It took adozen weeks, but the New England Patriots have finally been replaced. Even though they’re 10-1 and on track to earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason, which gives them an inherent advantage over the rest of the playoff field, not to mention they have the league’s top defense and arguably the greatest coach and quarterback of all time, they’re no longer considered the team most likely to win the Super Bowl.
It doesn’t take a football genius to guess which team finally overtook them. According to SportsLine simulations, the Baltimore Ravens are the new Super Bowl frontrunners. In the aftermath of the Ravens’ 45-6 bludgeoning of the Rams on Monday night, which moved them to 9-2 on the season with a plus-184 point differential, making them one point better than the Patriots, the Ravens are now the team most likely to win the Super Bowl.
Simulations conducted by SportsLine’s Stephen Oh give the Ravens a 27.1 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. After a narrow win over the Cowboys on Sunday, the Patriots’ chances have dropped to 22.9 percent, even though they’re still favored to secure the top seed in the AFC. This is the first time all season the Patriots haven’t been No. 1 in the simulations. Since they won last year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots have led the way — until this week, anyway.
It’s not difficult to understand how and why the Ravens have replaced the Patriots. The Patriots have Bill Belichick and the league’s top defense, but with a languid offense, they’re not nearly as complete of a team as the Ravens. We all know about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense, which overtook the Cowboys as the league’s top offense by DVOA this week. Jackson is rightly considered the frontrunner for MVP. Mark Ingram and his bruising running style is the perfect complement to Jackson. The offensive line is mauling everyone, including Aaron Donald, in its path. The pass catchers haven’t been the weakness some thought they might be heading into the season. And so on.
But the Ravens’ defense is actually rounding into form too. Since letting the Browns hang 40 on them in Week 4, the Ravens have allowed 14.6 points per game. They’ve also forced 14 turnovers in that span. By DVOA, the Ravens’ defense is up to fourth — albeit, they’re still significantly behind both the 49ers and Patriots.
They also hold an advantage on special teams — unsurprising given John Harbaugh’s extensive background as a special teams coordinator before landing the Ravens’ job and Justin Tucker’s track record as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. The Ravens are second in special teams DVOA and the Patriots aren’t the team that’s positioned ahead of them (shockingly, it’s actually the winless Bengals, who are actually good at something). The Patriots are 13th.
Simply put, the Ravens are a more complete team than the Patriots right now. And they’ve already proven the ability to beat the Patriots by 17 points. But none of this, of course, means the Ravens are guaranteed to vanquish the Patriots come January. The Death Star doesn’t need to be fully complete to win the Super Bowl. And because the Patriots do have the inside track to the top seed in the AFC, they will likely be hosting the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game assuming both teams make it that far. Furthermore, with the Chiefs looking like the favorite to end up as the No. 3 seed, there’s a good chance the Ravens won’t just have to take down the Patriots in New England, but also Patrick Mahomes in the divisional round. That’s as difficult of a path to the Super Bowl as it gets.
Championships aren’t won in November. Belichick will almost certainly adjust and come up with some answers after watching Jackson tear up his vaunted defense. It’ll be dumb, but not at all surprising if the Patriots play the underdog card after the Ravens’ recent surge and use it as motivation. Injuries can and will happen between now and February — the Ravens reportedly just lost center Matt Skura for the season. The Ravens might also need to defeat Mahomes to even get a crack at the Patriots. And if they do make it to the Super Bowl, a powerhouse like the 49ers or an MVP candidate like Russell Wilson might be waiting for them in Miami.
But after 12 weeks, the Ravens are both the best team in football and the team most likely to win the Super Bowl. That matters. Championships aren’t won in November, but they are often won by the team that manages to peak late in the season. And the Ravens are peaking.