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Analysis: Falling short in the playoffs won't cut it for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens

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Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens played their best football in the biggest games of the regular season.

Now, they’ve got to do it in the playoffs.

Jackson has been one of the NFL’s top players for several years, but the Ravens are just 1-3 in the playoffs with him.

This season seems different. The Ravens have not only beaten the better teams, they’ve dominated them.

Jackson boosted his chances for his second AP NFL MVP award with back-to-back sensational performances in lopsided wins over the 49ers (12-4) and Dolphins (11-5) to help the Ravens (13-3) secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

He threw for 573 yards and seven touchdowns with a 145.3 passer rating and ran for 80 yards in the two games as the Ravens outscored both teams 89-38.

In five games this season against teams that currently have 11 wins, Jackson has completed 90 of 125 passes (72%) for 1,339 yards, 13 TDs and two picks with a 134.7 passer rating. The Ravens were 4-1 in those games with average margin of victory of 27 points and each win by at least 14.

Overall, Jackson has a career-high 3,678 yards passing with 24 TDs, seven interceptions and a 102.7 passer rating. He’s also run for 821 yards and five scores. He had 36 TD passes, 1,206 yards rushing and seven TDs on the ground in 2019 when he was the NFL MVP.

But the Ravens were knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round after earning the top seed that season.

That won’t cut it this time.

“We gotta finish the season the right way,” Jackson said.

WOUNDED BIRDS

That 10-1 start for the Philadelphia Eagles is a distant memory.

Four losses in the past five games knocked the Eagles out of the running for the NFC’s No. 1 seed and likely into a wild-card spot. Blowing a 21-6 halftime lead in a 35-31 loss to lowly Arizona cost Philly control of the NFC East and now the Eagles need Dallas to lose to Washington to have a shot at winning the division.

Fans are calling for coach Nick Sirianni’s job, even though he’s 34-16 with three playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl trip, in three seasons.

They’ve wanted offensive coordinator Brian Johnson fired for a while. First-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai already lost play-calling duties to Matt Patricia.

A.J. Brown is not happy with the offensive play-calling and refusing to talk to reporters to avoid criticizing coaches. Anonymous players have questioned Jalen Hurts’ leadership.

Things most definitely aren’t sunny in Philadelphia.

“We’re all frustrated,” Sirianni said.

Despite their troubles, the Eagles are capable of going on a run. They beat Dallas, Miami, Buffalo and Kansas City this season before losing to the 49ers, Cowboys, Seahawks and Cardinals. If they somehow get back on track, they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs.

WINNING THE SOUTH

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew their first chance to clinch a third straight NFC South title. A four-game losing streak prevented the Jacksonville Jaguars from securing a second consecutive AFC South title until Week 18.

Both teams are in excellent position to do it this week. The Buccaneers (8-8) visit the woeful Carolina Panthers (2-14). The Jaguars are on the road at Tennessee (5-11).

If the Buccaneers stumble, the Falcons-Saints winner takes the division. If the Jaguars slip up, the Texans-Colts winner takes the crown.

The teams that come out of the South in both conferences could be home underdogs in the wild-card round.

The AFC South winner will host the Cleveland Browns (11-5). The NFC South winner will host either the Eagles or Cowboys.

ONE YEAR LATER

On Jan. 2, 2023, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and needed to be resuscitated after undergoing a cardiac arrest. Hamlin made a remarkable recovery and has played in five games this season.

The NFL and other major sports leagues and leading health advocacy organizations launched the Smart Heart Sports Coalition in March 2023 in response to Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. The coalition’s goal is for every state across the country to adopt life-saving policies that will prevent fatalities from sudden cardiac arrest among high school athletes and others.

Those policies are:

— An Emergency Action Plan for each high school athletic venue that are widely distributed, posted, rehearsed, and updated annually.

— Clearly marked automated external defibrillator (AEDs) at each athletic venue or within 1-3 minutes of each venue where high school practices or competitions are held.

— CPR and AED education for coaches.

Since the coalition’s work began, five states have moved to enact one or more of the policies, including New Mexico, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana and California.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl