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Ravens News 11/7: Team to Beat

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In throttling Seahawks, Ravens make case as one of NFL’s most balanced teams

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

What’s not irrelevant is the team-wide balance and depth the Ravens have shown on their way to the top of the AFC standings. They entered Sunday’s game with the league’s 11th-ranked offense and second-ranked defense. They entered Sunday with the league’s seventh-best scoring offense and the best scoring defense. They’ve uncharacteristically struggled for part of the season on special teams, but those units are getting better, too.

On Sunday, the Ravens played complementary football as well as you could. When the offense turned the ball over twice in the second quarter, the defense responded by forcing a punt and a turnover of its own. When drives stalled in Seattle territory, kicker Justin Tucker made sure the Ravens still got points, converting all three of his field goal attempts.

The offense gave the defense plenty of time to rest by dominating the time of possession and extending drives.

“If you look at our depth and you look at the plays that are being made, everyone is making plays,” fullback Patrick Ricard said. “We had injuries earlier in the year where guys had to step up, and they’re making plays. Look at Kyle Van Noy. We picked him up off the street and the guy had back-to-back sacks today. This team has more depth than even (the 2019 team). That’s very exciting. We just have to keep working, keep staying humble and just keep getting better, and take each win for what it is.”

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 37-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens are for real

Just as the Detroit Lions had two weeks earlier, the Seahawks traveled to Baltimore a confident team, winners of five of their past six games and first in their division. They left thoroughly beaten, testifying to the home team’s quality.

They ran where they wanted on offense, permitted no breathing room on defense. The all-for-one spirit — Hamilton’s pushups, defenders pursuing the ball like their hair was on fire when the game was already out of reach, teammates crashing bodies as they thrilled to Odell Beckham Jr.’s first Ravens touchdown — evoked memories of the 2019 team, which won 12 in a row to close the regular season.

The difference, said holdovers from that team, is this one might be more balanced with more mature leaders.

The Ravens have to keep winning because so is everyone else in the AFC North

The Ravens have peaked higher and faltered less than their three divisional foes, but that does not mean they’re running away with the AFC North.

The Cleveland Browns never seem to know who’s going to play quarterback in a given week, but they moved to 5-3 with a shutout of the hapless Cardinals.

After a ragged start, the Bengals (5-3) are playing like it’s 2021, saying their blessings for quarterback Joe Burrow’s mended calf.

The Ravens will lead by 1 1/2 games when they begin their second run through the division Sunday against the Browns. Projection systems, whether you favor ESPN, The New York Times or Aaron Schatz’s DVOA, strongly favor them to hold that lead.

23 Questions About the 2023 NFL Season, Asked and Answered

Steven Ruiz, The Ringer

Who will win the chess matches between Joe Burrow and Ravens DC Mike Macdonald?

After two nearly perfect displays against the 49ers and Bills, Burrow is clearly healthy now. But the Ravens defense will present a much different challenge in the rematch in Baltimore. While San Francisco and Buffalo are “line up and play” defenses, which Burrow has no problem picking apart, Macdonald’s unit combines tricky coverage disguises and schemes tailored to stop what a given opponent does well. I’ve been covering the NFL for nearly a decade, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a defense this well coordinated.

The Ravens just suffocate opponents. Everything is hard, especially in the passing game, where it seems like the defenders know the offensive play calls as well as their opponents. Geno Smith played one of his worst statistical games in the loss on Sunday, and I’m not even sure he played poorly.

The Bengals offense naturally asks a lot of Burrow, so this game could be a preview of what’s in store for Cincinnati in mid-November.

NFL Week 9 overreactions, reality checks: Eagles NFC East champs? Dolphins, Cowboys not elite?

Jeff Kerr, CBS Sports

Ravens are the best team in the AFC

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Ravens certainly flex their muscle against the good teams this season, beating those over .500 teams in a big way. Baltimore blew past Seattle in a 37-3 beat down, rushing for 298 yards and gaining 515 yards of offense while only allowing 151. This was a dominant effort against a Seattle defense that allowed only 15.7 points and 232.7 yards over the last three games.

Baltimore certainly has a reputation of beating good teams this year, becoming the fifth team since the 1970 merger with multiple 30-point wins in a season vs. teams entering three-plus games above .500. They are the third team since 1970 to win three straight games by 24-plus points against teams entering with a winning record — two of those victories have come within the last three weeks.

Baltimore has the same record as Kansas City, but the Ravens are pummeling the good teams on their schedule. The Ravens play a brutal schedule this year, but they’ve aced every test against a good team.

Through nine weeks, Baltimore is the best team in the AFC.

Ranking NFL MVP candidates, awards picks through Week 9 of 2023

Bill Barnwell, ESPN

Most Valuable Player

1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

As a passer, Jackson has made major strides. He leads the league in completion percentage (71.5%) despite throwing downfield at one of the highest rates. He averages a league-high 10.2 yards per throw off play-action, and he has picked apart defenses dominating in the intermediate zone. On throws traveling 11 to 20 yards in the air, his 94.4 QBR is the second-best mark in football, trailing only Herbert’s. He ranks third in QBR under pressure.

And as a runner, Jackson hasn’t lost much off his peak. He is running for a league-high 48.9 yards per game, which tops all quarterbacks. His 32 first downs is second only to Hurts, who has the benefit of steadily operating a play that generates free first downs about 95% of the time. Jackson’s 19 runs of 10 or more yards is by far the most of any passer in the league. .

Jackson has also been just slightly better at protecting the football and avoiding drive-stalling plays than his Eagles counterpart. He has taken sacks on 6.8% of his dropbacks, right in line with Hurts’ 6.2%. The big difference is Hurts has thrown eight interceptions to Jackson’s three, albeit with 52 more pass attempts. They each have two fumbles, although Hurts has lost both of his fumbles, while Jackson has not. With Jackson coming in as a more effective runner and protecting the ball as well as any other quarterback, his all-around game leaves me to pick him No. 1 here.