JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Baltimore Ravens are alone atop the AFC North for the first time in 707 days. Baltimore is one of five undefeated teams in the NFL.
But the Ravens know they're an imperfect 3-0. Baltimore players believe they have far from played up to their potential in beating three teams that are a combined 1-8 by a total of 13 points.
"You’re not going to be able to get away with this when you’re playing really, really good teams in January," quarterback Joe Flacco said after the Ravens' 19-17 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
The Ravens managed just one touchdown against the Buffalo Bills (1-2). They fell behind 20-2 in the first quarter against the winless Cleveland Browns (0-3). They turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter (two Flacco interceptions and a Devin Hester muffed punt) before rallying to beat the winless Jaguars (0-3).
Of the undefeated teams, the Ravens' victories have come against opponents with the worst combined record. Baltimore's biggest test will come Sunday, when the Ravens play host to the Oakland Raiders (2-1).
"A win is a win. They all count," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "This is the NFL. You can't take any wins for granted, as we all learned last year. 3-0 is 3-0, no matter what you all say. You can't disrespect the teams we play."
What can't be disputed is how quickly the Ravens have turned their fortunes around. Baltimore won three games in September. Last year, the Ravens didn't get their third win until Nov. 22. The Ravens became the fifth NFL team in the past 11 seasons to reach 3-0 following a 5-11 or worse season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I think we understand what was at stake, and this was an important game," wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said. "A game like this, we lost last year."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week that he isn't one to put style points on wins, and Sunday's win over the Jaguars was another sweat-it-out-until-the-end game. The offense scored one touchdown and managed 283 yards of total offense. Flacco threw multiple interceptions for the second straight week. Running backs Justin Forsett and Terrance West combined for 65 yards. Baltimore was flagged for eight penalties. The punt team gave up a 42-yard return.
"This was an ugly win, and that seems to be our M.O. so far this season," tight end Dennis Pitta said.
The Ravens find themselves in sole possession of first place in the AFC North for the first time since Week 7 of 2014. The only division team to win Sunday, Baltimore is one game ahead of the Steelers (2-1) and two in front of the Bengals (1-2).
Flacco believes the hiccups on offense will go away when his timing with his receivers improves. Many of his top targets -- Steve Smith Sr., Dennis Pitta and Breshad Perriman -- missed most of training camp and the preseason while recovering from injuries.
"At some point, we might see that we’re building up, building up and building up, and all of a sudden it turns over very quickly. That’s kind of what I’m looking for," Flacco said. "It’s for us to turn over very quickly and for us to explode as an offense and really take off. You don’t want to have to be winning these games the way we are."