NFL Players to Watch
After lighting the league on fire with his game-breaking rushing ability down the stretch of the 2018 season, everyone will be itching to get their first look quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offensive gameplan. From Week 11 to Week 17, Jackson churned out 425 yards from designed quarterback runs and a further 129 yards on 17 scrambles. If Jackson & Co. are used right, this offense will provide a tough challenge for even the most feared defensive coaches.
For the Dolphins, it will be interesting to see how much work Albert Wilson gets. A breakout candidate in 2019, Wilson recorded more yards after the catch per reception (13.3) than any other wide receiver with at least 35 targets last year, and he’s finished first in missed tackles forced per reception in each of the last two years. One particular area to focus on in this one will be the Ravens’ pass-rush against the Dolphins’ offensive line. After losing Terell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith earlier in the offseason, Pernell McPhee and Matthew Judon will be chomping at the bit to get to work on a Dolphins offensive line will consist of two rookies and three veterans who all failed to record grades above 60.0 last year.
Earl Thomas didn’t mince words when he talked about why he was brought to Baltimore.
“To create turnovers,” Thomas said. “I’m looking for my opportunities.”
The hunt begins Sunday in Miami, where the Ravens will face veteran Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a “swashbuckler” known for giving his opponents some chances.
Marshal Yanda: Offensive Line Will Roll With Whomever
“Whatever guy they go with, they’ve had a good amount of reps there and we’re going to roll with the guy they put in there,” Yanda said, saying he trusts the coaches to pick the right guy. “We understand that it’s part of the process.”
AFC win-total projections: Patriots No. 1, Texans atop division - Cynthia Frelund
Baltimore Ravens: 8.6 wins
The Ravens have the most volatility of any team this season, meaning the biggest discrepancy between their ceiling and floor. With a top-three projection for defensive back efficiency, they can buy their defensive front some valuable time in order to create disruptions. However, with the offseason departures of Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs, uncertainty about who will be rushing the passer now exists. On offense, coordinator Greg Roman’s ability to craft an attack that suits Lamar Jackson’s skills helps the ceiling projections, but one key difference for this year’s team? Look for Jackson to rush to the edges, where he’ll find more one-on-one matchups as opposed to rushing between the tackles as we’ve seen other Roman-coached quarterbacks do. My favorite projection for this team? Tight end Mark Andrews forecasts to lead the team in receptions.
Another one of the Week 1 NFL picks from the model: the Ravens (-6.5) cover on the road against the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
The line has moved two points in favor of Baltimore, but the model still finds value on the Ravens after they rolled to six wins in their final seven games of the 2018 season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was the X-factor during that run, and he’s back to lead an offense that was bolstered by the offseason acquisition of running back Mark Ingram. Baltimore has also owned the series against Miami recently, winning seven of their last eight matchups and outscoring the Dolphins a combined 78-6 the last two times.
Miami, meanwhile, dropped its last three games and seven of its last 10 in 2018 to fall out the playoff conversation. Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the Week 1 start, and SportsLine’s model projects that Baltimore’s defense holds him to only 170 yards of passing and forces at least one interception, helping the Ravens cover in well over 50 percent of simulations.