The Baltimore Ravens rebounded with a 34-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. There were several encouraging performances by players on both sides of the ball of this AFC North matchup where each team lost a prominent player to a season-ending injury.
Here are a few noteworthy performances from the team’s Week 11 triumph that warrant some spicy yet reasonably conceivable takes:
Ravens will run away with AFC North
With the double-digit win, the Ravens didn’t just complete the regular season sweep of their rivals for the first time in three years but they are now poised to claim their first division crown since the 2020 season as well. In a span of five days, they played the Bengals and Cleveland Browns and knocked both of their franchise quarterbacks out of commission for the remainder of the year in the process with season-ending injuries.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers still have an outside chance of catching them, the likelihood of it happening is still very low considering that they’ve been outgained in every game this season with a softer schedule and their end-of-game luck will eventually run out. The two teams will play each other for the second time in the regular season finale in Week 18 in Baltimore and the Ravens will be looking to avenge their early season loss and potentially lock up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs in what will be a tight race with the Kansas City Chiefs that’ll likely come down to the wire.
The Ravens’ remaining schedule is far from a cakewalk with each of their final four opponents having winning records as it currently stands. However, they’ve proven that they can play their best against the best through the first 11 games of the season with three of their last four wins coming against teams with a combined record of 18-10.
Their toughest matchups down the stretch will be against the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) in Week 16 on Christmas day and the Miami Dolphins (6-3) the following week on New Year’s Eve. The Dolphins have yet to beat a team with a winning record and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is 18-1 in his career against NFC opponents so the odds don’t favor the 49ers either although they will be the home team.
Ravens are well-equipped to overcome loss of Mark Andrews
The season sweep of the Bengals came at a terrible cost as the Ravens lost All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews for the remainder of the season with an MRI revealed Friday as a cracked fibula and ankle ligament damage. He suffered the devastating injury on the first possession of the game when he was hip-drop tackled by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson four yards shy of the goal line.
While this is a massive loss given his production, pedigree, and tremendous rapport with Jackson, the Ravens are much more prepared to withstand and make up for it than they have been in recent years. Andrews has been the most trusted and sometimes only trustworthy pass catcher over the previous four years and even this year. However, the team’s remodeled wide receiver depth and young promising players at tight end behind him should inspire a lot of faith that the passing game can continue to function and produce at a high level.
The offense finished their opening drive in the end zone but the emotional toll of losing Andrews might have been what caused them to sputter over the next three possessions, each of which resulted in a punt. From there, the wide receivers began stepping up and showing out in his absence.
Three-time Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr. continued to look like his old game-breaking self against the Bengals in his best game to date as a Raven. He the team in targets (seven), and receptions (four), and recorded his first 100-plus yard receiving game since the 2021 NFC championship game when he helped propel the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl 56.
ODELL PICKS UP 51❗❗❗— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 17, 2023
Tune in on Prime! pic.twitter.com/VHIoPjlSdY
Ninth-year veteran Nelson Agholor scored a 37-yard touchdown on his only catch of the game that came off a deflected pass and third-year pro Rashod Bateman continued to come on strong as well, catching his first touchdown of the season on a scramble drill where he uncovered late in the back of the end zone.
PUT UP THE BAT SIGNAL❗❗❗— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 17, 2023
Tune in on Prime! pic.twitter.com/JSyfZvB1Mp
Even prior to his injury, Andrews ranked second on the team to standout rookie wideout Zay Flowers in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. The 2023 first-rounder has been an electric spark plug for the offense all season and broke the franchise record for the most receptions by a rookie with the first of his three receptions on Thursday. Flowers was robbed of his second career touchdown by a heinous holding call on Beckham Jr. that negated the 68-yard catch and run score on a screen pass where the first-year pro made a couple of defenders miss, got a great block, and was off to the races.
At the tight end position specifically, the Ravens have a pair of second-year pros that they picked in the fourth round of last year’s NFL Draft who have been chomping at the bit to get more involved in the passing game but have been impressive as blockers in the meantime.
Charlie Kolar caught the only pass of the two on Thursday for 13 yards and a first down but appeared in just two games as a rookie due to a sports hernia surgery he had during training camp. As a rookie, Isaiah Likely flashed plenty of his playmaking potential and stepped up several times when Andrews was either out with an injury or playing through one at not quite full strength. He recorded 36 catches on 60 targets for 373 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year.
While Likely has just nine receptions on 12 targets for 89 receiving yards through 11 games this season, he’ll be the Ravens starting tight end moving forward and will have a more featured role. It will take a group effort to fill the void left by Andrews but the Ravens have the horses in the stable to make it happen.
Kyle Hamilton is the ultimate defensive weapon
The Ravens got tremendous contributions from both of their starting safeties in Thursday’s win. While veteran free safety Marcus Williams finished as the highest-graded defender on the team according to Pro Football Focus, the play of the second-year defensive back continues to be impressively dominant and displays his incredible versatility.
Hamilton made amazing and clutch plays in coverage all over the field including forcing an incompletion in 1-on-1 man coverage with Bengals two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to force a third-and-long.
The 2022 first-rounder has the ability to generate pressure or cover a lot of ground in coverage from anywhere and any alignment when he is allowed to play the hybrid nickel role that made him a rising star as a rookie. Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald will often have him line up over the slot receiver or F tight end pre-snap before sending him on a blitz off the edge. Other times, he will make it appear as if Hamilton is blitzing off the edge and proceed to have him drop into an underneath passing lane or even deep down the field.
watch Kyle Hamilton before and after the snap pic.twitter.com/D1OsqATIak— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 17, 2023
Hamilton is in the midst of having a First-Team All-Pro season and is either on pace or has already set career highs across the board. He has 56 total tackles including six for a loss, three sacks, four quarterback hits, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and the lowest opposing passer rating allowed among all safeties in the league through 11 games. In just his second season in the league, he is establishing himself as arguably the best and most effective defensive chess piece in the NFL.
Odafe Oweh is emerging a game wrecker
The Ravens pass rush continues to be highly productive through the first 11 weeks of this season and the third-year pro has been a major contributor over the last month. Since returning from an ankle injury he sustained in Week 2 that put him out of commission for the next four weeks, Oweh has recorded a sack in four of the last five games. On his third-quarter sack of Bengals backup quarterback Jake Browning, he beat former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. around the left edge and didn’t give up on the play until he got home to make first-and-15 a second-and-22.
Oweh finished with three solo tackles including one for a loss and quarterback hit and according to Pro Football Focus and Next Gen Stats, he generated seven pressures as well. His relentless pursuit and explosive get-off helped him register a pass rush win rate of 30 percent per PFF and 35 percent by NGS. On one of his pressures, the Bengals tried to block him with a wide receiver and a tight end to no avail as he spun back inside and forced an incompletion.
Odafe Oweh (#99) with a spinning backfist on Irv Smith pic.twitter.com/eWAwkRV3rr— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 17, 2023
Despite having only played in seven games this season, he still ranks third on the team in quarterback hits with 10. Oweh has recorded at least one every game he has appeared in this year, including the game he got injured in just 14 defensive snaps.
After a very strong rookie campaign in 2021, the former first-rounder out of Penn State had a lot of hype and expectations on his shoulders heading into his second season but fell short of both, registering just three sacks after logging five the year before. Oweh appears to finally be putting it all together and blossoming into the disruptive difference-maker the Ravens envisioned when they bet on his rare athletic traits despite his lack of sack production in college.
“He’s playing great. He has energy. He runs around [and] chases the screens down,” Harbaugh said. “I love Odafe Oweh. He’s one of my favorite players, people. I just love how much he cares.”