The Ravens could be riding an impeccable 8-0 record through the first half of the season, but sadly that's not the case as they are currently boasting an equally good 6-2 balance entering Week 9.
That said, the Flock has been playing most of their games on the road, are currently in the middle of a three-game winning streak, and they are 1.5 games above the next-best team in the AFC North (all three have the same 4-3 record).
As the leaders of their division, it makes sense to start looking forward to how the AFC might end up looking and the impact it might have on the postseason seeding and matchups.
On Wednesday, Nov. 1, ESPN tackled the question by presenting two reasons (one for the good, one for the bad) why all four teams boasting a 6-2 record (Baltimore, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami) could win (or not) the AFC during the regular season.
Why the Baltimore Ravens will win the AFC
Ravens' beat reporter Jamison Hensley wrote that Baltimore has "proved they can soundly beat anyone," but only "when they are at their best."
He highlighted the demolition of the Lions two weeks ago by a score of 36-9, saying that "Lamar Jackson has shown flashes of his 2019 NFL MVP form with his efficient passing and elusive scrambling."
"The Ravens have proved they can soundly beat anyone when they're at their best. Case in point: a 39-6 rout of the Detroit Lions two weeks ago. Lamar Jackson has shown flashes of his 2019 NFL MVP form with his efficient passing and elusive scrambling. He has completed a career-best 70.5% of his throws and has produced 16 runs of 10 yards or more, which is tied for most in the league. The strength of this team has been the defense, which has proved to be championship-caliber since the acquisition of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Roquan Smith a year ago. Baltimore leads the league in fewest points allowed at 15.1 per game, as well as sacks with 31. The Ravens have a big advantage in the schedule with only three road games remaining. Jackson is 15-2 (.882) when playing at home in November, December and January."- Jamison Hensley, ESPN
Hensley's research of this season's numbers ended with the analyst writing "Baltimore leads the league in fewest points allowed at 15.1 per game, as well as sacks with 31."
The Ravens have played most of their games on the road this season, which is also seen as a positive as they will only play three more games away from Baltimore. All of that combined with their offensive firepower and the contributions of a defense led by Roquan Smith are more than enough to believe in an AFC-winning Ravens this season.
Why the Baltimore Ravens won't win the AFC
On the other hand, Hensley pointed out "Jackson's track record in terms of health," as the main reason for concern when it comes to the Ravens' chances at winning the AFC when all is said and done.
Hensley correctly wrote Jackson "has not finished the past two seasons, and the Ravens are 2-7 without him in December and January." That said, if the only reason the pundit could find to keep the Ravens away from contention for the AFC title is Lamar's health, then we're looking as good as we can, fam.
"The obvious reason is Jackson's track record in terms of health. He has not finished the past two seasons, and the Ravens are 2-7 without him in December and January. Last season, Baltimore's offense sputtered in Jackson's absence, averaging 13 points. The other concern is the consistency of the offense in the first season under new coordinator Todd Monken. The Ravens rank 29th in the NFL in total yards in the second half (134.9) and have scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter (only three teams have fewer). Baltimore lacks an explosive running back since the season-ending Achilles injury to J.K. Dobbins, and it doesn't have a legitimate No. 3 option in the passing game after wide receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Mark Andrews. This is why the Ravens need Jackson at full strength if they want to earn the second No. 1 seed in franchise history."- Jamison Hensley, ESPN
Of course, injuries happen and Lamar has missed time. But you can only control what you can control and leaving the chances of Baltimore to clinch the AFC up to luck, well, is a rather simplistic and nonsencial way of putting a negative where there are none.
At least Hensley did his job and found something else. "The consistency of the offense in the first season under new coordinator Todd Monken," he highlighted.
Hensley went on to say that Baltimore "lacks an explosive running back since the season-ending Achilles injury to J.K. Dobbins," adding that it "doesn't have a legitimate No. 3 option in the passing game after wide receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Mark Andrews."
If you put the winning and the losing cases on a balance and look at it without purple-tinted glasses, then it's fair to say that the former outweigh the latter so I'd feel very optimistic about the Ravens chances at hitting mid-January in possession of no. 1 seed and having home-field advantage through the postseason.