Jamison Hensley, ESPN
Why the Ravens have a legitimate shot at the top seed: The Ravens have proved they can soundly beat anyone when they’re at their best. Case in point: a 39-6 rout of the Detroit Lions two weeks ago. Lamar Jackson has shown flashes of his 2019 NFL MVP form with his efficient passing and elusive scrambling. He has completed a career-best 70.5% of his throws and has produced 16 runs of 10 yards or more, which is tied for most in the league. The strength of this team has been the defense, which has proved to be championship-caliber since the acquisition of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Roquan Smith a year ago. Baltimore leads the league in fewest points allowed at 15.1 per game, as well as sacks with 31. The Ravens have a big advantage in the schedule with only three road games remaining. Jackson is 15-2 (.882) when playing at home in November, December and January.
Why they’re vulnerable:
The other concern is the consistency of the offense in the first season under new coordinator Todd Monken. The Ravens rank 29th in the NFL in total yards in the second half (134.9) and have scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter (only three teams have fewer).
Ravens film study: Screen passes were supposed to help Lamar Jackson. So far, they’ve been a hindrance.
Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
Of all the small ways Monken has changed the Ravens in his first year as play-caller, among the most surprising might not be the degree to which his offense has embraced screens but, rather, how ineffective they’ve been. Sunday was another low point: Quarterback Lamar Jackson went 5-for-5 for just 18 yards, and with Likely’s penalty tacked on, the offense lost 5.57 expected points in production on its six screens, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats — nearly a touchdown’s worth.
Monken’s willingness to target running backs, wide receivers and even tight ends on quick hitters, combined with the Ravens’ dynamic skill position talent and athletic offensive linemen, seemed like an ideal union last offseason. Under former coordinator Greg Roman, Jackson never finished a season higher than 28th leaguewide in attempted screens, according to Pro Football Focus. Players were eager for change.
Ahead of Sunday’s showdown against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, however, the Ravens’ screen game is full of holes. According to a review of passes Jackson’s thrown behind the line of scrimmage this season, he’s completed 31 of 33 screen attempts for just 117 yards (3.5 yards per attempt), with more negative plays (10) than gains of at least 10 yards (seven). Overall, Jackson’s averaging a dreary minus-0.52 expected points added per play on screens, according to NGS.
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
In many ways, the Ravens’ relative silence on deadline day — DeCosta was surely in the mix on a few things behind the scenes — was telling. They’re in first place in the AFC North and are relatively healthy for this time of year. As coach John Harbaugh made clear on Monday, they like their guys.
Now, there’s certainly a conversation to be had about whether the Ravens should have acted more desperately and decisively and worried more about the future … in the future. Weighing short- and long-term organizational concerns is always a delicate balance and fair game for scrutiny. The Ravens traditionally take a longer view.
As for the potential star running backs who were rumored to be targets, a group that included Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs, there was a prevailing belief that their respective teams were going to have to get a “wow” offer to move on from any of them. Lining up a dynamic, game-breaking back behind quarterback Lamar Jackson had to be intriguing for Ravens officials. And, by all accounts, they had significant interest in Henry.
But offering a first- or second-round pick for a rental running back, when you already rank third in the league in rushing yards per game and you’re tied for second in rushing touchdowns, is certainly not an obvious decision.
Glenn Clark, PressBox
We remember that the Super Bowl LVI champions (the Rams) acquired Von Miller at the deadline. That proved to be VERY SIGNIFICANT! And as much as I liked the idea of Saquon Barkley or Josh Jacobs or Derrick Henry bolstering the Ravens’ offense, it was admittedly the Montez Sweat trade that was the most disappointing to me. As insane as it is for me to keep obsessing about the edge rush concerns of a team that (checks notes) leads the NFL in sacks, I keep thinking about the Murderers’ Freaking Row of offenses the Ravens might have to go through in the postseason.
If the season ended today, the Ravens’ path to a Super Bowl appearance would involve them facing Josh Allen in the first round, Patrick Mahomes in the second and either Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence in the AFC championship game. And yeah, Joe Burrow is suddenly lurking again.
As brilliantly as Mike Macdonald has schemed pressure from this group and as far beyond expectations as Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy have played, I just can’t shake a nervous feeling about this roster not necessarily having the player whose pressure doesn’t need to be schemed. That could make the difference in the fourth quarter of a game against the Chiefs.
Week 9 NFL picks: Chiefs top Dolphins in Germany thriller, Will Levis wins again, Cowboys edge Eagles
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
The Ravens beat the Cardinals in lackluster style last week, while Seattle came back to beat the Browns and P.J. Walker. The Seattle defense is improving every week, and adding Leonard Williams will help, but this is a long trip against a team that can score. Look for Lamar Jackson to play better than he did last week.
Pick: Ravens 27, Seahawks 18
NFL picks, predictions for Week 9: Bengals continue to own Bills; Ravens run over Seahawks; Chargers escape Jets
Bill Bender, The Sporting News
Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens (-4.5)
This is the fourth head-to-head meeting between Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh, and Carroll has a 2-1 advantage in those previous meetings. Seattle is 2-1 S/U on the road this season, and Geno Smith has a 93.7 rating with three TDs and two INTs in those games. Lamar Jackson has a 71.4% completion percentage with 5 TDs and one interception in a three-game win streak. The Ravens win, but this game will be tight.
Pick: Ravens 29, Seahawks 24