Executive of the year: Eric DeCosta - Mike Florio
Rarely does the coach of the year and the executive of the year come from the team. But it’s a rare season in Baltimore.
DeCosta and the Ravens targeted running back Mark Ingram in free agency, adding punch to the running game and an ideal foil for Jackson. With receivers not inclined in joining what many feared would be a run-centric offense, DeCosta and the Ravens added Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin via the draft. (A pair of tight ends picked in 2018, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, has worked out well, too.)
DeCosta and the Ravens shrugged at the departure of defensive stalwarts like C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Eric Weddle, adding Earl Thomas at safety (they arguably overpaid, especially given his performance this year) and relying on the next men up.
It has all worked, incredibly well. Fourteen total wins. Twelve in a row. The top seed for the first time ever. And the kind of potential outcome to the season that could get Ravens fans to officially revise “In Ozzie We Trust.”
Top 50 NFL rookies through Week 17 - Anthony Treash
Hollywood Brown was less impactful over the last few weeks of 2019, but his Week 1 and Week 10 games — which earned a single-game PFF grade of 94.0 and 92.0, respectively — were easily two of the best performances we saw from a rookie this season. Brown was an explosive play waiting to happen when on the field, ranking behind only Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown among rookies in deep receiving grade.
Undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari was handed the center duties once starter Matt Skura was placed on the Injured Reserve back in Week 12. Since then, Mekari is the 11th-highest graded center in the NFL, and he has yet to allow a single sack.
1. Lamar Jackson
Has Jackson ever won a playoff game? No. He’s a painful 0 for 1. Has he destroyed defenses each week for the past four months? Yep. With gusto. I gave the edge to Drew Brees in my own personal rankings for this exercise, due to experience (more on that in the Brees section of the Quarterback Index) and the fact that he posted a league-best 137.0 rating in the final four weeks of the regular season. Now that I got that out of the way ... Jackson is the MVP. He did a whole bunch of things no one has ever done before, and I’m not sure any defense has an answer for him. So, yes, very large truss has been earned here.
How they’re better than you think: Everyone sees the Ravens’ defense this season as a necessary evil in between moments of magic from Lamar Jackson, but it has been great since acquiring Marcus Peters. With the former Rams cornerback in the fold, Don Martindale’s defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a QBR of 31.1. With Peters sidelined or in Los Angeles, that mark rises more than 28 points to 59.2.
The Ravens have blitzed more frequently with Peters on the field, and both their sack and pressure rates are better with the former All-Pro in the lineup. Martindale is just having fun dialing up pressures each week. On third down, the Ravens are blitzing 70% of the time. Seventy! No other team is north of 50.6%, and with 13 years of data, the only other defense that blitzed as frequently on third down was Rex Ryan’s 2009 Jets team, which had peak Darrelle Revis at corner. The Ravens don’t have anybody as good as Revis, but with Peters, Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith, they’re deeper than anybody else in the league at corner.
Most quietly important player: I’ll go with Marquise Brown, who is one of the few Ravens starters who might qualify as disappointing this season. After racking up 233 receiving yards and two touchdowns through the first two weeks of the year, the rookie wide receiver has been inconsistent from week to week. The Oklahoma star missed time with a groin injury, but since returning in Week 9, he has averaged just under 29 receiving yards per game. Brown isn’t going to get 10 targets per game in this offense, but we know how terrifying his speed can be for opposing defenses. I’m hoping he makes an impact on the playoff stage.
FPI says ...
Chances of advancing to conference championship: 84.9%
Chances of advancing to Super Bowl: 53.5%
Chances of winning Super Bowl: 35.7%