After ugly Pats loss, Ravens officially team to beat

Associated PressBaltimore quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, left, is the NFL’s MVP front runner. And his Ravens are now officially the AFC’s team to beat.

This space was supposed to be me opining about what the top-seeded New England Patriots did to the Houston Texans.

That seems to be a ritual.

But things don’t always go as planned with your Patriots, who looked bad in a 28-22 loss Sunday night in Houston. And now, at 10-2, they are the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

This space, instead, is now reserved for the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a better story right now. And, depending on where you stand, it’s getting better every month.

They just completed the toughest portion of their schedule, this time dispatching the San Francisco 49ers on a last-second field goal.

For once, the Ravens won and it wasn’t easy. And if you think that’s a good thing, that the Ravens won a tough game, think again.

The kick was clutch, 49 yards, in the wind and rain. True, Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the business, but if he was going to miss this would have been it.

The Ravens have passed all of the exams they’ve faced since the beginning of October. All of them. Some of them with an A+.

If anybody says they predicted this, outside of Ravens fans, they’re lying. Power Rankings had the Ravens at No. 16 out of 32 teams in the first week of October with a 2-2 record and said this:

The Ravens have reached a crisis point with their defense. Who thought that day would ever come?

Since then the Ravens have won eight straight. Four of those wins have been, by themselves, potential season-changers.

Which was more impressive? Beating the Seahawks in Seattle? KOing the undefeated Patriots? Burying the Rams 45-6 on Monday night in L.A.? Or was it Sunday’s 20-17 “barn-burner” over the 49ers in horrible rain and wind?

The Ravens have one more season-changer, this one in Buffalo on Sunday, which will be a Super Bowl-like atmosphere in western N.Y.

But we don’t need to wait until next Sunday to understand the Ravens will probably be there until the end in mid-January.

You might not like or appreciate their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, but he’s got that “it” factor.

Run-first quarterbacks have a history of failing, eventually. And while some of his most ardent fans will argue he passes as well as runs, it doesn’t matter.

He has injected life into a franchise that was, at best, decent since winning the Super Bowl in February of 2013, finishing 50-46.

Yesterday wasn’t anything worthy of SportsCenter highlights. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 105 yards. But he did rush the ball 16 times for 101 yards.

Jackson ran for seven first downs, five on third down and another on fourth down.

He was basically Tom Brady yesterday — moving the chains and controlling the game.

Now his defense, which was “laughable” the first month of the season according to, has allowed 43 points over the last four games.

Offensively? Yikes. They’ve averaged 36 points per game over their last six games.

The moral of the story, despite the hurdle Sunday night, is that the Patriots and Ravens are still on a collision course.

We have a month to find out where it is played. And that might matter most.

You can email Bill Burt at

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