The Alternative Super Bowl – What if the Lions and Ravens had won?

By Rhys Knott

The 49ers and Chiefs are lapping up Super Bowl week in Vegas. Well, the 49ers are lapping it up in between complaining about the training facilities at UNLV. And that may become a talking point at some stage on Sunday night. 

But what if the Championship games had gone the other way? The Lions could, maybe should have won in Santa Clara. And if the Ravens had been able to convert more than three third downs, they could have overcome Kansas City too. In an alternate universe the Lions and Ravens are playing in Super Bowl LVII. Let’s see how that would have gone? 

A Ravens beatdown in Week 7

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Well, the teams did meet in Baltimore back in Week 7. And the Ravens gave the Lions a whooping! Baltimore ran out 38-6 winners, racking up 503 total yards in the process (Kyle Van Noy recorded 2 sacks against the team who drafted him. He loves Jared Goff; he once sacked him in a Super Bowl). So, let’s just forget that ever happened, shall we? At least until there’s some relevant stats I can use. 

For a start the best rushing attack during the regular season (the Ravens were first for both yards and attempts) would have been pitted against the second-best defense against the run. Only the Bears conceded fewer rushing yards than the Lions. And that’s the sort of ding-dong I can get behind.  

The Ravens Power Game

The Lions’ weakness in 2023 was that they missed a lot of tackles and that led to them giving up too many big plays. And golly gosh did they miss a lot of tackles! According to Pro Football Reference, Detroit missed 124 tackles or 10.8% of the tackles they needed to make. For context, the Commanders, who conceded the most points in the league, only missed 100 tackles during the regular season! It was probably because the Lions didn’t so much try to “hit and stick” as try to atomise the ball carrier. Physicality is all well and good, but in the words of that old car advert “power is nothing without control”. Just get them on the ground fellas.  

For their part, the Ravens broke 46 tackles when they were running the ball during the regular season (you can kind of see why they thrashed the Lions in Week 7, can’t you?). Again, for context, the 49ers only broke 30 tackles on running plays during the regular season. Unsurprisingly Christian McCaffrey was responsible for 15 of those (nobody likes a showoff Chrissy boy). He wriggled through 3 against the Lions in the Championship game, the Ravens’ running options only broke a single tackle against the Chiefs.  

The Lions conceded 15 rushing touchdowns during the regular season which ranked them 17th in the league. So, Baltimore’s offense would definitely have an edge when it came to running the ball. They did score 26 touchdowns on the ground in the regular season after all. 

The Lions Run Game

The Lions’ rushing offense ended the regular season ranked 5th for yards, but 1st when it came to scoring touchdowns. Baltimore allowed 1,860 yards on the ground during the regular season, which was 14th in the league. But they conceded just 6 rushing touchdowns. That’s the fewest in the league. So, The Lions would have had their hands full trying to run into the endzone.  

But Jahmyr Gibbs did score a 21-yard touchdown back in Week 5. David Montgomery and Craig Reynolds had 2 of Week 5’s most remarkable rushes against the Baltimore defense. And for what it’s worth the Lions’ poor showing in Baltimore really kick-started their rushing offense. After the Ravens held them to just 84 yards, they followed that up with 9 consecutive 100+ yard games. They went over 200 yards in Weeks 8 and 10! And against the 49ers’ 3rd ranked run defense they racked up 182 yards on the ground. Which begs the question, why did they keep throwing to Josh Reynolds? 

The Ravens Pass defense

The Ravens were ranked 2nd when it came to conceding touchdowns through the air too. But, only 3 teams, the Cowboys, 49ers, and Packers scored more passing touchdowns than Detroit (the NFC was the place to be then).  Even in the crushing defeat in Week 7, the Lions put up more passing yards than anyone who played the Ravens in the first 13 weeks of the season could manage! 

The turnover battle

The Ravens only threw 7 interceptions during the regular season (they kept running the ball, remember). But the Lions took 16 interceptions, so if the Ravens had to throw more there would have been chances for CJ Gardner-Johnson and his buddies. Overall the Ravens had the best turnover differential during the regular season. Their +12 was level with the Giants (bizarrely), whereas the Lions differential was 0. Advantage Baltimore there. 

so Who Wins?

So that’s the numbers, but what about the context? Well, purely anecdotally the Lions team appear to absolutely adore Dan Campbell and his coaching staff. And they love playing for them. While the Ravens players all respect their head coach and the coordinators, they seem to have a more hierarchical structure within the organisation. And that power dynamic tends to create more pressure on the players as they strive to succeed to earn some positive reinforcement. Or avoid a jolly good talking to on the sideline.  

The Lions franchise looks like a team in the true sense. Remember when Dan Campbell gave Brad Holmes the GM a game ball after the Rams game? The Ravens have a very different vibe and that doesn’t seem like something they’d do. 

Having said all that, it does feel like the Lions are a year behind where this Ravens team is right now. So, Baltimore would probably beat Detroit for the second time this season. But it would be an absolute nail-biter. 



Rhys has been watching the NFL for 30 something years and still hasn’t managed to pick a team to support. When he’s not fixatED on pass rushers you can find him blithering on about most sports on Twitter @wrhys_writes