Patriots and Ravens’ Sunday Night Spectacle might have been an AFC Championship preview

by Jordy McElroy

An electric performance by quarterback Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a surprisingly lopsided 37-20 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday. It was a night of celebration for the Ravens earning their biggest win of the season, but it was also one of understanding the war with the Patriots in 2019 could be far from over.

Move over New England and Kansas City, the Ravens have arrived as legitimate AFC contenders.

Jackson stared The Boogeymen right in the face on Sunday and rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for 163 yards and one touchdown. Call him the Ghostbuster because he wasn’t afraid of any ghosts in the pocket when facing the vaunted Patriots defense.

The Ravens, who now sit in second place in the AFC, have taken a backseat to the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs talk all season, but their scintillating performance on Sunday turned the two-horse race into a three-wagon marathon. John Harbaugh, the Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning head coach, finally has his quarterback to contend for a second championship.

There is some concern for the Chiefs with reigning MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes working his way back onto the field from a knee and ankle injury. While Matt Moore proved to be a capable starter by defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9, he doesn’t boast the sort of otherworldly talent of Mahomes to get the team over the hump.

So an argument could easily be made that the Patriots and Ravens are the two teams on a collision course in the AFC.

No one ever expected the Patriots to go undefeated, even though the way they lost was pretty surprising. They still have a pair of significant offensive contributors returning to the team after their bye week in left tackle Isaiah Wynn and rookie first-round draft pick receiver N’Keal Harry. After seeing how quickly newly-acquired wideout Mohamed Sanu is adjusting to the offense, the unit could experience a return to form once the reinforcements arrive.

It’s easy to forget the Patriots were blown out by the Tennessee Titans ahead of their bye week last season, which aided in them assuming the role as underdogs and going on a sixth Super Bowl run. They’ll spend the next two weeks listening to people call them overrated, while meticulously planning their response for Week 11. Few coaches can turn a fire into a roaring blaze like Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The real question is whether the Ravens will be able to match what should be an inferno by the playoffs, assuming the two teams meet up again. It’s hard beating the same team twice in the same season, and the Patriots will have the benefit of film and actual experience facing the Ravens’ unique, run-heavy offense. Not to mention the rematch might also take place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough if the Patriots go on to win home-field advantage.

You can rest assured the Ravens are in the same boat as the Chiefs hoping the Patriots have multiple slip-ups in their next four outings, which is by far the toughest part of their schedule. However, things get significantly more challenging for the Ravens as well after their Week 10 road meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals. Games against the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills are next on the itinerary.

There are far too many what ifs to lean one way or the other, but the Ravens should be happy enough being in the conversation. What an amazing season this has been so far for Jackson, who was the fifth quarterback taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

After being valued less than players like Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, he is a viable candidate for league MVP in only his second year in the NFL. 

The primary goal, however, is making the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl.

Of course, the path towards a lofty goal like that could lead to a heavyweight rematch with the Patriots in January, when seasons are on the line and legacies cemented in history. That path could place Jackson directly in the crosshairs of a healthier and better-prepared Patriots team.

The Ghostbuster vs. The Boogeymen part two in the playoffs—can it get any better?

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