1. JOHN HARBAUGH, BALTIMORE RAVENS
He’s made good decisions that did not work out or lead to wins, like going for a two-point conversion in Kansas City after a penalty made it a one-yard try, or heeding the advice of our own Kevin Cole in going for two down by eight points in what amounted to a blowout loss against the Browns in Baltimore. These losses did not deter Harbaugh or the Ravens, as he and Lamar Jackson teamed to forgo a field goal against a one-loss Seahawks team on the road, opting for a Jackson touchdown run that increased their chances of winning that game by 13 percentage points over a made field goal.
Lastly, one of the best decisions Harbaugh has made this season was hiring Greg Roman to run his offense. Schematically, the Ravens are running one of the most unique offenses in the NFL through eight weeks, facing middle-of-the-pack box counts on early downs while running on early downs at the league’s third-highest rate, deploying the most-efficient types of runs (designed quarterback runs) with Lamar Jackson to the tune of 321 yards, with only 113 coming after contact, for an average of 6.9 and 4.5 per carry, respectively. In our play-by-play coaching metric, Roman has been top-five all season, leveraging the strengths of his team masterfully so far.
4. MARCUS PETERS 83.1
Peters is averaging the most coverage snaps between receptions of any corner in the league. So far, he’s allowed all of 11 catches while he himself has hauled in three interceptions, including a pick-six against Seattle. He wasn’t traded for his on-field play.
14. MARLON HUMPHREY 73.8
Humphrey isn’t quite grading out as highly as he did in 2018, but it’s still an impressive feat to crack this list considering he’s tracked number one receivers in five of the Ravens seven games this season already. He’s once again allowing a completion percentage against right around 50.0%, as he’s yielded 19-of-37 targets so far for 293 yards.
So much of the Patriots’ strength on defense is based on their knack for taking away the opponent’s strength, but Jackson’s unique skill set presents such a challenge that even a great week of prep might not be enough for Belichick this time.
To me, the Ravens’ rush offense has the advantage over the run defense of the Patriots, whose strength on D is in the secondary. This season, the Pats are allowing the 12th-most yards per carry (4.6) and have given up 100-plus rushing yards three times (vs. the Browns, Redskins and Bills) with yards-per-carry marks of 7.23, 7.25 and 6.14 in those games, respectively.
The fact that the Patriots are using man coverage at the highest rate (62.4 percent) in the NFL this season also plays right into the Ravens’ hands. Man coverage is more susceptible to giving up yardage on quarterback scrambles because defenders’ eyes are on their assigned receivers instead of the QB.
Baltimore ranks No. 1 in Next Gen Stats’ rush success percentage (57.2) and has the seventh-lowest run stuff percentage (17.1) despite having the third-most attempts (258) in the league, while the Patriots rank 21st in run-stuff percentage (19.6).
Bill Belichick described the ‘problem’ that is Lamar Jackson - Zachary DuPont
“He’s a problem. He’s definitely a problem. He leads the team in rushing, or he did,” Belichick said. “He and [Mark] Ingram are right kind of there together, so it’s definitely a challenge.”
“He’s very fast and he’s definitely a hard guy to handle,” Belichick said. “He’s fast and that’s really a big problem. A lot of times he just outruns people. I mean, he’s got good moves, too. I’m not saying that, but a lot of times he just outruns people with his speed.
“Catching him is an issue, especially when he keeps the ball. A lot of times he’s running against a defensive end and the ends just aren’t fast enough.”