All summer the talk was about the Baltimore Ravens' new-look offense and the anticipation of Lamar Jackson throwing it around more, which would make him even more of a focal point of this team with the renewed focus on the passing game.
Jackson has been really good in the new offense under Todd Monken -- a legitimate MVP candidate in fact -- but the real MVP of this team so far is not Jackson's wonderful ability to play quarterback.
It's the defense.
The Baltimore Ravens and defense have become synonymous over the years, and this group is playing defense as well as any team in the league. The Ravens lead the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 13.6 points per game -- 11.0 in the last three -- and also lead in sacks with 35.
The 2000 Ravens defense is considered one of the best ever; it was the best scoring defense in a 16-game season, giving up 10.3 points per game. This year's team is right there with them when it comes to scoring, but that team had just 43 sacks on this season for an average of 2.7 sacks per game. This group is averaging a league-best 3.9 sacks per game.
The Seattle Seahawks came into Sunday's game averaging 24 points, and the Ravens held them to six first downs with four sacks. The Seahawks averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per play.
Second-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald does a great job of calling the defense, attacking from different areas and using all 11 guys to be disruptive. They use a bunch of pass rushers -- no real dominant star -- in a variety of ways to create havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Macdonald is considered a rising star in the profession, a guy who will be a head coach soon.
The Ravens are up to No. 2 in my Power Rankings this week, but easily could stake a claim to the top spot since they have a point differential of +115. That's amazing. The Ravens' only losses came in overtime to Gardner Minshew and the Colts and a blown game they had no business losing to the Steelers.
This week, they get the Cleveland Browns, who have the top-ranked defense in terms of yards -- the Ravens are second -- and Cleveland is third in scoring defense at 17.4 points per game. So there are bragging rights on the line.
The difference is the Ravens are also a top-10 team in scoring offense, averaging 26.6 points to rank sixth. That offense is getting better by the week, with Jackson really starting to jell in the Monken offense.
That's why the Ravens will be a true Super Bowl challenger in the end. But it's the defense that has them there right now. It's scary to think what this team will be as Jackson and the offense continue to improve.
|They beat the Cowboys, but they have to be concerned about their defense. It's having issues stopping teams. Jalen Hurts is also limited by his knee injury.
|They don't have a lot of stars on defense, but they have a lot of guys making plays. They might not be the 2000 Ravens defense, but it's not far off at this point.
|They come off their bye with a huge game against the 49ers at home. That is a proving game of sorts in terms of the national stage.
|The defense has really played well this season and showed it against Miami. The offense? It still doesn't have the Patrick Mahomes feel to it.
|Joe Burrow is back. He picked apart the Bills on Monday night, but it's how he moved that tells us he's healthy again. The slow start seems like a long time ago.
|They come off their bye with a tough road trip to play the Chargers. They have to feel good about their first half in a lot of ways.
|They lost to the Eagles, but they have to feel good about the way they played. Dak Prescott came up big in a big game, which is important for down the road.
|They have to show they can beat a good team. It hasn't happened yet, so the questions are still there.
|They've lost three straight games and now face a tough trip to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars. Adding Chase Young will certainly help their cause.
|They have offensive issues in large part because of the play-calling. They need to let Josh Allen play fast because the defense has lost too many players.
|It was not a good trip to Baltimore for this group. They just didn't look like a team that went in 5-2, getting dominated in all areas.
|Josh Dobbs to the rescue. Dobbs came off the bench in his first game with the team and led it to a comeback victory. At 5-4, the Vikings are alive in the playoff race.
|The defense just dominated the Cardinals in shutting them out with seven sacks. They didn't really need Deshaun Watson back, even though he did play.
|They lead the NFC South after beating the Bears on Sunday. But they haven't come close to playing to their potential yet.
|That might not have been a season-saving victory over the Jets, but they had to have it. The offense still isn't close to being good right now.
|How does Mike Tomlin have this team at 5-3? It has been on the negative side of the yardage battle in every game it has played.
|C.J. Stroud is proving to be the best of the rookie passers. He lit up the Bucs defense for more than 400 yards as the Texans evened their record at 4-4.
|The defense came up big in beating the Panthers on the road with two Kenny Moore pick-six touchdowns. Their schedule is favorable in the second half.
|The offense has played well the past two weeks with Sam Howell coming on strong. They beat the Patriots with over 400 yards of offense, which is a good sign as they get to 4-5 on the season.
|The offense is too limited without Aaron Rodgers. The offensive line is awful and Zach Wilson isn't good enough.
|They didn't beat the Steelers, but they have a quarterback. Will Levis has to be their guy going forward. Too bad he doesn't have much help.
|So much for the change at quarterback changing things up. They are heading in the wrong direction and changes could be coming if they don't turn it around.
|The Antonio Pierce era got off to a good start by blowing out the Giants. They sure looked a lot looser without Josh McDaniels around.
|They showed against Green Bay how limited they are without Matt Stafford. They head to their bye on a three-game losing streak.
|They've lost four straight games, even if three were close losses. What has happened to that defense? Denver Broncos - They come off their bye with a tough road game against the Bills. They looked good In beating the Chiefs before the bye, but this is another brutal test.
|They come off their bye with a tough road game against the Bills. They looked good In beating the Chiefs before the bye, but this is another brutal test.
|This is going to be a long season and one that will question the future of Bill Belichick in New England. He should stay as long as he wants, but you never know.
|They beat a backup quarterback, but a win is a win, I guess. It's something to build on.
|There is a chance Justin Fields is back this week, and they need him. They have to use the rest of the season to find out if he's the guy long term.
|With Daniel Jones out now with a knee injury, it's time to tank. Maybe they can get one of the top guys next year.
|They have to hope Kyler Murray can go this week, and it looks like he might. The offense badly needs him after what we saw against Cleveland last week.
|This is going in the wrong direction for Bryce Young. Two pick-sixes in one game is terrible quarterback play.