Before the start of the 2020 NFL season, many football cognoscenti members felt that the AFC would be a private battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs were the reigning champions; meanwhile, the Ravens possessed the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson. The Chiefs held up their side of the bargain; they are the one seed in the conference. Disappointingly, Baltimore endured a tough season.
Through 16 weeks, Baltimore dealt with a bevvy of injury issues plus Covid chaos. September, October and November saw Baltimore encounter these issues, while also dealing with a sputtering offense. It left the Ravens with a lot of work to do. At 6-5, it felt they might miss out on the playoffs; however, this December we’ve seen the Ravens flip the script.
Baltimore is now playing classic Baltimore football. John Harbaugh’s team is on a four-game win streak; they hold their playoff fate in their hands; furthermore, Lamar Jackson is in superb form. The Ravens are hot at the perfect time.
The Offense Is Back
Last year, the world watched Baltimore pummel opponents with their ground game. Before Thanksgiving, Baltimore struggled to replicate that success. The 13 personnel packages were not working well, while Greg Roman’s playcalling felt conservative.
The Ravens are a run-first team; everything comes off the back of running the ball successfully. Matt Skura, DJ Fluker, and Bradley Bozeman are now dominating at the line of scrimmage. Earlier in the year, it felt like Baltimore was missing Marshal Yanda, now this unit is playing supremely well.
To underline that, the Ravens are ranked fourth in ESPN’s run block success. Following the Covid wrecked game against the Steelers, Baltimore’s rushed for well over 100 yards each time. In three of those games, they’ve run for well over 200 yards.
With the big men up front feasting, that is allowing the Ravens loaded backfield to run wild. Allied to Greg Roman employing spread formations, Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and JK Dobbins are flourishing. Those three all bring something unique to the Baltimore backfield.
Therefore, it is no surprise to see how successful they are right now. In the last three games, we’ve seen Baltimore average 5.9 yards per rush attempt. That is above their average of 5.6 last year. All of Baltimore’s runners bring different skills to the party.
Some are fantastic outside zone runners with speed; others bring a bruising in between the tackles style. In a spread formation, there is tons of space for them to attack, both outside the hashes as well as outside.
Reverting to last year’s offense gives Baltimore the template. They win the time of possession, plus this style of running wears teams out. It also creates RPO opportunities, Lamar Jackson is an elite quarterback in RPO situations. Marquise Brown and Willie Snead come alive in RPO plays. The Baltimore Ravens offense owns all the pieces to be a severe threat in the playoffs.
Defense Is Still Legit
Now that the offense is back, it eases the pressure on the defense. Despite all the injuries and Covid problems, this defense is still a top-five scoring unit. It is top ten in every defensive metric, which means they are playing phenomenally well across every level.
With Wink Martindale at the helm, Baltimore can match up well with any defense. They possess the talent, Martindale must utilize it to its full potential. Patrick Queen is blossoming brilliantly into a star linebacker. The ball hawks in the secondary will always make game-changing plays furthermore Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe bring vital experience.
The Ravens defense owns all the requisite tools to cause problems for any team. It will all come down to Martindale’s game planning; he can’t afford another lousy game against the Chiefs or Bills. Also, Baltimore’s found major aggression on defense. The Ravens are hitting hard for 60 minutes; they are pulverizing teams right now.
The Ingredients Are All There
As of right now, the Baltimore Ravens own all the ingredients to win in January. The Ravens are playing like the 2019 Ravens, what a time to be playing dominant football. Last year, Baltimore got knocked out as the one seed. This year, they will not experience that pressure. Baltimore will be the wildcard like they were in 2012-2013. Baltimore went on to win it all that year, Harbaugh’s team will not worry about being the wildcard.
They will relish the situation. The Charm City loves an underdog, for all the chatter about the Bills, Chiefs, and Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens are at their most dangerous at the right time. They will be the wildcard team no one wants to face; the Ravens are coming to punch the AFC in the mouth.