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Maybe We're Ignoring The Possibility That The Ravens Are Actually The NFL's Best Team | TheSportsDay Maybe We're Ignoring The Possibility That The Ravens Are Actually The NFL's Best Team | TheSportsDay

Maybe we're ignoring the possibility that the Ravens are actually the NFL's best team

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There has been a stat starting to make the rounds about the 2023 Baltimore Ravens, and it doesn’t take a degree in analytics to understand what it means about their dominance.

The Ravens have played 14 games this season and have led every one at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter. The Ravens did lose three of those games in the last two minutes, and that counts too, but it shows how close the Ravens are to being 14-0.

We’ve spent most of the season gushing about the San Francisco 49ers, and rightfully so. They have an exciting offense with an assembly line of stars scoring touchdowns, a feel-good MVP candidate at quarterback in Brock Purdy and a fantastic defense to go with it. The 49ers are significant Super Bowl favorites and it’s hard to argue. They look unbeatable at times.

But has a similarly great team flown under the radar as much as this season’s Ravens? It’s at least possible they’re the best team in the NFL, and we are totally overlooking it.

Ravens have been great this season

Any playoff in any sport leads to unpredictable results — the 2023 Major League Baseball postseason might be the best example we’ve ever seen — so it’s not like we’re guaranteed to see the two best teams in the Super Bowl. A team that peaks late, like the Buffalo Bills, could easily upset the Ravens in the playoffs.

But there can be little argument that the best teams in the AFC and NFC so far this season will be playing Monday night when the Ravens visit the 49ers.

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has his team with the best record in the AFC with three games to go. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has his team with the best record in the AFC with three games to go. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has led his team to the best record in the AFC with three games to go. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

The 49ers’ argument as the king of the NFC is airtight. If you’re arguing another team as the best in that conference you’re trying too hard. But there seems to be more trepidation about crowning Baltimore like we have San Francisco.

The Ravens, like the 49ers, have a one-game lead over any other team in the AFC. They’re second in DVOA and it’s a big gap to the Bills at No. 3. Baltimore is one of two teams, along with Kansas City, in the top eight of DVOA in offense, defense and special teams (the 49ers are 24th in special teams). They have the third-best point differential in the NFL at +159. (The Cowboys are No. 2 at +167 but their home/road splits are hard to ignore; Dallas is simply not the same team on the road.)

The Ravens rank in the top five in points scored (fourth), yards gained (fifth), points allowed (first) and yards allowed (second). That’s impressive. They’ve also done it against a schedule that hasn’t been easy. Baltimore’s schedule ranks 15th-toughest in the NFL via DVOA, while San Francisco’s is 25th.

The Ravens are an elite team by any measure, though it’s hard to find a stat that places them above the 49ers. However — and no offense to Purdy — the Ravens do have an edge at the most important position.

Both of these things can be true: Purdy deserves to be the favorite for MVP, and if you were playing tomorrow, nobody would pick him over Lamar Jackson.

Jackson continues to show that he is one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He could end up being the MVP, especially if the Ravens beat the 49ers on Monday. He has warmed up to a new offensive scheme and now seems like a perfect fit for it. He is elevating everyone around him. He can make a handful of plays every game that can turn a loss into a win. Jackson hasn’t had a great postseason yet in his career and that will follow him until it happens, but he’s clearly a special player. That raises the Ravens’ ceiling. In most games the Ravens play, they have the best player on the field.

Jackson will handle the offense and the defense is very good. The Ravens are fantastic against the pass, leading the league with 50 sacks despite not having an elite individual pass rusher. That speaks to coordinator Mike Macdonald, who has done a great job in his two seasons running Baltimore’s defense. The defense can keep Baltimore in any game. That might be the biggest reason Baltimore has led every game with two minutes to go.

The Ravens are a well-coached, balanced team with a superstar quarterback and no glaring weakness. We’ll see how close the Ravens and 49ers are when they meet Monday night. Maybe after that, the Ravens won’t be under the radar anymore.

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