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Ravens News 9/30: Carrying the Franchise and more

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Baltimore Ravens vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings: Chargers bolt AFC West to new territory; NFC East back to familiar place - Jeff Kerr

3. AFC North

Last week’s ranking: 3

The Cleveland Browns look to be the class of this division through three weeks, but the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals — yes the Cincinnati Bengals — are tied with them atop the division at 2-1. Cincinnati had an impressive win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Ja’Marr Chase is making a major difference in a division that’s dominated by strong defenses. Pittsburgh’s offense is not in sync after three weeks, making the Steelers’ win over the Bills all the more perplexing. The schedule doesn’t get easier with the Packers on deck.

Baltimore needed a controversial non-call just for Justin Tucker to hit a 66-yard field goal that hit and bounced over the crossbar to beat Detroit — the last place team in the NFC North. Not an impressive win, but it’s a win for the division. Cleveland dominated Chicago to win its second straight, making life miserable for a Bears offense that had just six first downs. The Browns had seven sacks and held Justin Fields to 6 of 20 passing, showcasing the strength of their defense.

NFL QB Index, Week 4: Dak Prescott and Derek Carr fly up rankings, while rookies continue to struggle - Gregg Rosenthal

Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens · Year 4

2021 stats: 3 games | 60.9 pct | 761 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 3 pass TD | 3 INT | 251 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 4 fumbles

You could write an action-packed book about Lamar’s start to the season. Every game ending — seemingly every play — is crazy. The high-level throws have been more abundant, especially in Detroit. He’s been too loose with the ball, but just marinate for a minute on the fact that the same man leads the NFL in yards per completion and yards per carry. Jackson is also fourth in the league in rushing, carrying his franchise more than ever.

Lamar Jackson Is Airing It Out, And Soon Getting Another Weapon - Ryan Mink

Jackson threw for 287 yards against the Lions, the second-most passing yards in a regular-season game of his career. Without drops by wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Jackson may have topped 400.

But more than passing yards, the stat that stands out most with Jackson so far this season is this: no other quarterback in the NFL is throwing the ball further, more often.

After three games, Jackson’s average distance of target is 12.3 yards, per Next Gen Stats. That’s 2.6 further than the next-highest quarterback, Buffalo’s Josh Allen. Against the Lions, Jackson attacked deep down the field time and time again, averaging a whopping 19.3 yards per attempt.

The Lions seemed determined to disrupt Jackson’s running and Baltimore’s rushing attack overall, but Jackson made them pay and would have done so even more without the drops.

“OTAs and stuff, we’ve been working on pushing the ball down the field. That was a huge emphasis coming in,” Jackson said. “Coach was telling us, if we get a few during the game it will help us out throughout the game. That’s definitely what we’ve been trying to do. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t, but hopefully we’ll be hitting a lot more throughout the season.”

Baltimore Ravens’ Rashod Bateman returns to practice, could play Week 4 vs. Denver Broncos - Doug Kyed

Bateman looked set for a hot start: Bateman was selected 10 picks later than his spot on the PFF Big Board (27th versus 17th). Offensive coordinator Greg Roman told PFF reporter Doug Kyed at training camp prior to the injury that he “saw some real potential in terms of how we [the Ravens] can deploy him [Bateman],” and that he was “doing a really good job.”

Bateman is an NFL-ready receiver: The Minnesota product found success playing both outside and inside for the Golden Gophers but notably generated 3.60 yards per route run from the outside in 2019, the fifth-highest mark by a Power Five wide receiver in the PFF College era.

The new No. 1 option: Marquise Brown’s struggles last week were clear for all to see, but Bateman is the potential No. 1 option this offense has been missing. His last two seasons in college saw him average 3.5 yards per route run overall, and he won in a variety of ways.

Ravens-Broncos Week 4 Preview, Prediction, Where to Watch - Todd Karpovich

Ravens Game Plan

Offense

The Ravens are averaging 27.3 points per game, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Baltimore is ranked No. 1 with 185.3 yards rushing per game. The Ravens will have to keep the Broncos off-balance with its mix of plays, Baltimore has four capable running backs on the roster that can pound the ball. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has made plays with both his feet and arm over the past two games. The Broncos have a stingy defense are allowing 8.6 points per game, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL. Denver is ranked No. 2 in both run and pass defense, so the Ravens will have to make some adjustments. Von Miller leads the team with four sacks, so the Ravens will need to slow him down with some creative blocking.

Defense

Teddy Bridgewater has played exceptional, throwing for 827 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite targets are Courtland Sutton (15 receptions for 210 yards) and Tim Patrick (12 catches for 174 yards). Bridgewater will try to dink and dunk the Ravens and occasionally look downfield for a big play. The Ravens secondary has been uneven and is allowing 314,7 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. The Broncos running attack is led by Melvin Gordon. who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Ravens’ run defense, which is already stout, will get a boost with Brandon Williams back in the lineup.

Prediction

Ravens 28, Broncos 24

NFL Week 4 odds, picks: Rams win but Cardinals cover in thriller, Tom Brady reigns over Patriots - Pete Prisco

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-1.5)

The Broncos are undefeated, but they haven’t defeated a team with a victory yet. This will be their first major challenge. But the Ravens are playing consecutive road games and barely hung on to beat the Lions last week. The Broncos defense will do a great job against Lamar Jackson to limit him some, and Denver will do just enough on offense.

Pick: Broncos 23, Ravens 20