The Baltimore Ravens, against all odds, are 5-1 and the AFC’s best team

The Baltimore Ravens have declared themselves the top AFC team after a decisive Week 6 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The AFC’s best team through six weeks is the one everyone left for dead six weeks ago. The Baltimore Ravens are an absolute problem, and they might not have even played their best football yet.

Baltimore Ravens thump Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6

Their B-plus game was more than enough against one of the hottest teams in football Sunday. The Ravens lost the turnover battle, had just 140 passing yards — and still rolled the first-place Los Angeles Chargers 34-6.

This was a defensive clinic. Justin Herbert entered M&T Bank Stadium as an MVP front-runner. He left humbled. Herbert had his worst game of the season — and one of the worst games of his young career — completing 22 of 39 passes for just 195 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

But that was downright efficient compared to the team’s production in the run game. The Chargers totaled 26 yards on 12 carries — more than 80 yards below their season average. As a team, the Chargers managed just 208 yards and converted 3 of 12 third downs.

“Our defense just played lights out in every way,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Lamar Jackson throws a pair of picks in win

It speaks to how suffocating the Ravens’ defense was that we’re six paragraphs into this column and are just now writing the name Lamar Jackson. Usually, he’s the first and last word on a Baltimore win. He’s a deserving MVP candidate — and might stand atop the list.

Jackson won Sunday for the 35th time — moving him past Dan Marino and into first place on the all-time list of victories by quarterbacks before their 25th birthday. And there’s a good chance he not only breaks the record but obliterates it. Jackson does not turn 25 until January 7.

Of Jackson’s nearly three-dozen wins, Sunday was one of his ugliest. He threw 2 picks and averaged 6.2 yards per pass. Didn’t matter. The Ravens didn’t need his heroics this time around.

Ravens’ castoff running backs

Didn’t need heroics — not when you run for 187 yards as a team, largely thanks to three running backs who were on the street a few weeks back. The Ravens looked doomed when J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards went down with season-ending injuries.

But on Sunday, Baltimore got touchdowns from Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell — all past their primes, all unemployed at some point in the last two months.

“To see them do what they did today and what they’re going to do for the rest of the season is a pretty cool story,” Harbaugh said of his backfield of castoffs. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.”

It’s hard to remember a team that has overcome the brutal injury luck Baltimore has this fall. Even with rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman finally available for the first time Sunday, the Ravens still have 14 players on IR, including star cornerback Marcus Peters.

Ravens lead AFC North playoff race

And yet, they’re 5-1 and remain a game clear of the field in the AFC North race. They are already guaranteed to have the conference’s best record through six weeks. Depending on how the Buffalo Bills (4-1 through five weeks) fare against the Tennessee Titans Monday night, Baltimore could be a game clear of the entire conference.

The Bills and the Ravens are the class of the conference and could be on a collision course in the AFC title game. If the Ravens host that game, it’ll be because they truly are the conference’s best. They’ve had a tougher schedule than Buffalo to date — the Bills have not yet beaten a team with a winning record — and that almost certainly will not change the rest of the way.

The Bills have the second-easiest remaining schedule (.400). The Ravens have the sixth-hardest (.565), with games against the Rams, Packers, Bengals (twice), and Browns (twice) still to go.

But based on how the Ravens played Sunday, there’s no reason for them to be afraid of anyone.

“We like raising eyebrows in a good way,” Harbaugh said. “We’re happy about that.”

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