The ride hasn’t always been smooth for the Baltimore Ravens, but as the NFL season enters its stretch run they are in a good position to capture their first AFC North crown since 2019. According to the NFL lines the Ravens are a -180 betting favorite to win the division.

Baltimore’s run toward a possible Super Bowl crown will be helped by a favorable schedule down the stretch. The Ravens, who have a strong running game and defense, will be a team to keep an eye on as potential contenders for the Lombardi Trophy.

Opponents bad luck

Vaulting to the top of the conference and division standings has come due to a mixture of factors. Several of the teams below them in the division have hit rough patches before playing the Ravens.

Baltimore will have the benefit of catching its archrival Pittsburgh at the right time when the teams meet on Dec. 5 in Pittsburgh. Despite squeaking out ugly wins against the Bears and Browns in the previous weeks, the Ravens will be able to catch the Steelers at a time where they are most banged up.

Pittsburgh star linebacker T.J. Watt will miss the team’s first meeting in Week 13 due to testing positive for COIVD-19. Run-stopping specialist Robert Spillane will also miss the game due to testing positive for COVID. Spillane’s loss especially hurts as he was filling in for Steeler’s first-round pick Devin Bush, who has been underperforming this season. Spillane’s injury will force Bush to take on a heavier workload.

Baltimore’s matchup with Pittsburgh will be followed by a trip to Cleveland facing a team that is having internal issues. Mounting criticism of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has continued as he continues to try and play through injury.

Playing Pittsburgh and Cleveland back-to-back will help the Ravens have a breather before their schedule stiffens up again.

Stretch against playoff teams will likely decide division

After the meeting with the Browns, Baltimore will start three straight weeks of matchups with teams likely headed to the playoffs. Following a clash with Green Bay, the Ravens will have to take on a Cincinnati team hot on their heels in the division that beat the Ravens 41-17 Oct. 24 in Baltimore. The Ravens will then host the Los Angeles Rams before closing the season with another matchup with the Steelers.

Baltimore is attempting to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Ravens reached the divisional playoffs last season before bowing out to the Bills.

Lamar makes the Ravens go

While catching teams at the right team give the Ravens a few edges in matchups, luck won’t be the only reason Baltimore makes the postseason. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has had another excellent season despite having a rotating group of running backs behind him.

With Jackson leading the show, Baltimore has compiled the sixth-most rushing yards in the league with 1,658. Jackson has the team lead in rushing with 707 yards on 123 carries. Baltimore’s success in the run has come despite Baltimore featuring a revolving door of veteran running backs during the season.

Devonta Freeman, Ty’son Williams, and Latavius Murray have all split carry in the backfield this season. Jackson has also passed for 2,612 yards and 15 touchdowns. There has been a major improvement with his passing game. Jackson’s connection with wide receiver Marquise Brown has grown and made him a solid complement to tight end Mark Andrews.

Brown has hauled in 60 passes for 770 yards and six touchdowns this season. Brown’s receptions total and receiving yards are career highs.

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