It's time to give the Baltimore Ravens and coach John Harbaugh the credit they deserve for where the Ravens sit after six weeks of the 2021 NFL season.
The Ravens have ripped off five straight victories after an opening-week loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, but it's the way they've done it that has Harbaugh deserving loads of accolades. The Ravens have had 16 players on injured reserve this season, several key ones among them, yet here they are, heading into a key division game with the Cincinnati Bengals this week (yes, I just wrote that), sitting atop the AFC North and clearly being one of the best teams in the conference.
The Ravens easily beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 31-6, Sunday in a game that was never in doubt. Six days after seeing Lamar Jackson carve up the Indianapolis Colts with his arm, the Ravens got back to their run-it-and-play-great-defense game plan from recent years.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had no chance Sunday as he was sacked five times, picked off once, and hardly looked like the MVP candidate he was coming into the game. The Ravens confused him with a bunch of different looks and the Chargers never adjusted.
As for the Baltimore offense, it was the ground game that won the game. The Ravens ran for 187 yards, averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and pushed the Chargers defense around. It was so good that aging backs Le'Veon Bell, Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman all scored touchdowns.
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None of those backs were on the roster this summer. But injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards forced the Ravens to make moves to fill up the running back room. Those injured Ravens are not alone. They've also lost cover corner Marcus Peters for the year, had to deal with offensive line injuries all season, as well as getting hit with injuries outside to their receivers.
Through it all, Jackson has carried the team as he's played at an MVP level with his passing, which has improved dramatically, yet he remains the same dynamic runner we've seen over the years.
The Ravens are up to No. 6 in my Power Rankings this week as they ready for the Bengals. Navigating the early part of the season the way he has, Harbaugh has made himself a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate.
If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they will have command of the division just as they are starting to get some injured guys back healthy. Watch out for the Ravens come January since they've already made it through a brutal stretch.
|Winning without coach Kliff Kingsbury on the road at Cleveland speaks volumes about this team. They are the real deal.||--||3-10-0|
|They have a lot of injuries on defense, but they held up against the Bears. It wasn't always pretty last week, but good teams find a way to win those games. This is a good team.||1||6-6-0|
|They looked dominant on the road against the Giants. The Giants aren't a good team, but the way they did it shows how impressive this team cam be. Matt Stafford is off to a nice start.||1||6-6-0|
|Once they get healthy on defense, they will look like the Super Bowl team from a year ago. The offense can roll up big numbers quickly with Tom Brady and those weapons.||2||5-7-0|
|They dominated the Patriots for much of the game, yet still had to win in overtime. The offense was special, but they turned the ball over in key spots. Dak Prescott is in the MVP conversation.||2||9-3-0|
|The Ravens abused the Chargers on both sides of the ball. The play of the defense is a good sign going forward, especially with the Bengals on tap this week.||2||9-3-0|
|What happened to the defense Monday night? Even Josh Allen couldn't bail them out. The decision to go for the touchdown late was the right call.||5||6-6-0|
|That was a terrible showing at Baltimore. They hardly resembled the team that was being talked about as a Super Bowl contender.||3||5-7-0|
|They come off the bye at 3-2 on the verge of getting a lot of key injured players back. Watch out as they get healthier. Sean Payton has done a nice job with this team.||2||5-7-0|
|Against Washington, they finally looked closer to the Super Bowl team from the past two years. The defense wasn't a disaster, which is progress.||2||8-4-0|
|So much for missing Jon Gruden. They beat up on Denver without Gruden, who resigned last week in a scandal. That says a lot about this team.||3||5-7-0|
|At 4-2, they play a huge game this week with the Ravens with first place at stake. Yes, first place. The defense showed well against the Lions.||4||6-6-0|
|They still have major defensive issues, but they showed in beating the Bills that they can play with anybody when the offense is clicking. Just give it to Derrick Henry.||3||4-8-0|
|They got beat up good by the Cardinals at home. The talk of any Super Bowl has to be put on hold for now. They have issues with so many injuries.||5||7-5-0|
|They've won two straight to get to 3-3 after beating the Panthers in overtime. The offense got back on track after a few so-so games, which is a good sign.||7||6-6-0|
|They made it interesting against the Seahawks, but found a way to win it in overtime. At 3-3, they've won two straight and things are looking up.||7||7-5-0|
|As Carson Wentz gets better each week, so do the Colts. They are getting healthy after a slow start, which is why they are back in the division race.||7||7-5-0|
|Sam Darnold has been ordinary the past few weeks, opening up the talk again that they need a quarterback to build around. He's struggled the past few weeks.||3||1-11-0|
|Justin Fields has had some flashes, but he is too inconsistent to win each week right now. There will be growing pains with rookie starters - and he's having some.||6||4-8-0|
|They battled at Pittsburgh with Geno Smith at quarterback, but they just have a different feel without Russell Wilson. At 2-4, with Wilson likely out another month or so, they have major problems.||3||6-6-0|
|They've lost three straight games and didn't look good for much of that loss to the Raiders. Is the heat back on Vic Fangio? It could be.||3||6-6-0|
|They come off their bye with the likelihood that Jimmy Garoppolo could be back at quarterback. They can't let the Cardinals and Rams get too far away in the division.||3||9-3-0|
|They made it close against Tampa Bay, but it really wasn't that kind of game. At some point, they have to run the ball better.||3||10-2-0|
|They fought hard against the Cowboys, but the reality is they didn't slow them down much on defense. They're off to an 0-4 start at home this season.||3||2-10-0|
|The Falcons come off their bye with a game against Miami. Health has been a major problem for them early, but some of their wounded will be coming back soon.||--||6-6-0|
|So much for the idea that this team would compete for the division title. The defense has really let them down as they sit at 2-4 on the year.||--||4-9-0|
|With all the injuries on offense, Daniel Jones had his worst game of the season against the Rams. The Giants were terrible in that game on both sides of the ball, which drops them to 1-5.||--||4-8-0|
|Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence got their first NFL victory last week, which has to feel good going into the bye. Lawrence is growing as a quarterback each week.||4||8-4-0|
|It's official after the loss to the Jaguars: Brian Flores is on the hot seat. This was considered a potential playoff team, but now they are 1-5, which is not a good look for Flores.||1||9-3-0|
|They won't win a lot of games this year, but that was to be expected. Now comes all the talk about what to do with Deshaun Watson and when to trade him.||1||7-5-0|
|They better hope rookie passer Zach Wilson uses the bye to focus on his game. He has really struggled to start his career.||1||4-8-0|
|After weeks of playing close games, they got dominated by the Bengals. They are just too undermanned. Can they go 0-17? It's possible.||1||9-3-0|