The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 17 - Rodger Sherman
Winner: Romping Ravens
Normally, you don’t run up the score by running. Run plays keep the clock rolling and are generally inexplosive. If you’re running the ball late in the game, it’s probably a sign you have a big lead and are trying to put the other team out of their misery.
But by continuing to run on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens were actually making life more embarrassing for the Cincinnati Bengals. In a 38-3 win, Baltimore became just the fifth team in the league to ever record 400 rushing yards in a game, and the first since 2000. They carried the ball 54 times for 404 yards, averaging more yards on the ground (7.5 per carry) than through the air (6.4 per pass).
It was a remarkably balanced performance. Dobbins had 160 rushing yards, Lamar Jackson had 97, Gus Edwards had 60, Mark Ingram had 39, and Devin Duvernay and Justice Hill each cleared 20. The Ravens only attempted five passes in the second half—and still managed to put up 267 yards of offense and score 21 points.
After going 14-2 and earning the no. 1 seed last season, this year’s Ravens seem tamer—they’re 11-5 and weren’t guaranteed a postseason spot heading into Week 17. But after the 35-point win, Baltimore finishes the season with the NFL’s best point differential for the second straight season. Their win might have been over one of the most pathetic teams in the league—but it showed how frighteningly dominant the Ravens can be on both sides of the ball.
Ravens’ 2021 Opponents Are Finalized - Ryan Mink
Finishing in second place in the AFC North, the Ravens will take on the second-place teams in the AFC East (Miami Dolphins) and AFC South (Indianapolis Colts).
What could change this is if NFL owners approve the addition of a 17th regular-season game next season, which appears likely. Owners already agreed on the scheduling procedures for that game.
The 17th regular-season game will “be an interconference match-up based on divisional standings” from the previous campaign, and “on a rotating divisional basis.” In that case, the Ravens would, reportedly, face the Los Angeles Rams.
Ravens-Titans Poised for Another Heated Postseason Battle - Todd Karpovich
“It’s not about them; it’s about us,” Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “It really doesn’t matter who we play. We’re going to go in there with the same mentality; just focus on our assignment and just try to come out with a ‘W.’ But if we play them, then that’s a good thing, as well. It really doesn’t matter, but I’ll be grateful for whoever we play. I’m just happy we made the playoffs.”
One of the main storylines this week will center around Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is still trying to win the first playoff game of his young career.
After some early-season struggles, Jackson is playing his best football and has led the Ravens to five consecutive victories.
Jackson is the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 30 wins in his first 37 starts. He is now 30-7 as a starter.
“We faced a lot of adversity,” Jackson said. “People doubted us a lot throughout the season because we weren’t having the year that we had last year, but it’s ‘Any Given Sunday,’ and our team fought through that, and we showed the world we’re here to play, and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
NFL Super Wild Card Weekend: One big question for each of the six games - Gregg Rosenthal
Is this the start of the Ravens’ revenge tour?
The Ravens are not your average wild-card team. They led the NFL in point differential entering Week 17, only adding to their margin after beating the Bengals 38-3. They have won five in a row and are led by 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, who is putting up MVP numbers over the last month. Baltimore is the proverbial Team No One Wants to Face.
The Titans were that team last year, when they rudely ended the 2019 Ravens’ dream season. And then Tennessee appeared to knock John Harbaugh’s 2020 squad down for the count in Week 11, overcoming a 21-10 road deficit to win in overtime, the low point in this Baltimore campaign. In short: Nashville would be an amazing spot for the Ravens to earn the first playoff win of the Lamar era.
Tennessee’s offense ranks with the explosive units in Kansas City and Buffalo, but the Titans’ defense falls among the sieves in Jacksonville and Detroit. If the Ravens were to win, they could possibly be headed to Kansas City in the Divisional Round for another revenge game. Did I mention how good these AFC playoffs look?
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans in the wildcard round: Initial thoughts on the matchup - Aaron Kasinitz
Starting fast, for both teams, is key
Before the Ravens and Titans played in November, Vrabel faced a question about what made Baltimore a difficult opponent for most of the NFL.
“They start extremely fast,” he said. “We’re going to have to be very competitive. We’re going to have to be ready to go early on.”
The Ravens are built to play with a lead as much as any NFL team because of their reliance on the rushing attack and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s habit of dialing up blitzes. Baltimore doesn’t have the passing game firepower of the Chiefs or Bills or Packers, teams that more regularly erase deficits.
And stats support Vrabel’s suggestion that early starts are especially crucial against the Ravens: Baltimore is 10-2 this year when it scores a first quarter touchdown and 1-3 when it doesn’t.
If Vrabel sees great significance in the first few drives of the game, the Titans on Sunday might pull out their best, most elaborate schemes in any attempt to jump ahead. The Ravens better be prepared with a counter.