Singular performances and limited sample sizes aren’t always the most accurate indicators of future success, but they do make coming up with bold statements and lofty predictions more fun.
The Baltimore Ravens absolutely dominated the Cleveland Browns in a 28-3 blowout on Sunday to improve to 3-1 while dropping their AFC North rivals to 2-2. There were several outstanding performances by players in all three phases despite the team facing adversity on the injury front for the third week in a row.
Here are a few noteworthy performances from the team’s Week 4 victory that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes:
Ravens are poised to runaway in race to win the division
Sunday saw all but one team in the AFC North fall in an overwhelmingly lopsided defeat and their starting quarterback either did not play, played poorly due to injury, or played poorly and then got injured. But for once in what feels like forever, it wasn’t the Ravens for a change. They were the ones that blew out the Browns while the Pittsburgh Steelers fell 30-6 to the Houston Texans on the road and the Bengals suffered a 27-3 road loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Through the first four weeks of the regular season, the Ravens are in sole possession of first place in the division and look like the strongest team by far. It’s not even relatively close given the results of Week 4 and the fact that they’ve now beaten the Bengals and Browns by a combined score of 55-27.
There are health-related question marks under center for every other AFC North team while the Ravens look strong and should only get stronger. Joe Burrow continues to look limited with a lingering calf injury that he sustained in training camp. Deshaun Watson is reportedly dealing with a possible rotator cuff injury that caused him to miss Sunday’s game. Kenny Pickett left his team’s game with a knee injury and is reportedly expected to miss some time, which means his status for Week 5 against the Ravens is very much in doubt.
It actually might not be that much of an overreaction to predict that the Ravens will gain a big enough lead in the race while the other teams are licking their wounds that by the time their quarterbacks get healthy, they’d have too much ground to make up.
Lamar Jackson is on pace for his best and most efficient season
Against the Browns on Sunday, the two-time Pro Bowler achieved something that he didn’t even manage to do during his historic unanimous MVP-winning season in 2019. For the first time in his already illustrious career, Jackson recorded a pair of passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game. He had as many incompletions (four) as he had total scores in this game.
He now has eight total touchdowns to just one interception. And his 74 completion percentage is not only on pace to set a career high by a wide margin but it’s the second-best in the league behind only Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers.
His average of 55 rushing yards and 10.25 attempts per game is right around his career average. However, unlike in years past, most of his rushes are coming on improvised scrambles. When Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken does dial up designed runs, they’re usually in the red zone and have resulted in half of his total touchdowns thus far.
“He’s the full quarterback but he’s not only the full quarterback, he’s able to do so many other things that other quarterbacks can’t do and that’s a beautiful thing,” tight end Mark Andrews said postgame. “Lamar Jackson is second to none.”
Jackson isn’t just the most electric quarterback in the league, now he is becoming one of the most efficient as well. His accuracy, decisiveness, and ball placement as a passer have looked truly elite and more consistent than ever. He had several passes that were pinpoint and precise against the Browns with arguably none more beautiful than the 23-yard tear drop he lofted over the head of linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and into the hands of running back Melvin Gordon.
Lamar Jackson ELITE ball placement to Melvin Gordon. pic.twitter.com/eXIfsNTcgE— Arye Pulli (@AryePulli) October 1, 2023
While he still needs to clean up the occasional ball security issue, he is on pace for the best season of his career and should firmly be a front-runner in the league MVP conversation again.
Ravens have unquestionably the best ILB tandem in the league
There has not been a better off-ball linebacker duo in the league than the pairing of Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen. They established themselves as one of the best in the second half of last season after Smith was acquired via trade at the deadline. They have not only picked up where they left off but taken their game to an even higher level entirely this season.
Against the Browns on Sunday, they helped lead a dominant defensive performance that kept rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson under duress all afternoon and resulted in three turnovers, eight quarterback hits, four sacks, and 10 pass breakups.
Smith led the team in total tackles with a game-high 10 and recorded a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and two pass breakups that were beautifully instinctive plays on the ball.
“When that whistle blows, I’m going 100 MPH all game long.” pic.twitter.com/nOfhjZwrb2— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 1, 2023
“I have not played with anyone like Roquan,” outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. “In 10 years, no linebacker I’ve ever played with [has been] better than him. I have a lot of friends that played with me, too, at linebacker, but they don’t have the attitude or intensity they play with like Roquan Smith since I’ve played in the League.”
“He’ll be a big reason why our defense goes the way it goes. He’s bringing the best out of a lot of guys around him. When you have a leader like that that’s going to put it all out there not just on Sundays, but on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, the whole week, and you come to the game, and it just rolls over. It rubs off on people. It’s contagious. We just stick together, and ‘Go Ro.’”
While Queen only had half as many total tackles as his All-Pro running mate, he made the most of them by finishing with a game-high three tackles for loss and a sack.
Kyle Hamilton is on pace to have an All-Pro season
Following a sensational second half of his rookie campaign, the 2022 first-rounder was the center of a lot of hype and had some very lofty expectations projected for him this offseason. However, through the first four games of the 2023 regular season, Hamilton has not only lived up to the hype but in many ways, he’s already exceeding it.
His sophomore season breakout is well underway as he continued to display his star potential against the Browns on Sunday. Hamilton tied for the second most tackles on the team with five—all of which were solo—and he also recorded a pass deflection and the first interception of his career on the final play of the game.
As vindicating as his game-ending turnover was having what should’ve been his first career interception negated by penalty last year, Hamilton’s most impressive play was on his last tackle of the game. With several starters subbed out due to the lopsided score, the Browns were able to rip off what looked like was going to be a garbage-time touchdown run by running back Pierre Strong Jr. when Hamilton kicked into another gear and hawked him down from behind two plays before he picked off Thompson-Robinson.
I was told Kyle Hamilton is a bust and slow because of a 40 time. Hawked a guy down that runs a 4.3. And ended it off with a pick. Beautiful. pic.twitter.com/nSUUU2HoC9— Flock Family (@4forOroy) October 1, 2023
The tremendous hustle play was yet another example of the relentless and gifted playmaker that the Ravens have as a key cog in their defense, He will certainly become a household name in short order if he continues his elite level of play. Through four games, he has already recorded 21 total tackles, two tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and now an interception.