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Ravens News 11/17: Stretch Run and more

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Midseason report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 6-3 start - Mike Preston

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson hasn’t thrown the ball well the past three games. He made major contributions in the overtime win against the Minnesota Vikings, but his production has dropped off slightly from the first quarter of the season. He needs to do a better job of checking down and improving his mechanics, especially his arm angle. Teams have had recent success against him with eight-man fronts, so he’ll probably see more of that going forward. Jackson had a rare meltdown against Miami and was frustrated because he couldn’t come up with the right plays to solve the Dolphins’ defense. He has completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,447 yards and rushed 160 times for 639 yards this season. He has carried this offense, but those hits on his body are starting to add up. Grade: A-

Receivers

The Ravens have a young, exciting group, but now coach John Harbaugh has to find a way to divvy up the catches. Rookie Rashod Bateman (18 receptions for 241 yards) is better than advertised and can make tacklers miss after the catch. Third-year receiver Marquise Brown (52 catches for 719 yards) has become a go-to receiver, even though he might become a little timid if he gets hit often and hard enough. Tight end Mark Andrews (48 catches for 623 yards), who signed a contract extension in September, has shown he is worth the money. He is effective in all areas of the passing game and has come up with clutch receptions in almost every situation. Second-year receiver Devin Duvernay (19 catches for 166 yards) and veteran Sammy Watkins (19 catches for 299 yards) have played complementary roles. This group is a work in progress, but significant strides have been made since the beginning of the season. The future looks bright. Grade: B+

The First Read, Week 11: Chiefs snap out of it; Tom Brady scuffling - Jeffri Chadiha

Baltimore Ravens

DEFENSE

It’s rare to talk about Baltimore’s defense being a problem, but that’s been the major issue all year. Yes, the Ravens have been ravaged by injuries, including those that ended the seasons of linebacker L.J. Fort, safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Marcus Peters. This team also has been plagued by a slew of communication issues and busted coverages at the worst possible moments (as was the case when Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson got free for a 64-yard catch-and-run that set up the game-clinching touchdown in Baltimore’s 22-10 loss to Miami last Thursday). Put it this way: Three different quarterbacks have enjoyed 400-yard passing days against this team so far. That doesn’t bode well for the near future, even with Lamar Jackson playing at an MVP level.

How each AFC North team can win up-for-grabs division: Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Bengals all have a real shot - Bryan DeArdo

Baltimore Ravens: Fix the pass defense

No team in the division (and perhaps in the NFL) has been hit harder by injuries than the Ravens, who despite those injuries are 6-3 and in position to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Baltimore is getting a herculean effort from Lamar Jackson, whose 2021 season is rivaling his MVP season of 2019. Jackson has 639 yards rushing (more than 400 more than Baltimore’s second-leading rusher) and a six yards per carry average. He also has 14 touchdown passes while leading the NFL’s 10th ranked passing attack. If Jackson stays healthy, the Ravens will almost surely be back in the playoffs.

How far the Ravens go in the playoffs will largely come down to their defense, especially Baltimore’s secondary. The unit is dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed. With the trade deadline passed, the Ravens will likely have to continue to lean on their current group to resolve the issue. More success from Jackson and company on third down would cut down on the time their secondary is on the field, as the Ravens’ offense is currently 28th in the NFL in third-down efficiency.

Baltimore’s secondary, a unit that includes several new starters in Anthony Averett and Brandon Stephens, will likely get better with more experience. In the meantime, the Ravens’ defense needs to continue to lean on their established veterans that include Marlon Humphrey, Calais Campbell and Justin Houston. The Ravens will also need continue to get solid play from several of their younger defenders, a group that includes rookie Odafe Oweh, Patrick Queen and Justin Madubuike.

The Ravens’ Season Is Just Beginning - John Eisenberg

Only now are they getting to the point where it gets determined whether 2021 is a year to remember or … not.

The stretch run begins Sunday with a game against the Chicago Bears that, suddenly, is a crucial contest the Ravens can’t afford to lose. They’re coming off an upset at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, and two straight losses to teams with losing records is no way to travel as the playoff race heats up.

After the Chicago game, things get really serious. Done with Monday nights, Thursday nights, short weeks, byes and mini-breaks, the Ravens will grind through seven straight Sunday games against teams that currently are .500 or better and hold serious playoff aspirations.

And weirdly, five of the seven games are against the Ravens’ rivals from the AFC North.

The fact that they haven’t played a down against the Pittsburgh Steelers or Cleveland Browns is the biggest reason their season effectively hasn’t started yet. Those home-and-home series, along with a rematch with the Bengals, will go a long way toward determining how 2021 is remembered in Baltimore.

Ravens vs. Bears prediction, pick, odds, and how to watch the Week 11 game - Ben Rolfe

It’s tough to trust either of these teams in Week 11. The Ravens have been sloppy in the first half of some games and have required comebacks to win. That is not a sustainable way to play football, and it showed last time out in Miami.

Nevertheless, the Bears have really struggled this year. Justin Fields does appear to be getting his confidence as a starter, but the consistency has not been there. The Ravens are the better team — as their record indicates — but it’s close to impossible to trust them to cover this line. They have failed to cover a spread of 6 or more as favorites all five times this season.

Ravens at Bears prediction: Ravens 24, Bears 21