The Baltimore Ravens as a franchise have been in operations for just about a quarter of a century. They have accomplished a lot of things in their time, especially given the fact that they were, officially, an expansion team. Yet this year, they have already accomplished things that they never have before.
They have already set new franchise records for points scored, for touchdowns scored, and a number of individual record, with Lamar Jackson breaking Vinny Testaverde’s touchdown record. They are damn near guaranteed at this point to finish first in scoring, as they have 50 more points than the nearest team, averaging 33.5 points per game.
Yet another first for this season: securing the number one season. While the Ravens have had a playoff bye before, one thing they’ve never done is finish with the top seed, and guaranteed homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. With a week left to go, they have now done just that.
Heading into a meaningless season finale, the Ravens are 13-2. The only team in the conference that is within a game of them is the New England Patriots, the only ones with a chance to finish the season with the same number of wins. But Baltimore has already beaten them head to head, and thus have the tiebreaker. The Ravens can lose by 1000 points and the Patriots could win by 1000 and it wouldn’t make any difference.
“It is a great accomplishment”, said John Harbaugh, now in his 12th season in Baltimore and a frontrunner for the coach of the year award. “It’s something that I’m sure people will always take pride in. It’s something we’ll look back on at some point. But right now, we’re looking forward”.
Depending upon your point of view, then ‘forward’ actually means three weeks from now, because that is the next time guys like Jackson are actually going to be on the field. He and Mark Ingram and others will almost surely be held out of next week’s game.
Then they will have the following week off for the first round of the postseason, as they anticipate hosting the lowest remaining seed from the Wildcard Round. And assuming they win their first game, they will then go on to host the AFC Championship game, no matter who else advances.
It doesn’t even feel like all that long ago that we were still talking about the possibility of catching up to the Ravens. But that would have required them losing at some point along the way. Instead, they’ve won 11 in a row, defeating some of the best teams in the NFL this season.
Surely, they would lose to the Patriots. Surely, one of the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Houston Texans would knock them off. Instead, they beat all off these teams, in some cases dominating them.
As a Steelers fan, you hate to see it. As a football fan, however, it’s been a fun ride.