BALTIMORE -- Last week, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh emphasized the importance of the upcoming games to his players.

"December football has a meaning to it," he told them. "It's preparation for great events to come. You have to put yourself in position with December football for what's to come."

For the third straight year, the Ravens head into Week 15 atop the AFC North with a chance to capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But, unlike the past two years, Baltimore (10-3) is seen as a legitimate Super Bowl contender at this time of the year.

The difference: a healthy Lamar Jackson. Heading into Monday night's games, Baltimore was the projected favorite to earn to the No. 1 seed in the AFC at 53%, according to ESPN Analytics.

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Jackson showed how valuable he is in Sunday's 37-31 overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams when he totaled more than 300 yards passing and 70 yards rushing in the same game for just the second time of his career.

"I think Lamar played one of the best quarterback games yesterday that you can play," Harbaugh said.

In 2021 and 2022 -- when Jackson dealt with season-ending ankle and knee injuries -- Baltimore went 2-3 in December without him. Sunday marked the first time since Dec. 5, 2021, that Jackson had started and finished a game in December.

Jackson is one of the NFL's best at this point in the season. He improved to 14-3 (.824) in December, which is the NFL's second-best mark since 2018 behind Aaron Rodgers (17-3).

"He's one of a kind," Harbaugh said. "There's nobody like Lamar Jackson."

Jackson's record will get tested by one of the toughest December schedules in the NFL. Baltimore plays division leaders in Jacksonville, San Francisco and Miami the next three weeks. ESPN's Football Power Index ranks it as the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL.

Here is what makes Jackson and the Ravens so dangerous:

The Ravens are the favorites to land the AFC's No. 1 seed, and the main reason is a healthy Lamar Jackson. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports


There was talk when Jackson was a rookie that his dual-threat style would be unsustainable. In his sixth NFL season, Jackson still puts defenders on their heels because he is one of the few quarterbacks who can beat a team with a touchdown pass or convert a third down with a scramble.

In Sunday's win, Jackson recorded his ninth career game with three touchdown passes and 70 or more rushing yards. That's four more than any other quarterback in league history.

"You never know what he is going to do," Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers said. "[He] just runs around the field like -- I don't even know."

It was the 35th game in which Jackson has finished as the Ravens' leading rusher, which is the second most by any starting quarterback since 1950. He trails only Cam Newton, who accomplished the feat 42 times.


Before this week, Jackson had struggled in the fourth quarter. He ranked 27th with a 33.7 Total QBR, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions in the fourth.

On Sunday, Jackson stepped up on Baltimore's final drive of regulation, when the Ravens trailed the Rams 28-23 late in the fourth. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 73 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Flowers.

That scoring throw came on third-and-17 with 1:16 remaining in the fourth and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald barreling down on Jackson.

"[We're] just proving we can make it happen," Jackson said. "When we really need it, we're down [and] trying to win the game, we don't want to put them back out there on the field, but we just have to score. We have to score, and we delivered."


The weakest part of Jackson's game has been his downfield throwing, but he made strides in the right direction against the Rams.

He averaged a season-high 11.4 air yards per attempt Sunday, throwing his two deepest touchdown passes of the season. There were 27 air yards to tight end Isaiah Likely (on a 54-yard TD) and 43 air yards to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (on a 46-yard TD).

"This is why they paid him the big bucks," Beckham said. "He's very special. We'll be a dangerous team."