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Ravens News 9/24: No Letdown and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens Proved Their Concept and Created an Offensive Juggernaut - Steven Ruiz

Despite falling behind early and not taking its first lead until the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Ravens ended the night with a 39 percent pass rate. That’s 17 percent lower than the league average when accounting for situational factors like down and distance, score, and time remaining, according to RBSDM.com’s expected pass rate model.

This could be held up as evidence that the Baltimore coaching staff doesn’t have faith in Lamar’s passing ability, but that’s not why they did it. John Harbaugh and Co. realized they didn’t have to put the ball in the air to get back in the game because the Lamar-centric rushing attack was explosive enough to get the job done. The Ravens averaged 0.25 expected points added per run on Sunday night, and Lamar’s runs averaged 0.55 EPA. If you’re unfamiliar with the expected points model, here’s some context: Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in EPA last year at 0.37 per play. The Ravens aren’t your typical 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust run team.

That’s the Lamar Jackson Effect. His preternatural ability with the ball in his hands breaks our modern (analytics-based) conceptions of the game—the ones that tell us passing the ball is inherently good and running the ball is not. The fact that the Ravens, a team that has welcomed the analytics movement as much as any other NFL franchise, have embraced this particular style speaks to Lamar’s ability to change the math.

Letdown after emotional win? Ravens’ Lamar Jackson ranks among best at avoiding upsets - Jamison Hensley

The Ravens (1-1) head to Detroit (0-2) as one of the biggest favorites in Week 3 (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Baltimore is favored by eight points on the road, and ESPN’s Football Power Index has the Ravens winning 71.4% of the time.

When favored by eight or more points in the regular season, Jackson is a perfect 14-0 with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Only Steve McNair (18-0) and Jim McMahon (15-0) have better records in the Super Bowl era when favored by eight or more points, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“Our guys understand that it’s business,” Jackson said. “We wanted to win that game. We got the ‘W’, and we have to transition over to Detroit now. [We have to] focus on those guys, because those guys are hungry. That’s a fighting defense.”

The last time Baltimore lost a regular-season game in which it was favored by more than eight points was the 2017 season finale, when the Ravens were upset by the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-27, and got knocked out of the playoff race. That was also the final game before the Ravens drafted Jackson.

Since Jackson became the starter, the Ravens have won by an average of 17.2 points in games in which they were favored by eight or more points.

Lions vs. Ravens: 8 things to know about the Week 3 matchup - Jeff Risdon

Expect big plays from both teams

Both the Lions and Ravens rank in the top four in the number of offensive plays that have gained at least 20 yards in the first two weeks of action. The Ravens top the list with 14, while the Lions are in fourth (tied with Arizona) at 11.

Don’t expect 3-and-outs

Both offenses are good at sustaining drives beyond the initial three plays. The Lions and Ravens are each in the top five at avoiding the dreaded 3-and-out possessions.

Baltimore has gone 3-and-out two times in 24 drives, and one of those was a third-down interception thrown by Lamar Jackson in the Week 2 win over the Chiefs. Detroit has also done it two times but has just 22 possessions.

T.J. Hockenson can build off his great start

Through the first two weeks, T.J. Hockenson has posted the most receptions of any tight end in the NFL. Hockenson has 16 catches for 173 yards and two TDs.

The 173 yards ranks third, but Hockenson gets a chance to make up some ground against the Ravens. The two men above him are Las Vegas’ Darren Waller and Travis Kelce of the Chiefs, who each fluffed their totals by playing the Ravens.

NFL Week 3: Key matchups and storylines for all 16 games - Ben Linsey

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ DETROIT LIONS (+9)

Matchup to watch: LT Penei Sewell vs. EDGE Odafe Oweh

Sewell has looked much more comfortable back at left tackle after struggling throughout the preseason on the right side. His 71.1 PFF grade through two seasons ranks 10th among qualifying left tackles entering the week.

Oweh, a fellow first-round pick, has also impressed early in the year as part of Baltimore’s attacking defense. He has notched three tackles for loss or no gain against the run and forced the game-winning fumble last week against Kansas City. Oweh has lined up outside of the left tackle on 52% of his snaps, meaning he should see Sewell a decent amount of the time.

Biggest storyline: Can the Lions match Baltimore in the trenches?

Detroit’s actions this offseason indicated that the team’s rebuild starts in the trenches. The Lions’ first three draft picks were all made with the intention of strengthening their offensive and defensive lines.

Baltimore’s team is also built around winning the line of scrimmage battle, but the offensive line has taken a step back since 2019 due to a combination of injuries and personnel changes. The unit ranks 22nd in PFF grade since 2020 after slotting in at third in 2019. The Lions’ best chance at pulling off the upset is winning in the trenches, as Baltimore outclasses them at nearly every other position.

Week 3 NFL game picks: Panthers over Texans; Buccaneers top Rams - Gregg Rosenthal

Baltimore Ravens 30

Detroit Lions 23

If ever there was the potential for a hangover game, it would involve a trip to Detroit one week after slaying the Chiefs. The Lions are theoretically built to stop the run, but their defense hasn’t stopped anyone, allowing nine touchdowns in two weeks. I’m fascinated to see if the Ravens return to their blitz-happy ways against such a good Lions offensive line, when they don’t really have the players in the secondary to play man-to-man defense well.