Ravens not in first place for first time in nearly a year: How loss to Chiefs affects AFC North race

The Ravens34-20 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night not only reinforced the fact the Kansas City, at this point in the season, is a superior team after defeating Baltimore for a third straight time. The loss also knocked the Ravens from their perch atop the AFC North for the first time in nearly a year. Baltimore, 2-1 through three weeks, is now looking up at the Steelers, who are 3-0 for the first time since 2010. 

After relying on Lamar Jackson’s magic (as well as a Pittsburgh late-season collapse) to capture the AFC North in 2018, the Ravens coasted to a second-straight division title in 2019, winning six more games than Pittsburgh, who finished second with an 8-8 record. And while Baltimore should still be considered the favorite to win the division again, the Ravens, unlike last season, will have their work cut out for them. 

Monday night’s loss exposed the ugly truth about the Ravens: if you can stop their running game, your chances at victory increase considerably. The Chiefs held Lamar Jackson to under 100 yards passing. The Chiefs’ defense deserves credit, and Jackson was also the victim of several dropped passes. He also made several costly overthrows, leaving critical points on the field. 

Baltimore’s offense continued an unseemly trend. Jackson was again the team’s leading rusher, on a team that has Mark Ingram (a Pro Bowler last season), Gus Edwards (who rushed for 711 yards last season while averaging 5.3 yards per carry) and J.K. Dobbins, the team’s second-round pick who had six times as many receiving yards than rushing yards on Monday. While Jackson is a dynamic runner, the fact that he is still being asked to be the team’s leading ballcarrier is puzzling. 

Lamar Jackson


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Jackson’s 32 carries through three games is six more than Baltimore’s second leading rusher, Mark Ingram.

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The Ravens, given the Steelers’ improved defense, will have to improve their passing game before their first game against Pittsburgh in Week 7. The Steelers, after watching the Ravens set the NFL team rushing record in 2019, have dedicated themselves to stopping the run. And while they have occasionally allowed some untimely completions as a result of their focus on stopping the run, Pittsburgh currently boasts the league’s top-ranked run defense after holding its first three opponents to 162 total yards and 2.7 yards per carry. If Baltimore is going to have success against Pittsburgh, Jackson and his teammates will have to have success through the air in order to open things up for Baltimore’s ground game. 

The Ravens’ defense will have to ready itself for a vastly improved division, too. While the Steelers have surrounded Ben Roethlisberger with arguably their deepest receiving corps in his 17 years, the Browns and Bengals have also seen significant growth on the offensive side of the ball. Cleveland, after getting manhandled by the Ravens in Week 1, responded to that loss with wins over Cincinnati and Washington. In both games, Cleveland’s offense was the difference, with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combining to rush for 364 yards and five touchdowns while helping the Browns get above .500 for the first time since 2014. The Browns’ defense has also shown signs of improvement, as Cleveland recorded three sacks and three interceptions of Dwayne Haskins in Sunday’s win. The Browns’ defense also welcomed back linebacker Mack Wilson and cornerback Kevin Johnson, who missed time earlier this year due to injury. 

Cincinnati is not expected to compete for the division title this season, but is nonetheless a significantly better team than the one that won just two games last season. After losing their first two games by a combined eight points, the Bengals managed to salvage a tie in Philadelphia on Sunday. While their defense is among the worst in the NFL against the run, the Bengals are sixth in the league in yards allowed, 14th in points allowed and 12th in red zone efficiency. Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick, has enjoyed a stellar start to his career, as he has completed 64.5% of his passes for 821 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. 

As stated earlier, the Ravens should still be considered the frontrunner to come out of the AFC North. One loss to the defending Super Bowl champs is not a major concern. They have the reigning league MVP under center, a proven rushing attack, and a defense that is currently fourth in the league in fewest yards allowed. That being said, Baltimore’s continued offensive issues, along with the fact that each team in the AFC North made considerable jumps this offseason, has made them vulnerable in a division that is significantly more competitive than it was a year ago. And for the first time in a long time, they’re not in first place.

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