Sneaky reason why Ravens, not Patriots, are AFC’s best - Chris Mueller
The Ravens gave up 25 points per game in Weeks 1-4. In Weeks 5-8, that number has dropped to 19 points per game. Their rush defense, which surrendered 333 yards in consecutive losses to Kansas City and Cleveland, has limited its past four opponents to 72.5 yards per game, which would be best in the league if projected over the course of a full season.
Former NFL scout Matt Williamson also likes what he sees in the Ravens’ secondary. “Like New England, the entire key to Baltimore’s defense is their secondary,” he told me. “While I don’t think they are great on this side of the ball, being great (and healthy) in the secondary has a huge trickle-down affect for the entire defense. They ask a ton from their DBs, but in turn, it allows them to blitz a ton and stack the box since they have extreme faith in their cover men.”
Ravens Secondary Is Really Strong … And Should Get Better - Clifton Brown
They have a six-time Pro Bowl safety in Earl Thomas playing alongside Chuck Clark, known for his defensive acumen. Clark’s command of the defense is so solid that he wears the mic’d helmet and relays the defensive signals, although he has made just six career starts.
“We can be really good,” [Jimmy] Smith said. “We have a lot of talent out there, a lot of smart players. That really stands out with our guys. We have the physicality. We have everything we need.”
“He’s just such a great teammate,” Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said of Carr. “So selfless in his approach.”
“It just makes your game plan be more flexible,” Martindale said. “Quite a few times against New England we didn’t even have a linebacker on the field. Each week it changes. You have a different set of problems, if you will, to attack.”
PFF favorites for NFL MVP, Offensive/Defensive Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year - Anthony Treash
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Collectively on the season, Jackson has turned in the second-lowest turnover-worthy play rate at 1.7%.
Baltimore uses a significant amount of pistol formation with a 44.6% usage rate that is nearly 40% higher than any other offense. Out of pistol, Jackson is averaging a nice 8.0 yards per pass attempt, and the offense as a whole is averaging 5.9 yards per rush attempt.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
While in coverage, Thomas has allowed a stingy 48.3 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks and just five catches on 10 targets in coverage with three combined interceptions and pass breakups. Thomas has locked down the middle of the field for Baltimore and it seems as if he will be doing so evermore.
What’s your biggest surprise this season so far, and why?
“Baltimore lost a lot of players on defense and still producing. Offense is rolling with a QB not many thought could throw good enough to do it.”
Which player from another team doesn’t get the credit he deserves?
“Marlon Humphrey. He shadows the opposing teams’ No. 1s, but you don’t ever hear about him.”
What trend is happening in the NFL right now that no one is talking about?
“You can win with a running quarterback.”
“Certainly not a new trend but you can say it’s made a comeback this season—combatting these high-powered offenses with smashmouth football. Play good defense, run the ball and control the clock. See New England, San Francisco, Baltimore…”
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Point spread: Ravens -10
The Ravens are flying high after their 37-20 win over the previously undefeated Patriots. This week, they face a winless Bengals team who has a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Now, backup quarterbacks have fared pretty well this season, but willing the Bengals to victory over this Ravens team is going to be a tall task for Ryan Finley. It is worth noting, however, that Cincinnati had a bye week to prepare for this game, and that they covered the spread in Week 6 when the Bengals lost to the Ravens, 23-17.
I believe that this game is going to be close in the early stages, but Baltimore ends up blowing away Cincinnati in the fourth quarter.