Preston: Here’s why the Ravens aren’t a top-tier playoff team ... yet

Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Sunday’s 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Until they prove otherwise, the Ravens are a second-tier playoff team.

That’s why their 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday was no big deal. The Chiefs and the New England Patriots are in the top class of the AFC, and the Ravens are in the second group, possibly alongside the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.


It was evident last year by the end of the season, and things haven’t changed yet. There are still a lot of games left, and the Ravens might be able to climb to the next level, but it depends on the development of their young players.

The Ravens had a chance to beat the Chiefs, but the game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. It’s hard for anyone to win at Arrowhead Stadium, and even harder against a team playing at home for the first time since losing the AFC championship game in overtime to the eventual Super Bowl champions.


A lot of NFL players have played in big games during their college careers, but the Ravens have a young core just starting to settle in as starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson; receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin; tight end Mark Andrews; linebackers Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young and Chris Board; safety Chuck Clark; and cornerback Anthony Averett.

The Chiefs did a good job of exploiting the Ravens’ weaknesses, which meant pressuring Jackson and attacking the secondary. The Ravens allowed 503 yards of total offense.

“We feel like we could be the best team in this league,” Ravens running back Mark Ingram II said. “We just have to make our plays and not give up plays, and obviously I think we’re going to respond the right way from this. We have a bunch of guys who have high character, high integrity.

“A lot of our guys have chips on their shoulders and have that dog mentality. I expect us to bounce back stronger."

Kansas City basically kept its team intact from a year ago but added several new players on defense, as well as a new defensive coordinator. The Chiefs re-primed the pump for the 2019 season, especially with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning Most Valuable Player.

The Ravens are still trying to find themselves. They can’t plug the holes in the secondary, which allowed big plays for the third straight week. On Sunday, Mahomes threw for 374 yards, including completions of 21, 36 and 83 yards.

The Ravens are playing without starting cornerback Jimmy Smith and nickelback Tavon Young, but their replacements aren’t getting beat physically. The Ravens are totally out of position. In some cases, they aren’t even in the same ZIP code with receivers.

In the past, a lot of the blame was put on former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Well, who is to blame now?

“I think this was a really good test,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said of Sunday’s game. “Their resume speaks for itself. They were one play away from going to the Super Bowl last year. To go against them … we were right there in the game. Even though we lost, it’s still encouraging to know that we can be right there with them, one to two plays away from being right there where we want to be.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Where will the Ravens get that top pass rusher from? Outside linebacker Matthew Judon appears on the verge of becoming that player, but has moments where he loses control because of a lack of discipline.

The Ravens had been successful stopping the run in the first two games, allowing 41 total rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals, but gave up 140 to Kansas City.


Offensively, Jackson played tight and struggled at times, like he did in training camp. When things were going right, he was great. But when they weren’t, it took him time to settle in. The same can be said for offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

For two years, most opponents have gouged Kansas City with their running game, but the Ravens got away from it in the first half. They went back to it in the second, which is how they got back in the game. But, in a way, this game resembled the Ravens’ wild-card-round loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last year when then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg didn’t change the game plan until it was too late.

Those kinds of things happen to second-tier playoff teams. Coach John Harbaugh had his bad hair day Sunday with all those gambles on fourth-down situations, as well as trying to convert several 2-point attempts instead of kicking extra points.

Harbaugh is great at organizing and motivating, and he allows his coaches to coach, but some of his game-day decisions are questionable. In big games, that could be the difference between the Ravens being a top-tier playoff team and one a step below.

Overall, the feelings about this team haven’t changed. The Ravens have a lot of young players going through some growing pains. If they mature, this team could be strong by the end of the season.

We’ll know a little more on Nov. 3, when New England comes to Baltimore. The Patriots are a top-tier team.

We’ll find out if the Ravens have moved up to that level.

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