The Ravens are the AFC underdog playoff team that can win it all.

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Andrew Ortenberg

NFL

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I'm an NFL handicapper here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

This year, the AFC is more wide open than it has been in a long time. The Patriots aren’t their normal dominant selves, the Steelers look likely to miss the playoffs, and the AFC South has no clear leader. The Chiefs have been the AFC’s best team, but their terrible defense has haunted them when they’ve played against very good teams. The Chargers have been very good at times, but still don’t have the ability to consistently show up for big games. The underdog team that truly has the potential to win it all is the team that dominated the Chargers on national TV last week, the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are the AFC underdog playoff team that could win it all.

From Start To Finish

I’ll admit I was skeptical of the Ravens earlier this year. The defense took a step backward last season, and Joe Flacco hadn’t played well in years. The team appeared destined for another middling season, before Lamar Jackson stepped in and took the reigns from Flacco. Jackson provided an immediate spark, and Baltimore has only lost one game that he’s started, a loss that came by three points on the road against the Chiefs. It took a pretty improbable series of events for the Ravens to lose that game, and I think they’d have the edge in a re-match. They were able to get consistent pressure on Patrick Mahomes, and their defense is looking like the best in the league.

They dominated the Chargers, possibly the hottest team in the league, from start to finish last Saturday night, and Jackson looked good as a passer as well as a runner. Defense wins championships as the cliche goes, and it really is true sometimes. The 2015 Broncos defense famously carried an over the hill Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl title, so a dynamic passing offense clearly isn’t necessary to win a championship.

John Harbaugh led Ravens teams have had success against New England in the past, so I don’t think getting by the Patriots will be too hard of a hurdle to clear. Right now it looks as if the Ravens will end up the fourth seed and host the Chargers for a re-match in the wildcard round. They’ve already beaten the Chargers on the road, and shouldn’t have much trouble beating them at home in front of what should be an incredibly rowdy home crowd.

Can they really win it all?

From there, they’d likely play a first-seeded Chiefs team in Kansas City in the second round. They already took the Chiefs to overtime in their first meeting, and I think they’d be able to make the necessary adjustments to pull it out this time around. If it weren’t for Jackson twisting his ankle and a very questionable non-call at the end of the game, the Ravens very well might’ve emerged victorious from that game. They’re the team nobody wants to play right now, and the defense is playing with an intensity we haven’t seen in years as they rally around the rookie signal caller. If the Ravens can get past the Browns this weekend and make it into the playoffs, I think they have the best chance to make a Super Bowl run.

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