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Ravens Insider: Ravens and Orioles win division titles in same year for first time in history


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The Ravens’ win Sunday naturally brought upon comparisons to the 2019 team.

Both squads dominated throughout the season, earning the AFC’s top seed behind an MVP-caliber quarterback.

These Ravens and those Ravens have their similarities. The same can’t be said for their next-door neighbor.

In 2019, the Orioles lost 108 games amid a four-year stretch when they were one of the major leagues’ worst teams. Five years later, they won 101 games and ended the regular season as the best team in the American League.

Since the Ravens moved to town in 1996, both Baltimore teams have rarely been good at the same time. 2023 is unique in that regard.

When Lamar Jackson and company clinched the AFC North title Sunday with a rout of the Miami Dolphins, it marked the first time the Orioles and Ravens have won division crowns in the same season.

That fact is mostly the Orioles’ fault, as the local nine have slogged through 17 losing seasons this century. It’s also a credit to the difficulty of the divisions in which both teams play, as the AL East and AFC North are regularly among the best in their respective sports.

The Orioles’ AL East title in 2023 was just the franchise’s third since the Ravens’ first season. In 1997, as the Davey Johnson-led Orioles edged out the New York Yankees to claim the AL East crown with 98 wins, the Ted Marchibroda-led Ravens won six games. It took 17 years for the Orioles to win another division title, as manager Buck Showalter led the club to 96 wins as the AL’s top regular season team in 2014. The Ravens, meanwhile, made the playoffs — two years after Joe Flacco led them to a Super Bowl title — with 10 wins but finished third in the division behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens’ AFC North crown this season was their third since Jackson became the team’s quarterback in 2018, fifth since John Harbaugh took over as coach in 2008 and seventh since the franchise moved to Baltimore.

Under coach Brian Billick, the Ravens won the AFC North in 2003 and 2006 with Kyle Boller and Steve McNair at quarterback, respectively. The Orioles failed to win more than 71 games in either of those seasons.

Harbaugh’s Ravens then won back-to-back division crowns in 2011 and 2012. The former ended with a missed kick by Billy Cundiff in the playoffs; the latter ended with a Super Bowl trophy. The Orioles won just 69 games under Showalter in 2011, but they started to show life over the season’s final two months. In 2012, they made the playoffs for the first time since 1997, winning 93 games and making the playoffs as a wild-card team.

A year before the Ravens’ illustrious 2019 campaign, a 21-year-old Jackson stepped in for Flacco midway through the 2018 season and led the team to its first division title since 2012. The Orioles lost 115 games, traded Manny Machado and others at the deadline to ignite the rebuild, and fired Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette after the season.

Of course, 2023 isn’t the first time both the baseball and football teams in Baltimore have been humming. The Johnny Unitas-led Colts won two championships in the late 1950s as the Orioles gained their footing in Baltimore. Then, for a decade beginning in 1966, few sports towns had it better than Baltimore, as the Orioles played in four World Series, winning two, and the Colts made the playoffs six times, winning a Super Bowl and losing another.

Ravens fan Keon Fisher holds up a stadium edition of the Baltimore Sun following the Baltimore Ravens 56-19 win over the Miami Dolphins on New Yearxe2x80x99s Eve at M&T Bank Stadium. (Jerry Jackson/Staff photo)
Ravens fan Keon Fisher holds up a stadium edition of The Baltimore Sun after the Ravens beat the Dolphins, 56-19, to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

2023 will go down as one of the best years in Baltimore sports history — especially if the Ravens can go on a playoff run the Orioles couldn’t. But it can’t be the best.

In 1970, like in 2023, the Orioles and Colts both won their respective leagues in the regular season. The Orioles won 108 games to lead the AL, while the Colts went 11-2-1 to finish atop the AFC. They both won championships, with the Colts beating the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, and the Orioles topping the Reds in five games. But there were no divisions in either sport back then.

Success like 1970 and 2023 is difficult to achieve. But with Jackson signed long term and the young Orioles still boasting MLB’s best farm system, it’s possible 2023 is just the start.

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