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Ravens News 11/11: Full Arsenal and more

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Minnesota Vikings v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

2021 NFL midseason report: What we’ve learned, questions and record projections for all 32 teams - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

What we know: The Ravens are a championship contender as long as they have quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is a one-man wrecking crew. Baltimore has 14 players on injured reserve, including five starters who are out for the season, and the Ravens have the second-best record in the AFC because of Jackson’s heroics. He has led three comebacks from double-digit deficits because he is now as dangerous a passer as he is as a runner. Jackson is the second quarterback since the 1970 merger to rank in the top 10 in both passing and rushing at any point in Week 9 or later (Randall Cunningham was the other in 1990).

What we don’t know yet: How good or bad is this defense? The Ravens can look like the worst defense in the NFL at times, when they are allowing big plays and struggle at tackling. Baltimore has given up more than 30 points in half of its games this season. Then there are times when the Ravens look like their defenses of old. Baltimore has held three teams to 17 or fewer points, including shutting down Justin Herbert and the Chargers. The challenge is only heightened going forward after Baltimore lost its second starter in the secondary to a season-ending injury; safety DeShon Elliott tore his pectoral and biceps muscles in Sunday’s overtime win over the Vikings.

Final record prediction: 12-5. The toughest part of the schedule looms for the Ravens, who won’t face a team with a losing record over the final seven weeks of the season.

NFL Week 10 Offensive Line Rankings - Sam Monson

13. BALTIMORE RAVENS (DOWN 1)

Best-graded: C Bradley Bozeman | 72.5

Worst-graded: T Tyre Phillips | 58.5

Ronnie Stanley has been officially shut down for the season since the last time these rankings were done, so Baltimore’s line is lacking its best player. Alejandro Villanueva is better on the left side than the right, so there is a silver lining to the loss. Villanueva has still struggled at left tackle, surrendering 32 total pressures (10 of which came in one game on the right side) but earning the best run-blocking grade (72.3) of the unit.

The majority of the line has been solid, but they are a group protected by the Ravens’ unique scheme and the threat of quarterback Lamar Jackson, which changes how pass-rushers attack the backfield. Outside of Villanueva, no other Ravens lineman has allowed more than 14 total pressures on the season.

Twenty-One Questions Answered Halfway Through the 2021 NFL Season - Steven Ruiz

Have the Ravens surrounded Lamar Jackson with enough talent?

While the Ravens aren’t loaded with proven talent, the answer is probably yes. With Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman, who has already earned his QB’s trust, Lamar Jackson has had enough help to carry the team to the top of the AFC North standings. But that’s mostly due to Lamar’s own improvement. The 2019 MVP has taken another massive step in his development as a passer this year. He looks more comfortable in the pocket, and that comfort has allowed him to make throws he wasn’t even trying in his first three seasons in Baltimore. Before 2021, there were two big criticisms of Lamar’s game: (1) He couldn’t throw to the perimeter, and (2) he couldn’t play from behind. Well, only four quarterbacks have generated more EPA on throws aimed outside of the numbers this season, per Sports Info Solutions, and Lamar is tied with Justin Herbert for the league lead in fourth-quarter comebacks, per Pro Football Reference. If he can keep this up, and Baltimore continues to win, a second MVP trophy might be on the way.

Ravens first-and-10: The key matchups and storylines for Week 10 vs. Dolphins, plus a prediction - Jeff Zrebiec

The Ravens quarterback also figures to have his full complement of weapons for the first time all year. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to return to game action after a three-game absence with a hamstring injury, joining a receiving group that includes Brown, Bateman, Devin Duvernay and of course, tight end Mark Andrews. The Dolphins have the third-worst pass defense in the NFL and the Ravens will have numerous ways to attack it. How Jackson gets and keeps the Ravens’ myriad receiving options involved will be an interesting storyline to watch going forward. And yes, it has been a long time since the Ravens had “myriad” receiving threats.

Prediction

Ravens 27, Dolphins 17

Each week in the NFL, there are multiple reminders that there is no such thing as a gimme game. After needing a record-setting field goal to beat the still winless Detroit Lions, the Ravens shouldn’t need any reminders. Playing Thursday night on the road is never easy, regardless of the opponent, and the task is complicated by the Ravens coming off a physical and emotional overtime time game just four days earlier. Still, this is a game the Ravens should win and relatively comfortably. The Dolphins haven’t really done anything consistently well this year and the Ravens should be able to take control early and wear down Miami to improve to 7-2. An ugly win will do just fine.

‘Thursday Night Football’ preview: What to watch for in Ravens-Dolphins - Chase Goodbread

Humphrey-Waddle matchup one to watch. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey versus Dolphins rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle will be an interesting battle, and one that likely favors Humphrey. He’s a big, physical corner who excels in bump-and-run coverage and would figure to have an easy time disrupting the routes of the diminutive Waddle. And based on the Dolphins’ use of Waddle this season, why not press? Per his Next Gen Stats route chart, Waddle has caught as many passes behind the line of scrimmage (10) as he has for 10-plus air yards. As a result, he’s averaged just 8.9 yards per catch. Press away, Marlon.

Top tight ends on display. If the aforementioned Dolphins pass protection can limit the leaks, expect a fine showcase of tight ends. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews and Miami’s Mike Gesicki are two of only four tight ends who rank in the NFL’s top 30 in receiving yards. Jackson’s distribution of targets this season makes it clear that after Marquise Brown, Andrews is his second-favorite option by a wide margin. He’s a big, strong target at 6-5, 260 pounds who can punish tacklers after the catch. Gesicki, the leaner and more athletic of the two, has posted a 10-catch game against the Raiders, a 115-yard game against the Jaguars, and came up with this spectacular grab against the Texans last week.