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Ravens News 12/20: Team Leader

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Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 15 win at Jacksonville

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

The passing game wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but the calm with which Lamar Jackson operated really stood out as he escaped pressure and waited for receivers to get open downfield. More consistent poise and patience in those situations has made a major difference in Jackson’s game this year.

Questions about the ground game in the wake of the Keaton Mitchell injury are fair, but Baltimore rushing for 204 yards after intermission was quite the halftime pivot from Todd Monken. Still, Gus Edwards has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry since Week 9. It can’t just be Jackson now.

After a rough performance in his return against the Rams, Marlon Humphrey rebounded nicely by allowing only three catches for 23 yards on eight targets, per PFF. As Harbaugh suggested last week, concerns about Humphrey were overblown, but the Ravens certainly need him healthy the rest of the way.

Watching Rashod Bateman make three first-half catches, it struck me how often it feels like his breakout is coming early in a game before he all but disappears again. Bateman has 22 receptions for 250 yards in the first half and five catches for 49 yards after intermission this season.

Grading all 31 first-round picks after Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season

Dalton Wasserman, PFF

PICK NO. 22: BALTIMORE RAVENS: WR ZAY FLOWERS

Overall Rookie Grade: 73.2 (Rank: 6/16)

Principal Opponent: Montaric Brown

Week 15 Snaps: 59

Week 15 Grade: 52.7

Flowers was bottled up on Sunday Night Football, catching just one ball for seven yards. Jacksonville used a variety of zone coverages to contain Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. In response, Baltimore targeted Isaiah Likely and Rashod Bateman on nearly 60% of pass attempts. Flowers will see more opportunities in future weeks, and he will likely benefit from some of the Ravens’ ancillary receiving threats continuing to produce.

A Star and Leader: Lamar Jackson Has Elevated in Multiple Ways

Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

“You’ve seen a lot of changes he’s done to be not just the star player but also the leader of the team,” Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said following the Ravens’ 23-7 victory over the Jaguars. “From getting the extra workout, being the first one in, breaking the team down, the speeches, getting on guys. He told me, ‘Hey bro we need you to play better’ this past week.

“It’s been really encouraging. He gets his big contract and he’s really filled all the roles, upped them from what he’s already done. He’s always going to step up his play, but how he’s carried himself, leadership wise — people see it and people really respect it.”

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton had empathy for Jaguars defenders Sunday night. Hamilton said after one of Jackson’s “bunch of crazy plays,” he leaned over to fellow safety Geno Stone and said, “That dude’s special.”

“I’m glad we don’t have to play him, because it’d be so frustrating as a defense,” Hamilton said. “You know you have him bottled up, and out of nowhere he scrambles and dudes are back there [in the secondary] covering for 10 seconds. It’s hard to do that in this league with guys getting open and making plays. He presents a lot of problems for defenses, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

NFL Week 16 Power Rankings 2023: How all 32 teams stack up

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

2. Baltimore Ravens (11-3)

We’re No. 1 ... at running the ball.

The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing, and it’s not even close. Behind quarterback Lamar Jackson’s elusive scrambles, Baltimore is averaging 163.8 yards per game on the ground, which is at least 22 yards more per game than the rest of the league. It’s impressive that the Ravens have been so dominant in running the ball, because they lost featured back J.K. Dobbins to a torn Achilles in the season opener. To compound matters, Baltimore will now be without its most explosive running back in Keaton Mitchell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday night.

NFL Week 16 picks: Cowboys stun Dolphins in showdown of 10-4 teams, 49ers and Ravens play Christmas thriller

John Breech, CBS Sports

Baltimore (11-3) at San Francisco (11-3)

Monday, 8;15 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)

The 49ers offense has been borderline unstoppable this year. With Purdy running the show, the 49ers are averaging 30.4 points per game and 402.6 yards per game, which both rank in the top 3 in the NFL. If anyone can slow the 49ers down though, it’s a Ravens defense that is surrendering just 16.1 points per game, which ranks first in the NFL.

As fun as that battle should be, I feel like this game is going to come down to whether Baltimore can run the ball on the 49ers defense. The Ravens are averaging 163.8 yards per game on the ground this year, which ranks first in the NFL by MORE THAN 20 YARDS. That’s right no other team is even averaging 143 yards per game. The Ravens are 9-1 this season when they rush for at least 130 yards, but 1-2 when they don’t. When they’re able to move the ball on the ground, they play with a lot of confidence. However, I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to move the ball on the ground against a 49ers team that ranks third in the NFL in stopping the run this year.

Remember that 130 number I just mentioned? Well, it’s been the 49ers magic number, too. The Niners are 1-2 this year when surrendering more than 130 yards on the ground, but 9-1 when they hold a team under 130.

So who’s going to win?

When you only face Lamar Jackson once every four years, he’s almost impossible to beat and NFC teams know that well. Jackson has a 19-1 career record against NFC teams, and although I thought about picking the Ravens, I’m going to roll with the 49ers here.

The pick: 49ers 27-24 over Ravens