Lamar Jackson, Ravens Clinch 2019 NFL Playoff Berth with Win vs. Bills

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2019

CINCINNATI, OHIO - NOVEMBER 10: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens on the sideline during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Silas Walker/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens are returning to the NFL playoffs, clinching a berth with a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Baltimore sealed the victory with a fourth-down stop on Buffalo with 1:03 left in the game.

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

THE DEFENSE GETS THE FOURTH-DOWN STOP!!!! @marcuspeters MAKES THE PLAY!!! https://t.co/S0MET4q1qG

With Joe Flacco gone, Lamar Jackson opened 2019 as the team's starting quarterback and has embarked on a campaign that could end with an MVP Award to go along with his 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Through 12 games entering Sunday, he had thrown for 2,532 yards and 25 touchdowns while running for 977 yards and seven scores. He joined Ben Roethlisberger as the only quarterbacks to have a perfect passer rating (158.3) twice in the same year.

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

"You changed the game, man." Coach Harbaugh's sideline convo with @Lj_era8 at Cincinnati: https://t.co/RR5buBCK3X

Together, Jackson and Mark Ingram have formed one of the NFL's best rushing attacks.

The Ravens are averaging a league-high 207.8 yards per game on the ground, with Ingram looking like his Pro Bowl self from 2017. He has run for 837 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry in his first season in Baltimore.

The 2019 Ravens are basically the inverse of last year's squad. 

Jackson was the starting quarterback from Week 10 on in 2018, and the Ravens reeled off six wins in their final seven games to take the AFC North crown. However, Jackson struggled in Baltimore's AFC Wild Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Baltimore ranked 15th in offensive efficiency but third in defensive efficiency in 2018, per Football Outsiders. Now, it has an elite offense to go along with a stifling defense. The team has the No. 1 offense and fourth-best defense in 2019.

The Ravens allowed 500-plus yards in back-to-back losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns earlier in the year. A little over two weeks after the 40-25 defeat to the Browns, the team acquired Marcus Peters, who has made an immediate impact.

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

MP JUICE MAN TO THE HOUSE 🔥🔥 @marcuspeters for 6 🔥🔥 https://t.co/biyQrma93u

The Ravens cleared two regular-season hurdles when they beat the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots in consecutive games, holding the teams to 347 and 342 yards of offense, respectively.

The victory over the Patriots could be particularly instructive because the AFC might come down to Baltimore vs. New England.

And that head-to-head win against the Patriots may prove pivotal because it gives the Ravens the tiebreaker for the conference's top seed should the teams finish with the same record.