The strangest winning streak in professional sports has made it through another contest.
On Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 20-19 to extend their preseason winning streak, which is an NFL record, to 24 games. Their most recent preseason defeat came on September 3, 2015, against the Atlanta Falcons.
The previous record of 19 games, established by the Green Bay Packers during the Vince Lombardi era, has already been surpassed by that streak in 2021.
To preserve the streak, the Ravens didn’t play any starters or other important players. On Saturday, none of the following players showed up: Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Roquan Smith, Marlon Humphrey, or Marcus Williams.
Josh Johnson, Tyler Huntley, and Anthony Brown were the three quarterbacks for the Ravens, and they combined to complete 19 of 31 passes for 139 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Justice Hill and Gus Edwards led a group of seven runners who totaled 134 rushing yards on just 27 carries.
Like the Ravens’ preseason run, there might never be another one
It’s actually not that difficult to describe what is happening in the majority of win streaks of 20+ games. A truly outstanding squad is performing at its peak and may even have some luck on their side. Quality produces victories.
That wasn’t the case with the Ravens, though, due to the structure of the preseason. The second- and third-string players on each club should be competing for roster spots in a preseason game, which in theory should be as close to a coin flip as you see in football. In a preseason game, winning will always come in third place, at best, behind “don’t get hurt” and “determine which players and schemes work best.” Because good players see very little action, bad teams can go undefeated in the preseason while good teams can go winless.
One example is Jackson, who has played in just three preseason games overall since starting in 2019.
So it defies logic when a team wins 24 straight preseason games. The Ravens do, in fact, have a few advantages that might help to explain why they have been so successful. The organization is among the best in the NFL at spotting undrafted free agents who have potential. John Harbaugh, the head coach, is renowned for being rigorous in his planning. When playing 23 preseason games, a club may be less vulnerable to poor quarterback play with a run-heavy style.
But none of that explains a winning streak of 24 games. Saying the Ravens are lucky is oversimplified and, at some point, inaccurate, but it might be true to suggest that what they’re doing shouldn’t be replicated in the NFL as it currently functions.
Even while all of these preseason victories shouldn’t matter, they at least offer us something new to be concerned about.
Online sportsbooks currently have the Baltimore Ravens listed at 8th from the top with 18/1 odds to win Super Bowl 58.