings the Baltimore Ravens to the forefront in our minds now – especially since they’re sitting on top of the AFC North at 6-2 ahead of the Steelers (and well, who cares about the miserable Bengals and Browns). No, the AFC isn’t great this year, but that doesn’t mean that we should discount the Ravens’ potential in the postseason at all. They’ve certainly thrown their name onto the list of Super Bowl contenders.
The Ravens have one of the best offenses in the league, and with this 37-20 win over the Pats, they’ve made a good argument that they just might be the best team in the AFC. And others believe it too. Following this week’s game, the Ravens are the number-three favorites to win the Super Bowl.
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Lamar Jackson is Incredible
Lamar Jackson made quick work of the Patriots beloved defense on Sunday, and with that game, the second-year quarterback has entered this season’s MVP conversation. Not only can the man throw, but he just broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback through eight games. Jackson has 637 yards to his name in that span (compared to Vick’s 576 back in 2006).
True to form, Sunday’s game saw Jackson rush 61 yards for two touchdowns of his own. He stayed poised, confident, and accurate against Belichick’s heavy pressure, cover-zero defense, finishing the game with 74% of passes completed and 0 interceptions. With his well-known decision-making ability, Jackson led the Ravens to an early 17-0 lead and squashed the Patriots’ attempts at a comeback. ESPN is calling it his most impressive game to date.
Jackson is on pace to finish the regular season with 24 passing touchdowns, and that’s not counting his rushing touchdowns – he’s already got 5 of those. His skills are even more impressive considering the fact that he only started seven games last year (and his record as a starter is 12-3, by the way). Jackson is also unpredictable, which is why Belichick had such a hard time against him. He’s dangerous whether he throws the ball or runs it.
And So Is the Rest of the Baltimore Offense
The Ravens scored four offensive touchdowns against the Patriots on Sunday – a team that’s only allowed four offensive touchdowns all season. They racked up 37 points against a team that hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in any game yet. Whoa.
Along with Jackson, Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram, Jr. helped lead the team’s combined 210 rushing yards. Edwards added a TD too. And tight end Nick Boyle also snagged his first touchdown in his four and a half years with the team! (FYI, that’s a league record of its own.)
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The Ravens Defense
The Ravens defense looked more cohesive this week as well, using the pass rush and the secondary to take care of the Pats offense. Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor forced a fumble by the Pat’s receiver Julian Edelman which stopped the Patriots from taking the lead. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey then returned it for 70 yards for a touchdown of his own (and a franchise record for longest fumble return). The rest of the defense relentlessly went after the Brady to force two turnovers, another rarity for the Patriots. While the Ravens’ defense receives a lot of flack from critics, they appear to be trending upward at the right time. Now they just need to stay consistent and continue to play this well together over the rest of the season.
After beating Seattle last weekend, the Ravens definitively entered the Super Bowl conversation, but if this team keeps it up, they could challenge the Patriots for the top seed in the AFC. Halfway through the season, they’ve got plenty of time left to do it!
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