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2023 NFL Power Rankings Wildcard Round: Ravens stay on top despite meaningless season finale loss

The latest power rankings following their Week 18 defeat in a game in which they rested several starters.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The vast majority of national pundits still view the Baltimore Ravens as the undisputed best team in the league even after they after they had their six-game winning streak snapped in a Week 18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that saw several starters rested. Now, it’s time to see where the team lands among the NFL landscape of power rankings heading into the Wildcard Round where they have the week off while on bye.

The Athletic: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Josh Kendall

The Ravens’ frontline players are going to be very rested. With the top seed in the AFC already clinched, Baltimore sat Lamar Jackson, Roquan Smith, Zay Flowers, Marlon Humphrey, Kyle Hamilton and others against Pittsburgh on Saturday and still almost won. The team that finished the regular season fourth in scoring (28.41 ppg) and first in scoring defense (16.5) doesn’t lose its top spot over losing a game like that. 1 (Last week: 1)

From Eric Edholm

The Ravens were afforded the luxury of resting MVP favorite Lamar Jackson and a half-dozen other starters on Saturday, and they exited the day without any additional injuries. That was the main goal of what ended up being a loss to the Steelers, although you can bet Baltimore also would have relished sending rival Pittsburgh home with a schadenfreude-inducing defeat. That didn’t happen; instead, the only team to beat the Ravens twice this season will now end up in the playoffs. If the Steelers beat the Bills on Super Wild Card Weekend, they’ll be right back at M&T Bank Stadium a week from then. The Ravens have had previous playoff disappointments, including in 2019, when they were even more dominant in the regular season than they were in 2023, winning 12 straight down the stretch before it came crashing down in a shocking loss to the Titans. There’s a special feel to this team, and Baltimore played some of its best ball of the season just prior to Week 18. But it’s also good to remember that nothing is guaranteed once the playoffs begin.

The Ringer: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Steven Ruiz

What’s at stake: Validation for the past six years of roster construction is at stake. Making up for the one-and-done disappointment of 2019 is at stake. Lamar Jackson’s reputation as a franchise-leading QB is absurdly at stake, as well. The Ravens have won a lot of football games since drafting Jackson at the end of the first round in 2018, but with only one postseason win to show for it, there are still a lot of lingering questions about this team’s ability to win in January. Those questions will only get louder if they fall short of the Super Bowl once again.

Baltimore’s path to Las Vegas isn’t nearly as daunting as it was expected to be at the beginning of the season. The Ravens will avoid their two biggest threats in the AFC—Kansas City and Buffalo—before championship weekend, and will almost certainly be favored in the conference title game if they’re in it. But that easier path to the Super Bowl will lead to greater disappointment if it doesn’t happen. If Baltimore can’t make it in a down year for the conference, it will be fair to ask whether this version of the team is capable of ever making it.

Why they can win the Super Bowl: Baltimore has the league’s most valuable player (presumably) and its top defense (statistically). That’s a good foundation for a championship run. And now that Jackson is operating a full-fledged NFL passing game—something he wasn’t given the opportunity to do under former OC Greg Roman—the postseason viability of the offense should no longer be a concern. We know it can run the ball well enough to win in January. This team has it all.

Why they can’t: It’s the same old story with this team: it can’t stay healthy. The Ravens overcame a growing list of injuries to key players during the regular season, but stars matter in the postseason and not having Mark Andrews in key offensive situations will make Jackson’s job more difficult. A banged-up secondary could have the opposite effect for opposing quarterbacks.

Sports Illustrated: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Conor Orr

Lamar Jackson has his fair share of deniers in the media, and proving them wrong en route to an MVP season must make him pretty happy. But what must make him even happier is having the real Jackson doubters—the ones who own other NFL teams—have to come out and tap dance around the question of why no one signed this guy.

Yahoo Sports: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Frank Schwab

The Ravens finished the regular season as the best team in football. They were the only 13-win team in the league. Lamar Jackson is going to win MVP. And most of that will be forgotten if they don’t make a deep playoff run with him.

Fox Sports: 1 (Last week: 1)

From David Helman

Baltimore ended the season getting swept by Pittsburgh, but that loss came because they were good enough to sit their starters in Week 18. Even with the throwaway loss, they have the best record and best resume in the league heading into the playoffs.

The 33rd Team: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Ryan Reynolds

The Baltimore Ravens finished the season with the league’s best record and its best defense, and Lamar Jackson will likely be the MVP. The Ravens had decisive wins against the Dolphins, Lions and 49ers, showing Baltimore can beat the league’s best and dominate them. Overall, the Ravens pair extreme reliability with a championship-caliber ceiling. There are two big concerns in Baltimore’s quest for the Lombardi Trophy. The first is the team will likely need to beat one of the AFC’s perennial contenders in Buffalo or Kansas City in the AFC Championship. The second is Jackson has only won a single playoff game in his career. This Ravens team is different than past iterations, but that is still an obstacle Baltimore needs to overcome.

Sharp Football Analysis: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Raymond Summerlin

Baltimore’s B-team could not get the job done against the Steelers, but they emerged from that game relatively unscathed. They will get another week to rest up before the real season gets underway.

New York Post: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Ryan Dunleavy

With MVP favorite Lamar Jackson on the bench because the No. 1 seed in the AFC was wrapped up, Tyler Huntley threw for 146 yards and a touchdown in a 17-10 loss to the Steelers. Gus Edwards and Melvin Gordon lost fumbles and the Ravens managed just seven points until Justin Tucker’s last-minute field goal preceding a non-recovered onside kick.

Pro Football Network: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Dalton Miller

The Ravens had the top seed and a bye locked up in the AFC, so there was no need to risk an injury to Lamar Jackson. Baltimore had nothing to prove, especially while playing in inclement weather.

CBS Sports: 1 (Last week: 1)

From Pete Prisco

They head to the postseason as the team to beat. Lamar Jackson has to prove he can get it done in the playoffs.

Bleacher Report: 1 (Last week: 1)

From NFL Staff

The Baltimore Ravens are hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Back in 2019, they secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs ahead of the final week of the season. They elected to sit quarterback Lamar Jackson and several other starters in the regular-season finale. Two weeks later, they were bounced from the postseason in unceremonious fashion by the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.