Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are 8-5 heading into a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Let’s take a glance out of the moment and have some fun. Let’s talk about the Ravens who belong in the NFL Pro Bowl.

Mark Andrews – Tight End

Mark Andrews is one of the best weapons in football. Statistically, there’s no leaving him out of the conversation. He has 75 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns with four games left to go. Andrews has been a matchup nightmare and he’s made some of the most important plays of the Ravens season. Andrews is the leading NFL receiver among tight ends. The only tight end all that close to him is Travis Kelce, who is 51 receptions behind Andrews.

Andrews has stepped up his game. He’s always been a good player and in 2020, he was a top-five tight end. Now, he may be the best tight end. His career highs coming into the season were 64 receptions and 852 yards. Andrews has smashed past those numbers. While he’s scored fewer touchdowns so far, that’s more of a side effect of how the Ravens are doing in the red zone in general than a knock on the former Oklahoma Sooner tight end.

Marquise Brown – Wide Receiver

Speaking of career highs, Marquise Brown has had the best year of his short NFL career. He has 70 receptions and 866 yards. Brown had a bad game against the Detroit Lions. In just about every other game he’s been rock solid. He’s averaging almost six receptions per game. He’s had three games with over 100 receiving yards. Brown has been a game-changer at times this season. The Ravens wouldn’t;t have eight wins without him.

Pat Ricard:

Is there a better fullback in the NFL? The answer is no. Ricard has proven to be more of a weapon this season, but his blocking is the main attraction to his game. In a league without many smashmouth fullbacks, Ricard is the toughest of them all.

Bradley Bozeman – Center

The Baltimore Ravens offensive line isn’t all that great this season, but most of their problems come from the offensive tackle positions. At center, Bradley Bozeman is the strongest player in the unit. Bozeman is the only reason the offensive line is somewhat functional.

If you took him out of the equation, nothing would work for the offense. Bozeman has had problems all around him and yet he’s been the most consistent presence for the offensive line. His improvement as a pass protector is really starting to shine. Bozeman has something to be proud about even if he doesn’t get the Pro Bowl nod. He’s the Ravens’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Justin Tucker – Kicker

Duh. He set the NFL record for the longest field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history and he’s having another almost flawless year. There should never be a season where Justin Tucker isn’t in the Pro Bowl. Believe it or not, though, he’s only been to the Pro Bowl four times in his career. Tucker better get his fifth Pro Bowl trip because he 100 percent deserves it. He’s the most consistent Ravens player; he may be the most consistent Ravens player ever.

Devin Duvernay – Kick Returner

Duvernay has led the way as a return specialist. One of the crazy things about his season is how close he’s been to breaking a big return for a touchdown. Nobody averages more for a punt return than Duvernay. He has six punt returns over 20 yards. He’s also one of the best kickoff returners in the NFL. The Ravens’ special teams have been a strength this season. The yards Duvernay preserves and creates by making the right decisions as a returner are crucial to Baltimore’s eight wins.

Players who have a case: Lamar Jackson, Nick Moore, Sam Koch

Lamar Jackson was the MVP frontrunner until his season started to spiral out of control. Now Jackson is hurt. Jackson had an incredible first half of the season. He led the Ravens on comebacks against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts and was arguably playing the best football of his career. If he returns from injury and starts playing like he did earlier in the season, he can salvage his Pro Bowl status.

The Ravens’ long snapper and punter have a case for the Pro Bowl. Special teams has been a strength. If Tucker and Sam Koch are both in the Pro Bowl conversation, the player who snaps them the football should be as well.

NEXT POST: State of the Baltimore Ravens: 13 thoughts after loss to Browns

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Browns: 4 predictions and a score

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. With an 8-4 record they have three more divisional battles. On Sunday they head to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Browns. Here are four predictions and a score for this very important game.

Lamar Jackson is turnover-free but sacks remain a problem:

 

Lamar Jackson has been a turnover slot machine in the last handful of weeks. He’s getting sacked a good bit as well. The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to get their quarterback back on track.

Pass protection is going to be an issue. Assuming Myles Garrett plays, the offensive line could face a bigger problem than it did last week. Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney take on Alejandro Villanueva and Tyre Phillips. A lot of things could go wrong there.

Jackson will be very cautious with the football. He’ll avoid turnovers. Being a bit gun-shy could worsen the problem with sacks. If Jackson is hesitant to take open shots down the field or to check the ball down, he’s going to get hit, way too much.

Jackson will avoid the boneheaded interceptions. He’ll cling to the ball for dear life. This will be his ultimate focus. Playing nervously at quarterback has negative symptoms though. With the offensive line facing a matchup that (at least on paper) they can’t win in pass protection, Jackson will take at least four sacks.

The defensive front keeps this a battle for the Ravens:

The Cleveland Browns may see Marlon Humphrey being out as their ticket to big plays down the field. While that may be true Kevin Stefanski and company just saw Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt shut down by this Ravens defensive front. The Browns have a highly acclaimed offensive line, though the Ravens won the battle two weeks ago.

Look for another big game from Tyus Bowser, who is crucially important in run defense. Look for Patrick Queen to string another solid performance together. Calais Campbell missed the first Browns game and the defense found a way to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Don Martindale and the Ravens defense are expected to fold without Marlon Humphrey and with a string of secondary injuries. The defensive front had three sacks and held Chubb to 40 yards last time. The Ravens’ defensive backs are a huge question mark. The front seven should have some trust and it will make this interesting.

3. Devin Duvernay makes an impact on special teams:

Devin Duvernay made a big impact against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s quietly having a year as the best return specialist in football. Last week it looked like one might break for a touchdown. He’s due for a kickoff or punt return to get him in the end zone. Look for the Texas Longhorns product to put points on the board via special teams.

Duvernay had a kickoff return for a touchdown last year against the Kansas City Chiefs. He leads the league in punt return yards per attempt. He’s a fast player who keeps coming close to a big play. This is his chance to shine. It’s his chance to make a difference in the game.

4. Rashod Bateman stays frustrated:

Much of the talk from this past week has been about Rashod Bateman’s frustration. The Ravens’ rookie wide receiver may have to stay frustrated one more week.

With Jackson trying to protect the football at any cost, he’s going to lean on his top two targets, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. It’s a very repetitive cycle. Jackson gets frustrated- Jackson locks on to the two guys he trusts no matter what. Bateman has looked the part and is looking at a matchup that he could win.  It should be a big day for him but the side effects of Jackson recovering from his struggles will resort to the ball not being spread around the way it should be.

And now a score: Browns win 24-21

 

This is a prediction I hope to be wrong about. The Ravens got away with four picks in the last contest with Cleveland; there’s a lot that goes the Ravens way in this matchup. Things are heading in the wrong direction for Baltimore though, and there are a lot of concerns.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

Will the Ravens give Cleveland a fight? Absolutely. The calling card of John Harbaugh teams is being competitive, almost no matter what. To win in Cleveland though they have to play better than they have been. Ravens vs. Browns is almost always close now. A few big passing plays in a big spot will give Cleveland the tight victory.

 

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. Lamar Jackson reels it back in and has a solid performance for the Baltimore Ravens: 

The biggest concern for the Baltimore Ravens has to be whether their MVP quarterback is right. Can he get back into a groove? Was the four-interception game indicative of a larger problem? Was it just a bad day at the office, coming back after missing the Chicago game?

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have always found a way to frustrate Lamar Jackson, it’s hard to stay worried about him. He’s very self-demanding, hardworking and he’s going to be very focused on making up for it. Look for Jackson to play more tightly as a passer. He’s probably going to run it a little more. He may hold on to the ball a bit too long on a play or two- there will be side effects of his four-pick game.

This game is a chance to get his groove back. I’m not going to say that he’s going to have his best game or that he’s going to go crazy. I’m saying that we get a vintage Lamar Jackson game. 220 yards passing, 60-100 yards rushing. He’s going to look more like himself. In the Browns game, he didn’t seem like him. This week he’s going to be the player we know and love.

2. Ben Roethlisberger takes a beating:

The Pittsburgh Steelers just got manhandled by the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger looked awful last week. He was sacked three times and he was intercepted twice.

If the Ravens stop the run the way they did against Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Steelers will be in their danger zone of one-dimensionality. Odafe Oweh will have two sacks and force a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. Tyus Bowser and Justin Houston will have a sack each. This will stifle the Pittsburgh offense.

Prediction 3: Marquise Brown goes off for the Baltimore Ravens

This seems like a matchup made for Marquise Brown. The Steelers’ secondary is beatable. Whether or not Joe Haden plays, he hasn’t been the Joe Haden we’re used to. Brown’s speed is going to be a problem for anyone they put on him.

In the game without Jackson last year, Brown had four catches and a touchdown. On his first trip to Heinz field in 2019, he also had a touchdown. Let’s make it three for three with Brown getting a touchdown in Pittsburgh but this will be his best game against the Steelers by far.

4. The Baltimore Ravens run game eats

I’ve already predicted a bit more rushing from Lamar Jackson and a standard 60-100 yards on the ground out of him. I don’t think he’s going to be alone in success on the ground. Joe Mixon just tore up this Steelers defense. The rushing yards are there for the taking.

The way the Ravens run the ball is starting to form a decent pattern. Devonta Freeman will be able to get 50-60 yards. Latavius Murray is good for 15-30 yards. With Jackson they’re going to healthily over 100 yards rushing. The Baltimore front is picking up confidence while the Steelers face their biggest moment of doubt.

And now a score: Ravens win 24-17

The Steelers will be competitive. You have to remember that this is a game in Pittsburgh and the Ravens have lost to worse teams (cough, cough Miami Dolphins). It’s a Ravens- Steelers game. It’s not going to be easy, especially not in a year where everything is hard.

NEXT POST: Why Ravens fans should actually feel more confident after their ugly win

I think the Ravens defense is coming together. The Ravens just need their quarterback to play true to his talent. If Jackson plays like himself I have much more confidence in the Ravens, even if that means winning in dramatic fashion.

 

Posted in Pregame Content

Ravens offense: Things we want to see against the Browns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are about to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. This is one of the biggest games of the season. It’s a chance to keep the Browns down and hold onto first place in the AFC North. The Ravens have to play the Browns again in Week 14 after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 13. The Browns get a bye in between their clashes with the Ravens. This one is big and it can’t be overstated.

Stars back, the quarterback protected:

The first thing you want to see for the Baltimore Ravens is the return of Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. This isn’t a game that the Ravens can get by in without making big plays. The offense can’t leave the defense out to dry. The Browns may be as on and off as the Ravens, but when they’re on they can drop some points on the scoreboard.

The Ravens need more from their pass protection to be better. What was the problem two weeks in a row? Blitzes coming off the edge untouched and unnoticed. This is a game where the Ravens can’t leave Lamar Jackson out to dry, assuming he gets back into the action. This is where the return of Nick Boyle comes in. Protect the right tackle with extra help blocking. Put Boyle in there and have Pat Ricard at the ready.

Myles Garrett has 13 sacks to his name this year and has a case to be the Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns should absolutely send a defensive back after the Ravens’ quarterback in this game, it worked for two teams in a row. The offensive line is outmatched. What does this mean for Greg Roman?

It means it’s not okay to see a lot of looks out of an empty set, taxing your five-man protection. It means that he can’t call a ton of deep shots down the field that doesn’t include safety valves for Jackson underneath. The ball has to come out quick more often than not and that doesn’t mean 50 wide receiver screens.

Run the ball, have some fun with it:

The Ravens need to keep making progress with their run game. Let’s see Devonta Freeman keep picking up some momentum. Let’s see Latavius Murray running fearlessly up the gut as he did against Chicago. We need to see Jackson chip into the run game. The Ravens used to be promised 150 yards on the ground even on a bad day. You can run against this Browns defense. Let’s see the Ravens get back to overpowering their opponent.

This is a game where every bit of creativity from Roman will be appreciated. All season, the Ravens have been using Devin Duvernay in the run game. What if that jet sweep could be used to set up a fairly deadly play-fake? It feels like the Ravens have been setting it up all season and this could be a good game to have it pay off. The Ravens need to pull out all the stops. The last thing Ravens fans will accept is a lack of creativity and inspiration from their play-caller.

More than anything you just want to see the Ravens finish drives. Too often they are stopped to Justin Tucker field goals when the offense looks like it’s about to get going. The offense needs to hone into the moment with no little mistakes. Penalty-free football is next to impossible the way the game is called, but Baltimore can’t beat themselves with stupid things: False starts, delay of game penalties, illegal formations.

Jackson to Andrews:

Again, this article is written in the assumption that we’ll see the Ravens MVP candidate under center on Sunday evening. We have to see Lamar Jackson playing like Lamar Jackson wire to wire. He can’t be off or out of sync at the beginning of this game and look to turn on the jets as the game progresses. He needs to be the number eight that steps into his throws and fires strikes, not the one who misses low, or puts himself in a bad throw because he held the ball too long.

This is a Browns game so it’s all about Mark Andrews. Andrews has had some of his biggest games against the Browns. That needs to continue on Sunday evening. When Jackson is feeling it and the Browns don’t have a way to stop Andrews, good things happen for Baltimore.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking every crazy victory of this insane season

This is going to be a battle. The offensive focus needs to be on three things. First, the play-calls must help the offensive line. Secondly, creativity must unlock some fun in the run game. Finally, the Ravens need Lamar Jackson back and ready to do some damage. Other than one bad day in 2019, Jackson has owned the Browns. He’s their biggest nightmare. He has to be extra scary to the Browns on this game in front of a national audience.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ranking every crazy victory of this insane season

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos and the Los Angles Chargers convincingly. The rest of their wins have come in the most insane ways imaginable. In some of these games, I still can’t believe they actually pulled out the win. So in the spirit of having some fun, let’s rank each of the Ravens five miracles this season.

Baltimore Ravens crazy wins:

5. Erasing a 14 point deficit to the Vikings:

The Baltimore Ravens started the Vikings game about as poorly as they could have. Baltimore trailed 17-10 at the end of the first half. The second half started with a touchdown return for the Vikings. The score was 24-10 and the way Baltimore was playing, this game felt over.

The Ravens outscored the Vikings 21-14 in the second half to take the game to overtime. In overtime, Lamar Jackson threw an interception trying to get the ball over a defensive end and into the flat. The Ravens defense found a way to get the stop and Justin Tucker found the win with his leg.

In the second half, you got a completely different Lamar Jackson. It was a completely different Ravens team. When this team gets rolling they are unstoppable. This was fun to watch.

4. Oh my Justin Tucker

If you would have told me after Tucker hit this field goal in week three, that there would be three finishes in front of this one, I would have been shocked. Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal to win the game against the Detroit Lions. Tucker hit a 61-yard field goal in 2013 to beat the Lions. Ford Field is kind to number nine. Until the 66-yard field goal that was his career-long. The football hit the crossbar and then bounced in between the uprights and made Tucker the record holder for the longest field goal in NFL history.

This game probably gets pushed down on my list because of how frustrating the game was. The Ravens had an irredeemable mess on their hands. Dropped passes took a lot of points off the board. The defense buckled eventually. The offense came up short time and time again. If there is a Ravens game I have no interest in rewatching (outside of the crazy finish where Lamar Jackson launched a prayer to get Tucker the chance for that miracle kick) it’s this one. This game was hell to watch. The finish was pure euphoria though.

3. Chicago still can’t believe it:

This game has the benefit of recency bias. At the time of this writing, less than 24 hours have passed since the incredible win. The Bears probably thought they had gotten away with one. Lamar Jackson didn’t play due to a non-Covid illness that sounds about as fun as eating nails and screws. The Bears found themselves up 13-9 with very little time left in an ugly game on a windy Chicago day.

Then a backup quarterback went down the field and got the Ravens a win. This was a day where the Ravens just had to find a way. They were without so many players. They didn’t have Lamar Jackson or Marquise Brown. The defense was more depleted than usual. It was a situation and the Ravens found a way to get the win. If this doesn’t show the resolve of this team when they band together to get something done, I don’t know what does. Congratulations Ravens, you showed you had the heart needed to attack a tough backend of the season.

2. Comeback against the Colts:

Lamar Jackson broke a franchise record for the most passing yards in a game. He found 442 yards in the air and his rushing yards put him over 500 total yards. The Baltimore Ravens were down 22-3. How did they win this game? Even with Lamar Jackson stepping up like Superman to save the day, the Ravens needed a lot of things to go right here.

They needed a blocked field goal by Calais Campbell. They needed a little luck after Tavon Young set up the game-winning field goal with a personal foul. The long and short of it, they needed a magical evening that couldn’t possibly be topped. The Ravens’ comeback against the Colts will go down as one of the most improbable wins ever in sports. Not just football, but sports in general.

Jackson put on one of the biggest displays of leadership I have ever seen with this performance. He willed his team to win. His generals stepped up at the moment. Mark Andrews had the game of his life with 11 receptions, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. Marquise Brown had nine catches for 126 yards and two scores. I pity the fools who went to bed angry and frustrated with the purple and black. They missed a show for the ages.

1. Baltimore Ravens top the Chiefs 36-35

The Baltimore Ravens hosted their kryptonite on Sunday Night Football. In front of a national audience, Lamar Jackson showed he could beat the Chiefs and make an amazing comeback all in one night. Jackson officially crossed off two things on the haters’ go-to list of things he couldn’t achieve. Ultimately, that is why this game gets the top billing.

The Ravens were down 35-24 at the end of the third quarter. It looked like the Ravens couldn’t stop the Chiefs’ offense. It looked like hope was officially lost. Jackson, who had two interceptions in the first half showed up.

He would not be denied. He put the team on his back and he screamed “Let’s go” with his play and his demeanor. Jackson put up 239 yards passing and had the best jump pass you’ll ever see in the process. He rushed for 107 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. No matter what happened, Jackson was walking away with a win. It was written, he decided it.

The defense joined in on the no matter what spirit of that majestic comeback. Odafe Oweh forced Patrick Mahomes to throw an interception, that gave the Ravens a boost late in the game. When a Chiefs’ game-winning field goal seemed imminent, Oweh forced Clyde Edwards-Helaire to fumble. Jackson would pick up the game-winning first down on a fourth-down attempt.

On that night the Baltimore Ravens knew they couldn’t give Mahomes the ball back. It was poetic justice, it was a feeling that couldn’t be matched in that stadium on that night. Jackson picked up the first down and the Ravens sent a statement to the league. Words can’t do that comeback justice.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens sneak past Bears: 7 lessons on victory Monday

As a guy who covers the team I’m trying to keep some of the emotion from bleeding through the screen you’ll read this on. As a Ravens fan since I was 10 years old, nothing could have meant more than being there at that emotional roller-coaster of a game. The reason it’s number one for me is that the emotion was going to sneak through no matter what my fingers did on this keyboard. This game means the entire world to me.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens battle with Bears won’t be easy: Pregame concerns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are playing the Chicago Bears on Sunday and it’s shaping up to be a harder day than Ravens fans want it to be. Lamar Jackson, who has been dealing with a non-Covid illness all week was listed on the injury report as questionable. Marquise Brown has been ruled out for the game. Chalk both of these Saturday developments as things you didn’t want to hear.

You have to expect that Lamar Jackson will suit up and play in this game. Jackson is the most important player on the field and if he can go, he will make it work. The fact that Tyler Huntley filling in is even a remote possibility makes this weekend tenser than it has to be.

Not having Marquise Brown doesn’t help an offense that needs to get back on track. In addition to Jackson being questionable so are 10 other Ravens players. The defense will be without Brandon Williams and Pernell McPhee. This is certainly is bad news for everyone except for David Montgomery and the Chicago run game.

The Ravens have played in close games all year long. They have only had three games that were decided by more than one score and they’ve lost two of them. When the Ravens win, it tends to be done the hard way. They also tend to start games out slow and without much rhythm. Jackson has missed practice time and has had a rough week. Today’s news with the injury report sounds like a slow start starter pack for the Ravens.

Not all bad news:

It’s not all bad news for the Ravens. Khalil Mack being on injured reserve doesn’t hurt. The Bears will be without one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. Chicago’s top receiver, Allen Robinson is listed on the injury report as doubtful. The Bears are a team that needs every ounce of star power they can get and they should be without a key player on both sides of the ball.

Patrick Mekari has returned to practice and is listed as questionable. If he can play at right tackle, that would be a huge help for the Ravens. That return to the starting lineup would be almost as important as the return of Nick Boyle. Boyle, who has been close to his return should be on the field on Sunday. He could spring some big run plays and should boost the overall battle in the trenches.

The absence of Marquise Brown makes for a big chance to see Rashod Bateman step up. Bateman had six receptions for 80 yards against the Miami Dolphins and has been a catch for a first down machine. The Ravens will need Sammy Watkins to return to form after a costly fumble against the Dolphins and all-around poor performance.

Justin Fields almost had a successful comeback attempt in Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fields had 291 yards in that game and hit on some big passes that made the game interesting. The Ravens have been giving up so many big plays, that Fields’s explosive arm and running ability must give everybody in Baltimore some pause.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

Is this a game the Ravens should win? Absolutely. The circumstances around this game create some doubt though, it isn’t an easy contest. The Ravens need to bring their A-game. What Lamar Jackson has in the tank is up in the air. This would be a good week for the team to pick him up with their play for a change. It would be nice if Jackson didn’t have to do the whole Superman act against the Bears, in a week where an illness has him listed as questionable.

I’m going about this game of the mind that Jackson will play. That being said, Tyler Huntley’s time to shine is not horribly unrealistic and Trace McSorley has been called up to the active roster. Not having Jackson would take this from being a difficult road game to a bad situation quickly.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears: 4 predictions and a score

Let’s see what happens tomorrow. One thing is for sure, the lead-up to this game is an anxious one. Baltimore must win this game regardless of their circumstances.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

How did the Baltimore Ravens become the comeback masters?

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens spent the 2020 season hearing that they couldn’t mount a comeback. Then they overcame a 10 point deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, showing that Lamar Jackson and company were capable of the feat. The offseason leading to the 2021 season was filled with questions. Could the Ravens be a more resilient team? Could they get the passing game going when they needed to? The question was simply can the Ravens beat you in multiple ways?

The 2021 Ravens have become the masters of the NFL comeback victory. They were down 35-24 against the Kansas City Chiefs and won 36-35. They trailed the Indianapolis Colts 25-9 and won 31-25 in overtime. This past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens did it again. They came back from a 24-10 deficit to the Minnesota Vikings and won 34-31 in overtime. How did this happen?

Lamar Jackson is the start of every Baltimore Ravens comeback:

The Baltimore Ravens were forced to adapt this year. Losing their star running backs before the season even kicked off forced the Ravens to get more out of the passing game. Lamar Jackson already has 2,209 yards passing this season. In the entire 2020 season, Jackson had just 2,757 yards. He’s on pace to blow past his 2020 season, and even his MVP campaign in 2019.

Jackson has been the key to the comebacks. Against the Colts he had to light up the box score. He turned on the jets and threw for more passing yards in one game than any Ravens quarterback ever had. We’re talking 442 passing yards and 62 rushing yards. Jackson put the team on his back and put up over 500 yards of offense. How is that even possible?

Against the Chiefs, Jackson had 239 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. Against the Vikings, Jackson had 266 yards passing and 120 on the ground. Jackson doesn’t panic, instead something kicks into his system and he turns things around. He does what ever it takes, he finds a new focus, he uses his legs to make things happen and he takes shots with his arm. This year when Jackson’s back is up against the wall he finds a higher level of play.

The entire team is sparked by Jackson. The reason Jackson should win the NFL MVP is because the Ravens have a chance to win every game and without him that wouldn’t be the case. The offense finds big plays the second Jackson wakes up and starts the comeback with a huge throw or an attack mode quarterback keeper. The defense finds it’s backbone and comes up with big stops when Jackson’s actions legitimize the Baltimore comeback attempt. You can feel it. When Jackson flips the switch, it’s a brand new team.

The emergence of a number one receiver:

One of the reasons the Baltimore passing game struggled in the past in these types of games is that there was a lack of reliability at the pass catching positions. Drops were a huge issue, espesically in the 2020 season. Outside of the one game (Vs. the Detroit Lions) the Baltimore receivers have been incredibly sure handed. Crazy touchdown grabs like Devin Duvernay‘s against the Vikings weren’t in the cards before.

Marquise Brown has become a number one receiver. It’s not an opinion, it’s a verifiable fact at this point. Brown already has 46 receptions for 682 yards. Should the Oklahoma product stay healthy, a 1,000 yard season is on the way.

Brown has had at least three receptions in every game and in the comeback missions he’s been unstoppable. Against the Chiefs he had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis got rocked by his nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings let up another nine receptions for 116 yards. This is a Tyreek Hill or Devante Adams level of performance. Baltimore has a homegrown playmaker who has come into his own.

Sure hands and a newly potent passing game:

Mark Andrews has been just as big a part of it all. This is by far the best Andrews has played (and he was already a top-tier tight end. Andrews had 11 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. Andrews and Brown give the Ravens two big play threats at all times. Rashod Bateman has been back for three games and it’s clear that he has the big play potential as well.

When you add the sure hands of James Proche and Devin Duvernay, everything becomes possible when Lamar Jackson catches fire. You have a lot of secure places to go with the football, a lot of players for the defense to worry about, while they have to stop the best dual-threat at quarterback we may have ever seen in number eight.

It’s almost like it’s been the past few years with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you don’t want the Ravens to have to be in attack mode. That’s where all that talent can turn things into overdrive. John Harbaugh isn’t shy about going for it on fourth down, and his aggressiveness can pay off when the Ravens are in these tough spots.

Turning on the lightswitch, flipping the script on defense:

The Ravens are very much a hit or miss team. They’re either hot or they’re cold and that applies on both sides of the football. The magic for the Ravens is that they seem to know how to flip the switch. Would it be nice for the Baltimore Ravens to be consistent? Yes. Would it be nice if they didn’t need a wake up call from time to time? Of course. That being said, the fact that they can be so resilient and can change the momentum of the game is encouraging.

Defense is a big part of achieving a come-from-behind victory. If you can’t get stops, you can’t catchup to the other team. Don Martindale has been at his best when he’s had to figure out how to clamp down on the opponent in the fourth quarter and at key spots. Against the Chiefs he found the wrinkle that forced Patrick Mahomes into turnovers. The defense tightened up against the Colts. Without a stop on a sudden change of possesion, the Baltimore defense would have been responsible for an overtime loss against the Vikings.

Calling the Ravens a good defense seems fairly irresponsible. The Ravens give up a ton of big plays. The one thing the Ravens defense has been is opportunistic. In the big moments they’ve either found a turnover or a stop they’ve needed. The loss to the Bengals was the excpetion to the rule, every other time the Ravens have been pushed this season, they’ve found a way to make things interesting.

The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens:

The Baltimore Ravens are the best comeback team in the NFL this season. They’ve made it more difficult than it has to be. The thrilling victories are incredible. While the Ravens have to work on a more sustainable route to wins, they must be credited for being the cardiac birds. They can do in pressure moments. They’re never out of a game. This isn’t the same old Ravens’ team. They can find a way to win no almost no matter what.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens wise not to force it at trade deadline

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. If they take care of buisness in the games they should win, Baltimore should be in the playoffs. That’s an exciting prospect for a team you can’t count out with a quarterback who has been remarkable when the odds are against him.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs. Minnesota Vikings: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and they better win because it’s the day before my birthday. That’s not actually why they better win, but for me, it works. Getting serious for a bit, let’s talk about this game. Here are four predictions and a score for the purple-on-purple crime that is Ravens vs. Vikings.

1. Lamar Jackson has 400 total yards

The Baltimore Ravens have to realize that they have five wins for one specific reason. It’s Lamar Jackson is the MVP of the NFL. Jackson is the key to everything and he’s going to take center stage against the Vikings. Lamar Jackson is the hardest worker at the quarterback position and he’s had an extra week to stew on a loss. This means he’s going to come out ready. I expect Jackson to be on his A-game. This is how he operates. When he thinks he has to turn on the jets, he does it.

The Minnesota Vikings don’t have the strongest defense in the NFL. The Vikings give up 367 yards per game. They give up an average of 246.1 yards per contest. Jackson has thrown for over 230 yards in all but one game this season.

Let’s say he has 300 passing yards on Sunday. Let’s give him 100 yards on the ground. Remember Sam Darnold picked up 48 rushing yards against Minnesota earlier this season. Jackson can double that and he doesn’t need much help from the Vikings’ defense. In a game where Kyler Murray didn’t have to really run the football because he had 400 yards in the air, Murray had 31 yards on the ground. I expect Jackson to be feeling it on Sunday. When Jackson brings his A-game he’s good for 60 rushing yards at a minimum. Give him 100.

2. Rashod Bateman takes over

The Ravens have a lot of matchup problems for the opponent. It’s a sentence that was once just a dream, but now it’s a reality. The Ravens have Marquise Brown playing like a number one wide receiver. They have Mark Andrews playing like the best tight end in the NFL. Say what you want about Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and even Josh Oliver, but they all have skills that can get them chances to catch the football. The defense has a lot to worry about.

Rashod Bateman could emerge as the third weapon that defenses have to make a priority. Bateman has an incredible opportunity with all the attention rightfully going to Brown and Andrews and a passing game that attacks the whole field. It is also worth noting that Sammy Watkins hasn’t fully recovered from his injury. Bateman could have a real breakout game. If he does it’s going to break the Vikings’ defense.

Bateman had three receptions for 80 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. Two things are true of Bateman’s start to his NFL career. First, when he gets called on it usually goes well. Secondly, he gets targets because he’s winning off the line and he’s creating separation with good route running. He could be the X-Factor in every game moving forward. Let’s put him down for six receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. That sounds fun and it’s a situation that could help towards those lofty numbers.

3. The Ravens bend but don’t break

Don Martindale is going to have to adjust his defensive game plan. Overall, what the Ravens have been doing isn’t working and Baltimore ranks last in passing defense. To quote the bad boss with grey hair in the Christmas movie Elif “That does not happen!”

Martindale will still lean towards being aggressive. He just has to realize that this defense can’t keep getting gashed. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thelin are going to get some tough completions that will extend drives for the Vikings. If you thought Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were hard to do battle with, just wait for this week. With the matchup favoring the Vikings’ receivers more than the Ravens’ defensive backs, Martindale will simply try to keep everything in front of the defense.

Ultimately the biggest problem for the Vikings will be the Ravens putting points on the board. If the defense isn’t perfect it’s going to be okay, because the offense is going to rock it. The defense just has to play a solid game and not break when it matters most.

4. The Ravens run game gets back on track

If Lamar Jackson has 100 yards on the ground it will be a big boost for the run game overall. If the Vikings have trouble covering the Ravens’ weapons, they’ll be unable to commit extra bodies for run defense. Should the Ravens run up the score, they’re going to run the ball more. A lot of things point in a positive direction for the run game.

Baltimore Ravens win 41-24

I have a strong feeling about this game. It can go one way or the other and it’s on the Ravens to make the right decision. My confidence in John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson has me feeling a Ravens win. Let’s see a ticked-off Ravens team that’s done some soul searching get the win.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 positives at the bye

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 positives at the bye

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens are 5-2 as they enter their bye week. When you think about all the injuries and problems the team has faced, this is impressive. Despite the leftover gloom from their loss to divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, there are a lot of positives. Let’s look at them today. Even after the Ravens lose, we have to see the positives. 

10. Rashod Bateman looks the part

Rashod Bateman looks like the first-round pick he’s supposed to be. Bateman has only gotten to play in two games due to a groin injury in training camp. Bateman is coming on strong and the pros outweigh the cons. When the Ravens drafted Bateman they took a stab at finding an explosive playmaker at the position with size.

The rookie wide receiver is playing silky smooth. He’s winning the battle and getting great separation. In two games he’s tallied a total of seven receptions and 109 yards. His biggest gain was a 35-yard strike. It’s not just that he’s contributing to the box score, but the fact that he looks ahead of his years that has the Ravens so excited.

9. The Hollywood Brown ascension:

Keeping with the wide receiver position, let’s talk about Marquise Brown. The Ravens got one bad game out of Brown – it was against the Detroit Lions. The rest of the season has been impeccable for Brown.

He has caught at least three passes in every game. He’s had a couple of monster Fantasy Football days. Against the Colts, he aided a historic comeback with nine receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City. His touchdown grab against the Broncos may have been the top highlight of the season.

Brown has become a legitimate deep threat to say the very least. He’s had a play over 40 yards in three of the seven games this season. With 10 games left, if Brown only doubles his receptions and receiving yards, he’s going to blow past his career highs. Brown is simply a different player this year. Now we’re seeing why he was a first-round pick.

8. Bradley Bozeman is a bright spot on a struggling offensive line

The offensive line has a lot of problems. Ronnie Stanley is out for the year after rushing back too soon for the season opener. The Ravens are looking for their third option at right tackle with Alejandro Villanueva being on the left side and Pat Mekari hurt against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kevin Zeitler has been good as a pass blocker but the right guard hasn’t performed quite as well for the run game. Left guard has been a bit of everything with a surprising number of names getting involved: Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, and Ben Cleveland. Do you know what hasn’t been a problem? Bradley Bozeman at the center position. 

Bozeman may be pricing himself out of a second contract with the Baltimore Ravens, yet the move to center has been a positive one for him. He’s back in the position he played for the Alabama Crimson Tide and without him, the offensive line wouldn’t function at all. With Stanley out of the picture, Bozeman may be the best offensive lineman on the Baltimore Ravens. 

This is a huge win for Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh because Bozeman moving to center was a transparent part of the plan for the entire offseason. The Ravens would have paid a cost if it was a bad idea. 

7. Odafe Oweh has been an impact player

Odafe Oweh is going to be a dangerous pass rusher for a long time. The outside linebacker from Penn State is having a very noticeable and memorable start to his rookie season. Against the Chiefs, he was directly involved in the two defensive plays that let the Ravens win 36-35. He’s been a solid defender on the edge and it’s allowed him to play a lot of snaps. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles. When he wins off the edge he shows signs of being a special player. 

6. Calais Campbell is a consistent rock

The Baltimore Ravens don’t beat the Indianapolis Colts if Calais Campbell doesn’t block a field goal in the middle of the comeback attempt. Think about that for a second. One of the oldest players on the roster, who supposedly is hanging up the cleats after this season, made a special teams play for the ages with a pure effort play.

Campbell is playing consistently well on the defensive line. He is Pro Football Focus’s third highest-rated player this season. He may not be as flashy as he once was, yet Campbell is showing why he has future Hall of Fame inductee written all over him. He’s the hardest working player on a defense that needs more hard workers. 

5. Special Teams has been a strength

Special teams have been huge this season. The kickoff coverage has been surprisingly potent, while Devin Duvernay has become a very efficient return specialist. The Ravens’ special teams have been an underrated part of their 5-2 mark. Having the best kicker in NFL history doesn’t hurt either. 

4. Found a way in some close games

The number one thing you can say about a team is that they find a way to win. The Ravens have found a way to win in close games. They had an emotionally charged comeback against the Indianapolis Colts. They had a 66-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions and they got past the Chiefs in one of the best games M&T Bank Stadium will ever see. The Ravens could be 2-5 right now. They’re 5-2 because they have dug down deep and stepped up in the crucial moments much more often than not. 

3. The team has shown flashes of something greater

The talk about the Baltimore Ravens has shifted because of the humble pie they took before the bye week. Fine. Let’s not forget that the Ravens were getting glowing praise all over the place and from just about every outlet. The Ravens were a Super Bowl contender with an MVP quarterback and just because the hype got quiet doesn’t mean the Ravens can’t wake it back up.

When the Ravens won comfortably against the Los Angeles Chargers they showed a sign that something more was possible. They put everything together and it looked amazing. The offense rolled, the defense dominated and Baltimore was higher than cloud nine. We’ve seen some incredible moments out of this team. The negatives have the spotlight, yet the Ravens have every chance to have a great season.  

2. Lamar Jackson… Wow!

Lamar Jackson at his best is the most entertaining thing to watch in professional sports. Jackson has been incredible this season and is on pace to have the best year of his career to this point. The numbers that Jackson set in the 2019 season (Where he was the unanimous MVP) should be smashed. Jackson has led comebacks wins. He set the single-game passing yards record for the Baltimore Ravens franchise. He’s played MVP caliber football and his dual-threat ability is as jaw-dropping as it ever was. Has it been perfect? No. Has it been a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life? Absolutely. 

1. Playoff chances are still good: 

With 10 games left on the schedule, the Ravens have five wins. If the Ravens win six out of those 10 games they will probably end up in the playoffs. The Ravens continue their homestand after the bye week with a game against the Minnesota Vikings. They then take on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. If the Ravens win those three games everything is back on track and the Ravens are halfway to where they want to be after this 10 game stretch. At that point, if they managed to only split with each of their division rivals they’d have 11 wins right there. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking their top 10 problems after a tough loss

The Ravens’ two stumbles in the first seven games were about the best realistic outcome Baltimore could have expected. What the Ravene must do, is to take care of business and they should be heading to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Baltimore Ravens need to step up and realize their full potential. These positives set up a good foundation to make that positive. We will have more content for the bye week as well as some early coverage for the battle against the Vikings. When you need your Raven fix, we have you covered. 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ranking their top 10 problems after a tough loss

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have issues. They have been dealing with a lot on the injury front this season, and still have managed a 5-2 record. After a 41-17 loss to the Bengals, the problems are the clear focus of the fanbase. Let’s dive into the problems because they feel heavier than ever.

Problem 1: Offensive line is even more banged up

The Baltimore Ravens will probably be without Patrick Mekari for a while. He was holding down the fort at the right tackle position about as well as anybody could have hoped for. Now the Ravens are at their Plan C at offensive tackle. For the moment that means Tyre Phillips is back at right tackle. That’s not good. Ronnie Stanley is out for the season. The Ravens could use reinforcements on the offensive line but trades are hard to come by for linemen mid-season.

Problem 2: The defense is an enigma

The Ravens probably aren’t as good as they were defensively against the Chargers. That could easily look like an anomaly, a weird happening that nobody will ever complain about. The Ravens hopefully aren’t as bad as they were against the Bengals. Still, this defense makes no sense. How can this be the same defense that throttled Justin Herbert? The Ravens have no idea what to expect from their defense as a whole, which is the top concern for a defense with a lot of things to worry about.

Problem 3: Pursuit angles, open field coverage, inconsistent pass coverage

The Ravens give up more yards after the catch than I can bear; don’t make me look up that ugly statistic. The Ravens are taking bad angles to the football. In the passing game, their linebackers look lost and provide very little value. Currently, four of the top five leading tacklers are defensive backs. That means the front seven is letting a lot slip past them. If you watched the game against the Bengals you understand the defensive backs have a limited grasp on what a tackle should look like.

The Ravens have given up some big games in the air. In general, their pass defense is hard to count on. The Ravens couldn’t stop tight ends in the first two weeks of the season. Michael Pittman Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase have dominated them. The secondary either shows up or it doesn’t and when it hasn’t, it’s been ugly.

Problem 4: The run game is broken

The Ravens’ rushing yards are almost exclusively coming from Lamar Jackson at the moment. The running backs don’t have the burst to make it work. It’s not like the offensive line is creating much daylight, yet this running back group offers very little to be excited about. The Ravens don’t have an answer on their active roster. At this point, they may as well try Nate McCrary with the big boys.

Has the Ravens’ passing game grown leaps and bounds? You bet. Still, this is supposed to be the best running team in football and they are nowhere close to that. The Ravens lost their physical identity. They need Nick Boyle to come back for a much-needed blocking super booster. They need the line to block better. Adding a running back isn’t going to fix everything, but having somebody who can turn a two-yard run into a four or five-yard gain would add unspeakable value to this team.

Problem 5: Wide Receiver has become the top strength (And it’s not an elite unit)

What do the Ravens have going for them offensively? It’s a shortlist. The Ravens have an MVP quarterback and a good group of pass-catchers. All of a sudden the wide receiver position is the top position for the offense other than quarterback. Marquise Brown is a number one receiver. We can give him that after his strong start to the season. Rashod Bateman looks the part, it’s clear that he’s going to be good. James Proche and Devin Duvernay have stepped up this year and have become solid contributors.

While it’s good that the offense is getting more from the passing game (In particular their receivers) this is a troubling sign. The Ravens don’t have a top-tier group of receivers. Until proven otherwise, Marquise Brown is the only real game-changer the receiver position has. If you said at the beginning of the season that the Ravens’ offense would lean on its wide receivers, you may have become very nervous. That’s the point. It’s hard to have balance like this. This isn’t what the team was built for, even if it’s better than it was.

6. The defensive line has been relatively unimpactful

The Baltimore Ravens aren’t getting much from the defensive line. This has been Brandon Williams’s worst season. Justin Madubuike has been okay, yet with a larger sample size this season he’s underachieved. Calais Campbell is clearly the best defensive lineman the Baltimore Ravens have. Campbell isn’t the game destroyer he once was though, and the defensive line has been gashed several times this season.

7. Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison can’t be counted on:

The fact of the matter is that Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison had the opportunity to shine this season. L.J. Fort was lost to injury and the Baltimore Ravens desperately needed their young linebackers to play well. Patrick Queen has been not just underwhelming but frustrating. Malik Harrison isn’t showing to be a great athlete. Chris Board and Josh Bynes are the best linebackers the Ravens have. Queen has improved but in a situation where he’s losing snaps to Bynes, a player Baltimore had no choice but to bring into the fold.

8. Slow starts are getting old:

The Ravens can’t start games right this season. Other than the Chargers game, name one time the Ravens led a game wire to wire. Exactly, you can’t. The Ravens have won close games in which they needed to be an amazing fourth-quarter team. Doing things the hard way comes at a cost. The Bengals did not let the Ravens get away with it.

9. Baltimore can’t afford anything but an A effort from Lamar Jackson:

The Ravens are 5-2 because their quarterback has played like he wants his second MVP award. Jackson had two fumbles against the Las Vegas Raiders and was a bit off at times. Jackson was completely out of sync against the Bengals. They lost. If Jackson doesn’t amaze the Ravens can’t win unless they get a complete team win (It happened one time only: See Chargers game).

10. Injuries and general are adding up:

The Ravens have more players on injured reserve than you can count on your 10 fingers. The Ravens have lost star players for the season, players who were core to the whole plan this year. When you look at it the Ravens have very limited cap space and very limited options ahead of the trade deadline and they need fresh bodies on this roster. Injuries have been an incredibly bad problem.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens get dominated by Bengals: Nothing nice to say

The Ravens still have a chance to have a great season. They do have issues to work through though, and just about every problem feels heavy going into the bye week.