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With Patriots loss, Ravens jump into top spot in AFC

With Patriots loss, Ravens jump into top spot in AFC

BALTIMORE — The Ravens have had one of the NFL’s toughest schedules this season. Now, they're tied for the NFL’s best record. 

With a last-second win over the 49ers on Sunday, the Ravens moved to 10-2 on the season. And paired with a Patriots loss to the Texans, the Ravens are now the top seed in the AFC due to a head-to-head tiebreaker.

The 10-2 mark is an impressive record, but even more impressive considering the teams the Ravens have beaten to get to this point. 

After Sunday’s games, the win percentage of the last six Ravens opponents is .633. If the 1-11 Bengals are eliminated, five of the last six games featured wins over teams with a combined .745 win percentage.

“We’re just a strong team,” Lamar Jackson said. “Ever since I was growing up, that’s what the Ravens have been — a team (that’s) hard to beat. A lot of people wanted to beat the Ravens. I’m glad it’s back the same way, but we’ve just got to keep it going because it’s ‘Any Given Sunday,’ so we’ve just got to play.” 

The two top teams in the AFC and NFC, entering Sunday, the Patriots and 49ers, both played the Ravens. They both lost. 

Of the Ravens 12 games they’ve played this season, five wins have come against the other 11 teams in playoff spots, as of Sunday night. The only loss came to the Chiefs on the road, who are 8-4.

“I was just talking to some of the guys, and I feel like this is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Mark Ingram said. “2011 Saints was a great team. The last couple of years were great teams, but there’s just something special about this group of guys. We believe in each other. We fight hard for each other. And no matter how ugly or pretty it is, we’re going to keep fighting.”

Baltimore will get another chance at knocking off a playoff team when it heads to Buffalo next week to face the 9-3 Bills. 

And should the Rams jump to a playoff spot, the number of playoff teams beaten would jump to six. 

“Like I keep telling people, we play Ravens football, we have each other's backs, and we’re not scared of anybody,” Willie Snead IV said. “Whoever steps up to the plate, we’re going to go at them like we have every game.” 

Now winners of eight-straight games, the Ravens have a stranglehold on the AFC North and lead the division by three games over the Steelers with just four to play — and a season finale left to play against the Steelers. 

The eight straight wins is also a franchise record, one that seemed incredibly unlikely after the Browns left M&T Bank Stadium in September after hanging 40 points on the Ravens. 

“We have never been 10-2 since I have been here,” Chris Wormley said. “Usually at this point in the season, we are clawing our way to get a playoff game. Trying to win the division or to get that wild card spot. Now we are in the position that we just keep doing what we are doing, we can play for that first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.”

With just four games to play, and a first-round bye and home-field advantage now within reach, it’s well within reason to begin thinking about January football in Baltimore. 

And if the recent stretch is any indication, February football isn’t out of the question.

“Of course that’s our goal,” Ingram said. “That’s our aspiration. But we’re going to enjoy this for tonight, come back tomorrow and start preparing for the Bills. You all can talk about the Super Bowl all you want, and of course, that’s what we want, but we’re going to take it one day at a time around here.”


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The Ravens appear to have their entire coaching staff returning for the 2020 season

The Ravens appear to have their entire coaching staff returning for the 2020 season

While the Ravens roster will likely remain mostly together for the 2020 regular season, it appears the coaching staff will stay entirely intact, too. 

After both coordinators, Greg Roman and Don “Wink” Martindale, had interviews with the Browns and Giants, respectively, those jobs were filled by Kevin Stefanski and Joe Judge. 

And more recently, quarterbacks coach James Urban and tight ends coach Bobby Engram were requested for interviews by the Eagles. Harbaugh said both Engram and Urban pulled out of the running and weren’t interested.

“It looks like our staff is going to stay together,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I can tell you that. I’m not saying anything couldn’t happen; there are always things brewing for a certain period of time.”

The Ravens have every offensive starter from the divisional playoff game under contract for next season, and now appear to have the offensive coordinator and all of the position coaches back on-board for another run too. The Ravens set a franchise record with 531 points, led by Lamar Jackson.

Things are still fluid, as a job opportunity for anyone on the staff can pop up out of the blue. But for now, the Ravens look like they’ll run the entire operation back for another go at a Super Bowl.

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John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

Coach John Harbaugh, just six days after his team’s disappointing 28-12 loss to the Titans in the AFC playoffs, has already had to defend his quarterback.

Faced with some criticism after Jackson finished 31-of-59 passing, and three total turnovers, Harbaugh mentioned how far Jackson has come in the last year — which also ended in an early playoff loss at home.

“It’s really interesting to look at Lamar Jackson, because look at the progress he made in the last year,” Harbaugh said Friday. “Because the same question, I think you might have asked it last year, how is he going to get better going forward? And he did a good job, right? He’s 23 years old. He’s younger than Joe Burrow. So, he has a pretty good head start right now.”

Jackson is now 0-2 in the playoffs with a 19-3 regular season record. 

He’s likely the MVP this season after he passed for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards, setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback along the way. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns and carried the most prolific offense in the league to a league-best 14-2. 

Harbaugh isn’t worried that his quarterback, who is just 23-years-old, hasn’t found his playoff success yet.

“The Manning brothers combined to, they had five losses in their first five playoff games before they won one,” Harbaugh explained. (Joe) Montana, (Steve) Young and (Brett) Favre didn’t start a playoff game until their third season, (Drew) Brees and (Troy) Aikman, until their fourth season, and (Aaron) Rodgers until his fifth season.”

After the season ended, Harbaugh added that Jackson went to his office to discuss the offseason and what he needed to do to improve. 

While Harbaugh and the offensive coaching staff had a plan for Jackson to improve, Jackson “nailed” each and every single critique that the coaches had laid out for him.

“I’m really confident in Lamar and his understanding the things he needs to do to get better, and that he’s going to work really hard to keep building himself up as a player,” Harbaugh said.

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