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Ravens News 11/1: AFCN Race and more

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NFL: Player Headshots 2021 Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jets, Saints win stunners and AFC North gets shaken up in Week 8 NFL takeaways - Nguyen & Pompei

After the Steelers’ win over the Browns and the Bengals’ inexplicable loss to the Jets, how do you handicap the AFC North going forward?

Nguyen: The Ravens and Bengals are still the teams to beat in the division, but the Steelers defense will keep them in the race. The Browns just don’t look like they can challenge with an injured Baker Mayfield at the helm. The Bengals are still a young team and let go of a huge opportunity to gain a little ground, losing to a bad Jets team with a backup quarterback. I don’t think they are quite ready yet to play with consistency week in and week out. I think the Ravens will finish on top, Bengals second, Steelers third and Browns last.

Pompei: The Ravens are off this week, but they are in first place and should be. However, there isn’t one team that is clearly ahead of the others in the division. It wouldn’t be surprising to if first place changed hands repeatedly between now and the end of the season. The Ravens, Bengals and Browns clearly are capable of winning the North, and Steelers are too if they keep doing what they did Sunday.

Twelve Ravens thoughts during their Week 8 bye - Luke Jones

Multiple outlets agree Baltimore played a relatively forgiving early schedule, especially considering Kansas City’s unexpected struggles. But business will really pick up after Thanksgiving with each of the final seven games coming against teams .500 or better. The Ravens need to come out strong after the bye.

With Lamar Jackson averaging a career-high 8.6 yards per attempt and 13.3 yards per completion, it’s no surprise he’s throwing seven more passes per game. His rushing attempts slightly increasing from last year is unsettling, however. Baltimore has to find a way to ease the burden on Jackson a bit.

Though Marcus Peters would never be confused for Ray Lewis as a tackler, this secondary misses his alpha-male personality and football intellect as much as his dynamic takeaway ability. We’ve seen too many mistakes from the rest of a secondary that’s supposed to be one of the Ravens’ greatest strengths.

For all the talk about Jackson’s career high in yards per completion, the Ravens’ yards after catch per reception (4.8) is nearly identical to last year’s average (4.9). It truly is all about the star quarterback pushing the ball downfield more than ever.

Ravens Bye Week Report Card - Todd Karpovich

Offensive Line — This group has played well despite being hampered by injuries. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is out for the year with an ankle injury. Right tackle Patrick Mekari is also dealing with an ankle injury. Tackle Alejandro Villanueva, guards Ben Powers and Kevin Zeitler, and center Bradley Bozeman have been mostly solid. Grade: B-

Defensive Line — The Ravens are ranked fourth against the run. Nose tackle Brandon Williams has played mostly unevenly. Defensive end Calais Campbell has been one of the team’s best players. Justin Madubuike has filled in well for the injured Derek Wolfe. This unit does tend to wear down late in games. Grade: C+

Special Teams

Justin Tucker has converted 14 of 15 field-goal attempts, including an NFL-record 66-yarder against the Lions. Sam Koch is averaging 46.2 yards per punt. Devin Duvernay is among the league leaders in punt returns. Coverage has been solid. Grade: A

50 Words or Less - John Eisenberg

Found this trend interesting: Since 2016, the Ravens are 2-4 in games heading into their bye (including last week’s loss to the Bengals) and they’re 4-1 coming out of the bye, with the only loss to the Steelers in 2020. Bodes well for their Nov. 7 game against the Vikings.

Of the 21 touchdowns the Ravens’ opponents have scored in 2021, seven came on plays of at least 40 yards, and in all, more than half (11) were on plays longer than 30 yards. In other words, limiting big plays ranks high on the defense’s to-do list going forward.

Although the Ravens’ defensive front is allowing fewer yards per rushing attempt this season (4.3) than it did a year ago (4.6) or in 2019 (4.4), it could still stand to perform more consistently. One guy can’t make all the difference, but Derek Wolfe’s anticipated return should help.

Ravens rookie report: WR Rashod Bateman, OLB Odafe Oweh show star potential, but injuries have hurt class - Jonas Shaffer

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman

“He definitely has the skill level, but he’s really mature for a young guy,” pass game specialist Keith Williams said Tuesday. “He came in with an understanding and a mindset that he needed to be locked in to reach his potential. He understood that he had a chance to potentially contribute as a rookie; you can tell that that was on his mind. He’s mature beyond his years. His preparation on an everyday basis has showed that, and he’s physically gifted. So the way he stepped in in his first action, and the fact that he played well, that didn’t surprise me.”

Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh

“We saw it as soon as he got here,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said of Oweh’s game-changing potential earlier this month. “I mean, he was just flying around. The dude runs a 4.3[-second 40-yard dash], as big as he is. He’s just a monster to be messed with, so him making all these plays, it’s just really what we expect of him, and we only expect him to get better.”

Defensive back Brandon Stephens

“He’s got that same kind of mentality like [safety] Chuck [Clark],” pass game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt said Tuesday. “He’s really serious, he’s got a great approach about him, [he’s] extremely conscientious. He’s just got to learn the speed of the play in the NFL and continue to just get better at that, and he has.”