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Ravens News 1/8: The center of the NFL Universe and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Training Camp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson Bent Football to His Will and Made the Ravens the Center of the NFL Universe - Kevin Clark

Here is the problem facing NFL defenses: Lamar Jackson crosses the line of scrimmage at 13.7 miles per hour, by far the fastest speed in the league. He is also the third-most efficient passer by passer rating. The blending of these two things is not normal.

Space is the lifeblood of modern football, and Jackson understands how to exploit it better than anyone. Defenses have gotten faster and more athletic, and Jackson uses that against them. He understands how to use his own speed and can use his agility to defeat defenders. Defenders say if you come at Jackson too quickly, you will get embarrassed. If you come too slowly, you’ll never get close to him.

What makes the Ravens deeply unfair to opposing defenses is that their blocking creates so much space for a player who can pop big runs without it, because he creates so much space on his own.

One thing is clear: The Jackson experience is not replicable. If you are an NFL team looking for the next Jackson, you will fail. “It’s hard. He’s a generational player. I don’t think there’s anyone else like him,” Ravens tight end Nick Boyle said. “There might be people who are kind of like him, but it can’t be exactly like him. He’s just too talented.”

Jackson, essentially, presents a math problem. Defenses built schemes based on the quarterback passing the ball, but he’s a threat to do anything. And you need multiple players to tackle him. “When you see how they stretch the defense, you are going to get more and more guys like that out of college,” Venturi said. “But you have to be careful with that. I don’t know how many guys are really like him. Lamar Jackson is such a unique talent.”

Lamar Jackson ready to earn postseason redemption - Nick Shook

Bro, I really hate it,” Jackson said of the 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that ended his rookie season, via the Ravens’ official site. “I can’t wait to play this week coming up. So, I don’t really want to talk about it anymore. It’s over.”

In that game, Jackson couldn’t escape crushing turnovers, fumbling three times (losing one) and throwing an interception as the Chargers slowly built a lead. For three quarters, the Ravens looked completely out-schemed and outplayed.

But then Jackson awoke in the fourth, tossing two touchdown passes in the game’s final 6:33 and putting Baltimore near midfield with a one-score deficit in the game’s final minute. Jackson’s lost fumble ended things, yet the final period of that wild-card contest gave us a preview of what was to come in 2019: an unleashed Jackson.

”That game motivated me. It’s still motivating me,” Jackson said

Ravens’ Earl Thomas expects Titans to focus on run behind Derrick Henry - Jamison Hensley

“I think if [Ryan] Tannehill tries to pass on us, I don’t think that’ll go in their favor,” Thomas said Tuesday. “We know they’re going to try to run the ball.”

“I think Tannehill threw like [15] times last game for like [72] yards in a playoff game and they still won,” Thomas said. “That’s a credit to how hard [Derrick Henry] is running and their offensive line.”

“Guys didn’t seem like they were too interested in tackling him,” Thomas said of the Patriots. “Our mindset is a little different. We’re going to try to swarm and we’ll see how it plays out.”

During the Ravens’ 12-game winning streak, their defense has allowed the fewest yards (268.9) and points (15.2) in the NFL.

PFF projections for the second round of the playoffs - Eric Eager


The Ravens maintain their status as the favorites through their bye, but in getting a date with the Tennessee Titans rather than Houston or Buffalo, they actually draw a tougher matchup in our eyes (Tennessee is our eighth-rated team in terms of PFFELO, while Houston and Buffalo are ninth and 13th, respectively). The Ravens still have well over a 70% chance to win this week against the Titans and roughly a 60% chance to win the AFC Championship game, should they get there. This is as good a path as anyone has in the AFC, but the Kansas City Chiefs are nipping at their heels now that the Patriots have been disposed of, making for a great race to the finish in the first post-Brady/Manning AFC.

Will Football Prevail Over Fate? - John Eisenberg

The Ravens are the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed, expected to go far after a dominant regular season. The Titans are lower-seeded underdogs hoping a late-season surge helps them spring a surprise.

It’s an exact replica of the playoff games between the teams in 2000 and 2008, just with the tables turned. The Titans were the No. 1 seed in both of those years, expected to go far after dominant regular seasons. (They went 13-3 both years.) The Ravens were the lower-seeded underdogs (No. 4 in 2000, No. 6 in 2008) trying to summon some late-season magic.

Both times, the Ravens won.

And if one believes the adage about things evening out over time and “what goes around comes around,” the Titans are owed a mega-upset over Baltimore.