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Despite QB uncertainty, Ravens cling to crowded AFC playoff image – The Denver Post

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not only weekly performances, injuries and roster depth, but also how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders.

Here are the standings before week 15:

Super Bowl Favorites

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1, No. 1 last week)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3, No. 2)

3. Buffalo Bills (10-3, No. 3)

With a 48-22 rout of the Giants, the Eagles became the first team to earn a playoff berth this season. But with the NFC’s first seed and a first-round bye in sight, they’re looking at a lot more. Quarterback Jalen Hurts continued to build his most valuable player case, completing 21 of 31 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 77 yards and a score. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 10 touchdowns in consecutive seasons, and the Eagles have now scored at least 30 points in three straight games. They peak at the perfect time.

In the AFC, it’s always Kansas City and Buffalo in the lead. The Chiefs nearly let slip a 27-0 lead in a 34-28 win over the Broncos, but Patrick Mahomes and company continued to dominate Denver and the rest of the AFC West. Mahomes is now 10-0 against the Broncos, becoming the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have 10 or more unbeaten wins against a single opponent, as the Chiefs moved closer to claiming their seventh division crown consecutive. Even on a day when Mahomes threw three interceptions and the defense allowed three touchdowns in 3½ minutes, Kansas City came away with a win that all but cements its chance to host at least one playoff game.

The Bills also found themselves in a tussle with a division rival, earning a 20-12 victory over the Jets. It wasn’t a crushing performance from quarterback Josh Allen, who went 16-for-27 for 147 yards and a touchdown and ran for 47 yards and a score, but Buffalo’s defense forced two fumbles and ran for constantly found facing Jets quarterback Mike White, who was sacked twice and hit eight times before being taken to hospital as a precaution with a rib injury. Even without star pass thrower Von Miller, who is out for the season with a knee injury, the Bills have shown they have the depth on the defensive line to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

The Imperfect Suitors

4. Dallas Cowboys (10-3, No. 4)

5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4, No. 5)

6. San Francisco 49ers (9-4, No. 7)

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-4, No. 9)

8. Minnesota Vikings (10-3, No. 6)

9. Miami Dolphins (8-5, No. 8)

10. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6, No. 15)

Going into Sunday, the quarterbacks facing Tom Brady in their first career start were 0-6, which isn’t all that surprising given Brady’s historic accomplishments. That only adds to the mystique of “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 draft that led the 49ers to a dominating 35-7 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. Purdy was remarkably efficient, completing 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns while rushing to score. It’s the kind of performance that gives San Francisco hope that they can not only earn a playoff spot following Jimmy Garoppolo’s foot injury, but maybe get back to the title game. the conference. Now, all eyes are on the health of star receiver Deebo Samuel, who the team says should “return at some point in the regular season” after suffering a sprained left knee and sprained left ankle. .

Thanks to wins by the Ravens, Bengals and Chargers, the AFC is even more united. Let’s start with Baltimore, who had to survive another quarterback injury to outlast the Steelers, 16-14. With Lamar Jackson already sidelined with a knee injury and Tyler Huntley sent to concussion protocol after a big hit in the third quarter on Sunday, undrafted rookie Anthony Brown stepped in to help the Ravens earn their seventh win. in their last eight games. It was another solid showing from the defense that led the way, as the Ravens knocked out Steelers backup Mitch Trubisky three times and held Pittsburgh to just 3.3 yards per carry. Perhaps even more encouraging was the play of running back JK Dobbins, who rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in his first game since undergoing knee arthroscopy in October. It was a win the Ravens had to have to keep pace with the Bengals in the AFC North, especially with all the uncertainty surrounding the health of their quarterbacks. If they’re going to turn to Brown in a short week against Cleveland, they should feel confident enough in their defense and running game to get the job done.

If the season ended today, the Ravens would open the wildcard round against the Dolphins, a team that embarrassed them in Week 2 with 28 fourth quarter points. But Sunday night, Miami’s offense was nothing like that high-flying attack we saw in Baltimore. After playing as one of the league’s best quarterbacks for much of the season, Tua Tagovailoa completed just 10 of 28 passes for 145 yards in a 23-17 loss to the Chargers, and he was lucky as cornerback Michael Davis fell on a 60-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the third quarter. Without that play and Hill’s odd 57-yard fumble recovery for a score, it would have been even uglier. One game doesn’t define Tagovailoa’s season, and Miami’s defense has played well for periods despite being picked apart by Justin Herbert, who went 39 for 51 for 367 yards and a touchdown to pass. Andrew Luck for the most passing yards in the first three quarters. seasons. But it exposed cracks in a Dolphins team that looked set to be a playoff contender.

Wildcards

11. Seattle Seahawks (7-6, No. 11)

12. Tennessee Titans (7-6, No. 12)

13. Washington Commanders (7-5-1, #13)

14. Detroit Lions (6-7, No. 18)

15. New York Giants (7-5-1, #14)

16. New York Jets (7-6, No. 16)

17. New England Patriots (7-6, No. 19)

No team that started 1-6 has ever made the playoffs, but the Lions could be first after beating the Vikings, 34-23, for their fifth victory in their last six games. Detroit was actually the betting favorite against a team with five more wins coming in Sunday, showing that this resurgence under second-year coach Dan Campbell is no fluke. Quarterback Jared Goff continued his hot stretch, completing 27 of 39 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns to help the Lions score 25 or more points in five straight games for the first time since 1954. Featuring DJ Chark and the rookie Jameson Williams – who caught a 41-yard touchdown for his first NFL reception – now healthy, Detroit may have the deepest receiver group in the league. Don’t forget the defense, too, which held star running back Dalvin Cook to 1.5 yards per carry, his lowest in a game with at least 10 carries in his six-year career. Many envisioned 2023 as the year the Lions would finally be a playoff contender, but they could be ahead of schedule.

Not finished yet

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7, No. 10)

19. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8, #24)

20. Carolina Panthers (5-8, No. 26)

21. Las Vegas Raiders (5-8, No. 17)

22. Atlanta Falcons (5-8, No. 22)

23. Green Bay Packers (5-8, No. 23)

Don’t look now, but the Jaguars are just two games away from first place in the AFC South. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence delivered one of his best games as a pro in a 36-22 win over the Titans, completing 30 of 42 passes for a career-high 368 yards and three touchdowns. At 23 years and 66 days old, he became the youngest player in NFL history to record 350 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in a single game, helping Jacksonville end a an eight-game losing streak in Nashville. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft is living up to high expectations lately, posting the league’s best completion rate (71.8%) since early November while throwing for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns during this period. Jacksonville still has a lot to prove before it can be considered a true playoff contender, but Lawrence and first-year coach Doug Pederson deserve credit for turning things around this season.

The basement

24. Cleveland Browns (5-8, No. 20)

25. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8, No. 21)

26. Los Angeles Rams (4-9, No. 30)

27. New Orleans Saints (4-9, No. 27)

28. Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1, No. 28)

29. Arizona Cardinals (4-9, #25)

30. Denver Broncos (3-10, No. 29)

31. Chicago Bears (3-10, No. 31)

32. Houston Texans (1-11-1, No. 32)

At least Baker Mayfield will make the final month of the Rams’ season interesting. In his first game with Los Angeles after being cut by the Panthers, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft led two late touchdowns to deliver an unlikely 17-16 win over the Raiders on Thursday night. Mayfield stepped in just two days after joining the Rams, the shortest time spent with a new team before playing quarterback since at least 1995, according to NFL Research. It was a marriage of convenience after the Rams lost Matthew Stafford for the season, but it gives Mayfield a chance to rebuild his reputation by entering free agency. If he can continue to play at a high level under coach Sean McVay, he could at least have a great career as a substitute.

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