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Ravens News 1/3: Rest vs Rust

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 17 win over Miami

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Lamar Jackson ended the NFL MVP debate with one of the most brilliant performances of his career. The only game I’d definitely put ahead of it was his career-high 442 passing yards, 62 rushing yards, and four touchdowns to erase a 19-point deficit against Indianapolis in 2021. He was sensational.

Justice Hill had the second-most rushing yards, the most catches and receiving yards, and the longest kick return of his career. His effort to convert third-and-16 on what was shaping up to be a frustrating first drive was Ray Rice-esque and set the tone for a tremendous team-wide performance.

Not only did Roquan Smith make one of the most impressive interceptions you’ll see from a defender at any position, but he tipped the Tua Tagovailoa pass intercepted by Geno Stone. The defense did a fine job tightening up its middle-of-the-field coverage as the game progressed.

Over the last five games, Isaiah Likely is averaging 3.8 catches, 58.2 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns per contest. In the nine games in which he was healthy, Mark Andrews averaged 4.8 receptions, 57.9 yards, and 0.7 touchdowns. You couldn’t ask for a better understudy, especially one making highlight touchdown catches.

5 things we learned from the Baltimore Ravens’ Week 17 win over the Dolphins

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

OPPOSING TEAMS CAN RUN THE BALL ON THE RAVENS

The Ravens ensured their win over the Dolphins wasn’t close thanks to a dominant first half from their offense and key turnovers on defense. Had the contest been closer, their struggles against the run would have been more of a concern, with the Dolphins averaging 6.5 yards per carry and ripping off three runs of 15 or more yards.

This has been a theme for much of Baltimore’s season, and for as much has been made about their elite defense, it’s a weakness heading into the playoffs. The Ravens are allowing 4.5 yards per carry — tied for the sixth-worst mark in the league through 17 weeks — and have a 4.26-yard average tackle depth that ranks seventh worst. It won’t matter if the Ravens can keep building big leads, but it’s something to watch for in close games.

ARTHUR MAULET, RONALD DARBY AND ROCK YA-SIN STEP UP IN STARTERS’ ABSENCES

Maulet earned a 76.6 PFF coverage grade, the best of any Ravens defender on the day, allowing just three receptions for 17 yards on six targets and recording a pass breakup. The Dolphins went after Darby, targeting him 10 times in the game, but he held up well and allowed five receptions for 42 yards with a pass breakup. Ya-Sin’s 60.1 PFF coverage grade was the lowest of the three, but he limited the Dolphins to two receptions for 29 yards on three targets.

How the Ravens can balance rest, rust and injuries in regular-season finale vs. Steelers

Giana Han, The Baltimore Banner

Offense

Projected inactives: QB Lamar Jackson, LT Ronnie Stanley, RG Kevin Zeitler

Stanley has dealt with nagging injuries to his knee and ankle. He’s a veteran who has proven he can sit a practice or a game and slide back in without much drop-off. He’s a technician who has spoken of wanting to get stronger, so rest and time to work on his body could help him improve his ability to anchor in pass protection, which he’s struggled with.

Defense

Projected inactives: CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Brandon Stephens, S Kyle Hamilton

Harbaugh hasn’t said much about the severity of Humphrey and Stephens’ injuries, but he indicated Monday that he’s not concerned about their playoff availability. And why push them to come back before they’re ready? Humphrey has been dealing with injuries since before the season started. Stephens has also carried a huge load for the Ravens this year and could use a rest.

How the 2023 Ravens Are Different Than the 2019 Ravens

Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

The Offense Has More Ways to Thrive

The Ravens can also win in more ways offensively than they could in 2019, when they relied heavily on a record-setting running attack.

The Ravens still lead the league in rushing (159.7 yards per game), but this is the deepest group of playmakers Jackson has ever had with the additions of Beckham, Flowers and Nelson Agholor. Baltimore can hit opponents with big plays in the passing attack, and the deep passing game has hit its stride in recent weeks.

If the Ravens get down early in a playoff game like they did in 2019, this team is far more capable of coming back.

This Team Appears to Be Peaking at the Right Time

The Ravens have momentum now, riding a six-game winning streak with impressive victories over the 49ers and Dolphins in a six-day span. When the Ravens are right, they can be dominant.

The Ravens are now 7-1 this season against opponents that entered the game with a winning record. And in those games, the Ravens’ point differential is plus-170. Baltimore has played the fifth most difficult schedule in the league this season.

Baltimore was also dominant at times in 2019, but their most impressive wins didn’t come this late in the season. Over the final nine weeks, they played just two games against teams that went to the playoffs.

NFL Power Rankings Week 18: Browns and Packers move up, plus a lesson from every team

Josh Kendall, The Athletic

1. Baltimore Ravens (13-3)

(Last week: 1)

Sunday: Beat Miami Dolphins 56-19

The lesson: Hire great assistants

John Harbaugh hit back-to-back home runs by hiring defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald in 2022 and offensive coordinator Todd Monken in 2023. As a result, his Ravens clinched the AFC’s top seed by thumping the Dolphins on Sunday. Well, that, and having Lamar Jackson, who was 18-for-21 for 321 yards and five touchdowns against Miami. Jackson’s plus-28.2 passing EPA was the best single-game performance since Joe Burrow against the Ravens in 2021 (plus-34.1), according to NextGenStats, and probably clinched the MVP award.

Up next: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET