NFL winners and losers: Ravens surge propels them to AFC North takeover

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images The Ravens are back to being for real. Monday Night Football Update The Ravens have had a curious 2021 that’s largely flown under the radar after being written off due to a season opening loss to the Raiders. Now, four weeks later and at 4-1, the Ravens have solidified themselves as perhaps one of the only real threats to the Bills in the AFC. Baltimore’s win on Monday night against the Colts was far more difficult than it should have been, but took serious resolve not to fold and instead surge in the final quarter. It was a gut check the team needed to prove it could deal with adversity, and they passed the test. Sometimes inspiration comes from weird places, and a win over Indianapolis on prime time could be the event that propels the Ravens to new heights. Winner: Lamar Jackson Unquestionably one of the greatest comebacks in the modern NFL occurred because of one of the best quarterback stat lines I can ever remember. Jackson finished the game 37-of-43, 442 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 62 yards, because sometimes you just need to gain 500 yards by yourself. In total the Ravens finished the game with 523 yards of offense. Jackson was responsible for 504. That is absolutely absurd. “How ‘bout them Cowboys?” A saying that started with Jimmy Johnson in 1992 has become unquestionably one of the most annoying in sports for the last three decades. For years it’s epitomized everything that frustrates 31 other fanbases about Dallas. The over-exposure, the endless promises that “this is gonna be their year,” and the frustration of hitting mid-season and wondering why a 3-5 team still has four primetime games left on the schedule. I know there’s a push by a lot of fans to ignore Dallas, as if it somehow paying them no mind and downplaying their accomplishments will somehow correct the cosmic imbalance of being an every-week talking point — but the truth is, it’s impossible to ignore them this season. This isn’t really about Dallas beating the Giants on Sunday, I mean not really. It’s more about what the Cowboys aren’t doing this season, and what they didn’t do against New York: Blow it. This has kind of been the Cowboys modus operandi for the past several years. They look supremely talented and ready to take control of the NFC East, then inexplicably play down to their competition in dramatic fashion, often dropping games they should have won. Now sitting at 4-1, the team is firing on all cylinders. For the first time in a very, very long time it feels like everything is coming together, and there’s no discernible weakness to their game — and that’s what’s so unique about this season. In the past you’d have explosive offenses in Dallas, paired with terrible defense. Then perhaps it all comes together, but the result is underperformance because of bad coaching. This season so far? I can’t really find fault with much the Cowboys are doing. It’s really early, I know, but I’m starting to get some serious Andy Reid vibes out of Mike McCarthy. It remains to be seen if the scenery change can result in anything close to the success Reid has had in Kansas City, and there’s plenty more time needed to prove it — but I dunno, I just really like what I’ve seen from a coaching perspective. McCarthy came in and stressed the need for Dallas to be more aggressive on defense and force turnovers, which is a complimentary scheme to an explosive offense. If you can simply generate more offensive series with a team that can score at will, then it kind of goes without saying that you’re going to win football games. With a league-leading 10 interceptions this season, the Cowboys are second in the NFL in turnover differential at a +7 on the season, and it’s proof positive that McCarthy’s point of emphasis is paying dividends. Now, it also helps when you inherit some of the best offensive weapons in the NFL. Let’s not gloss that over. Dak Prescott is playing phenomenal football right now, which is really great to see following his 2020 season going down the drain with injury, and Ezekiel Elliot is back to being a dominant back the ‘Boys can rely on to give them 100 yard games whenever their need them. The receiving weapons Dallas has are off the charts too — making it a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. I’m not entirely sure how you can be expected to cover CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper when there’s an emerging pass catching threat in tight end Dalton Schultz, an unheralded star for Dallas this season. As it stands, nobody really knows how to stop this either, because the Cowboys are averaging 34 points a game. So, hate on them if you must — but right now if someone asks “How bout them Cowboys?” you should really just say “they’re damn good,” because anything else would be disingenuous. Winner: Davante Adams I’m not sure Packers fans would be comfortable with the phrase “overtime shootout with the Cincinnati Bengals,” I mean, it’s not exactly a confi

Oct 13, 2021 - SB Nation
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images The Ravens are back to being for real. Monday Night Football Update The Ravens have had a curious 2021 that’s largely flown under the radar after being written off due to a season opening loss to the Raiders. Now, four weeks later and at 4-1, the Ravens have solidified themselves as perhaps one of the only real threats to the Bills in the AFC. Baltimore’s win on Monday night against the Colts was far more difficult than it should have been, but took serious resolve..