BALTIMORE — The Ravens will try to win their sixth straight game in a season for the first time since 2000, but the AFC South-leading Houston Texans stand in their way in Week 11.
Baltimore will have to do it without standout run-stopping defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who is inactive after missing practice all week with the right ankle injury sustained early in last Sunday’s win at Cincinnati. Head coach John Harbaugh described Pierce as a game-time decision on Friday, but the fourth-year defensive lineman did not go through an on-field workout, suggesting he wasn’t particularly close to playing.
Pierce’s status prompted the Ravens to sign veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis, who are both active for Sunday’s game. Second-year defensive lineman Zach Sieler is a healthy scratch after failing to impress in Pierce’s absence against the Bengals last week.
For the second straight game, wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore was deactivated as he continues to deal with a substantial thumb injury. Rookie cornerback Iman Marshall is also inactive despite being activated from injured reserve earlier this week.
On Saturday, Houston downgraded starting wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) and starting cornerback Bradley Roby (hamstring) to out after both practiced only on a limited basis this week, but left tackle Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) and starting safety Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist) are active for the Texans after missing time prior to their bye week.
The Texans also deactivated cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, whom they claimed off waivers this week.
Sunday’s referee is Alex Kemp.
According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the mid-40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.
The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with white pants while Houston dons white tops and navy blue pants for Week 11.
Sunday marks the 10th all-time meeting between these teams in the regular season with the Ravens enjoying a 7-2 advantage. The Texans have never won a game in Baltimore, which also includes the 2011 divisional playoff meeting at M&T Bank Stadium.
Below are Sunday’s inactives:
DT Michael Pierce
WR Chris Moore
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Iman Marshall
G Ben Powers
DT Zach Sieler
WR Will Fuller
CB Bradley Roby
CB Vernon Hargreaves
WR Steven Mitchell Jr.
LB Tyrell Adams
OT Chris Clark
DE Joel Heath
The Ravens and Houston are both eyeing significant goals beyond leading their respective divisions entering Week 11.
That makes Sunday’s clash that much more important as the winner would hold no worse than the No. 2 spot in the AFC as well as a critical head-to-head tiebreaker approaching Thanksgiving. The urgency could be greater for the Texans, who trail Baltimore by one game and are currently scheduled to play teams .500 or better in five of their last seven contests. Houston also holds just a one-game lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South while the Ravens currently enjoy a cushion of 2 1/2 games in the AFC North.
It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the 10th time ever in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 7-2 advantage as well as a win in the only postseason encounter between these teams. Counting that playoff win, the Ravens are 6-2 against Houston in the John Harbaugh era.
Below are five predictions for Sunday:
1. Lamar Jackson will throw for 300 yards for the first time since Week 1. The Houston run defense is the best the Ravens have faced and is led by breakout defensive tackle D.J. Reader. That’s not to say Baltimore’s top-ranked ground game won’t be productive, but there may not be much room between the tackles, which will put more on Jackson’s legs and arm. Of course, that isn’t a bad thing as the 22-year-old is coming off his second perfect passer rating game and faces the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass defense. Jackson exceeding 35 pass attempts for the first time since Week 3 wouldn’t be surprising.
2. Deshaun Watson will become the first 300-yard passer and the third 60-yard rusher against Baltimore since Week 4. That prediction alone reflects how much the Ravens defense has improved since September, but Watson is having his own MVP-caliber season and is backed by a ground attack averaging more than 140 yards per game. The Texans won’t kill Baltimore with the run, but the expected absence of Michael Pierce could compromise Wink Martindale’s preference to use the dime, potentially leaving more linebackers on the field who won’t be able to catch Watson in space.
3. Jimmy Smith will register his first interception of 2019. You’d anticipate Marlon Humphrey traveling with All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins and we’ve all seen what Marcus Peters has done since becoming a Raven, but Smith has quietly played well since returning from the knee injury sustained in Week 1. Hopkins is obviously Watson’s go-to guy, but Kenny Stills is a viable deep threat and Houston could potentially welcome back Will Fuller from a hamstring strain. The Texans are superb using the no-huddle attack, something with which New England had success against the Ravens a couple weeks ago.
4. Tight ends will combine to catch four touchdowns in this high-scoring game. We all know how important Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst are to the Ravens’ passing game as the three have combined to make up 45 percent of the team’s receiving yards, but Houston tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have caught eight of Watson’s 18 touchdown passes this season, meaning you can’t sleep on them. The Ravens clearly have the superior position group here, but a key to this game will be how each defense handles the opposition’s tight ends as both blockers and receivers.
5. Justin Tucker’s late field goal will secure a 34-31 victory for the Ravens. You can’t ask for much more on paper than two MVP candidates at quarterback squaring off in what could turn into a shootout reminiscent of their classic Louisville-Clemson showdown three years ago. The Texans coming off their bye week is a red flag working against a Baltimore team that is probably in line for a bit of a market correction after making its current five-game winning streak look so easy. However, Houston has a quick turnaround for a Thursday game against AFC South rival Indianapolis, which likely exhausted some of the coaching staff’s extra time to prepare for such an unconventional Baltimore offense. In a high-profile game like this, I’ll pick the team with the best player, who is Jackson at this very moment. Of course, Watson and Hopkins could have something to say about that on Sunday afternoon.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce is listed as doubtful to play in Sunday’s AFC clash with the Houston Texans.
The run-stopping defensive lineman missed practice all week as he continues to recover from a right ankle injury sustained on the first defensive play of last Sunday’s win in Cincinnati. Head coach John Harbaugh said Pierce will be a game-time decision, but he appears likely to miss his first game of the season after starting each of the first nine contests.
Baltimore signed veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis earlier this week to boost its run defense with Pierce’s expected absence. The Texans own the NFL’s fourth-ranked run offense.
“I feel good about them to contribute Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “They both practiced well. They practiced hard. They’re in good shape. It’s not the most complicated thing to understand. They have to figure out where to line up on the different calls. There are certain checks that they need to understand, but they’re good at that and they know how to play the techniques that we play. That’s why we signed them.
“Yes, they have a chance to play on Sunday if the circumstances work out with Michael.”
Wide receiver Marquise Brown (right ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday and is expected to play despite being listed as questionable on the injury report. Wide receiver Chris Moore (left thumb) is also questionable after practicing on a limited basis all week and missing last Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
Safety Earl Thomas (knee) was not listed on the final game status injury report after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.
The Texans listed four starters as questionable to play coming off their bye week. Wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) and Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist) missed Houston’s final two games before its Week 10 bye while cornerback Bradley Roby (hamstring) has missed the last three games. Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil missed the Week 9 win over Jacksonville.
According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the mid-40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and only a slight chance of precipitation.
Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:
DOUBTFUL: DT Michael Pierce (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), WR Chris Moore (thumb)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Will Fuller (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring), OT Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown didn’t practice Thursday as he continues to receive occasional rest for the residual effects of a right ankle injury that sidelined him for two games prior to the Week 8 bye.
After not practicing on each of the last two Fridays before playing in that week’s game, Brown not taking part Thursday does break the recent pattern of managing his workload, making his status worth monitoring for the week’s final practice. However, the rookie first-round pick was present for the morning walk-through and even lingered on the indoor field to throw some passes at the goalpost, not looking like a player in danger of missing Sunday’s game against Houston.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Michael Pierce (right ankle) missed his second straight practice and is looking less likely to play against the Texans. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale offered high praise to general manager Eric DeCosta for the acquisitions of veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis earlier this week.
“Eric should get Executive of the Year with as much help as he’s given us,” said Martindale of the most recent of several in-season additions made to the Baltimore defense. “I know [late Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] is looking down happy as heck for us because we have two run-stoppers we just brought in here. As far as how fast we can put them in there right away, we’ll see. But that’s really going to be a good addition. I know [Brandon Williams] wishes that they were there for Cincinnati.”
Williams received a veteran day off from Thursday’s practice, which was deserving after the veteran defensive tackle played a season-high 57 defensive snaps against the Bengals.
Safety Earl Thomas (knee) was a full participant after sitting out Wednesday.
Two days after rookie cornerback Iman Marshall was officially activated from injured reserve, the Ravens used their second and final designation to return from IR on veteran safety Brynden Trawick, who practiced for the first time since being placed on IR with an elbow injury on Oct. 3. The 2017 Pro Bowl special-teams player won’t be eligible to return to action until the Dec. 8 game at Buffalo.
“I’m fired up about that because he makes us better,” special teams coach Chris Horton said. “We’ve taken a hit over the past couple weeks, but just getting some guys back [and] a player like him and his style — he makes us better.”
No other Baltimore player currently on IR will be eligible to return this season.
The Texans’ injury report from Wednesday remained unchanged with six players listed as limited participants coming off their bye week.
Below is Thursday’s full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), DT Michael Pierce (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), Earl Thomas (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Dylan Cole (knee), WR Will Fuller (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist), OL Tytus Howard (knee), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring), OT Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have already played quite the slate of quarterbacks from a storyline perspective this season.
Jackson has faced off against fellow Heisman Trophy winners (Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield), the reigning league MVP (Patrick Mahomes), one of the most accomplished dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history (Russell Wilson), and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time (Tom Brady). But Houston’s Deshaun Watson might be the closest contemporary to the one-of-a-kind Jackson in terms of skill set, making Sunday’s showdown between the AFC North-leading Ravens and the AFC South-leading Texans — currently the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the conference respectively — that much more exciting.
These former ACC rivals met once before in one of college football’s best games in recent memory in which Watson and No. 5 Clemson edged Jackson and No. 3 Louisville in a 42-36 shootout in 2016. Watson threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards in that instant classic while Jackson passed for 295 yards and a touchdown and ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“He was just dicing us down the field,” recalled Jackson, who lamented his Cardinals offense falling one yard shy of a first down inside the red zone on the final drive. “Our defense did great, don’t get me wrong. Our defense played a great game, but he was just doing Deshaun Watson things — scoring touchdowns, making incredible throws. They came out with the victory.”
Watson would lead Clemson to a national championship by season’s end while a 19-year-old Jackson became the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy that December. And after proving wrong a list of doubters that included multiple quarterback-needy teams passing on them in their respective drafts years, Watson and Jackson meet again as MVP candidates in what Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is calling “one of those NFL history games” in this new age of dual-threat quarterbacks.
That’s not to say Watson and Jackson are the same exact player, of course.
The 24-year-old Watson only fell to 12th overall in the 2017 draft and threw an amazing 19 touchdowns in his first seven games before an ACL tear sustained in practice cruelly ended his rookie campaign. Jackson, 22, faced much harsher scrutiny a year later with some even suggesting he change positions and virtually every team in the league passing on him — including the Ravens — before Baltimore traded back into the first round to select him 32nd overall. While Watson was an overnight sensation whose only hiccup over his first three years has come via injury, Jackson intially had to wait his turn behind longtime starter Joe Flacco as a rookie and has shown eye-opening improvement as a passer in his second year, making his loudest doubters look very foolish.
Thanks in part to a higher volume of opportunities and an all-world wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, Watson maintains the edge as a passer in terms of both conventional numbers and ESPN QBR’s pure passing expected points added metric, but Jackson owns a better passing grade from Pro Football Focus through Week 10. In terms of yards per attempt, Watson’s 8.1 barely edges Jackson’s 8.0, reinforcing the gap being smaller than you’d think when looking only at completion percentage and counting numbers.
We know Jackson has no equal as a record-setting rushing quarterback in today’s game, but Watson surprisingly has a slightly better PFF run grade entering Week 11, which needn’t be taken as a contrarian viewpoint as much as a reflection of his own ability to make plays with his legs — even while lacking the same speed or penchant for running as the Ravens quarterback. Jackson leads the NFL at a whopping 6.6 yards per carry, but Watson ranks fourth at 5.4 yards per rush among those with at least 50 carries.
Watson’s impressive consistency over 32 career games and Jackson’s tremendous leap in his second season have essentially left the two on a level playing field in the present. One can make the “Coke or Pepsi” pick in terms of preferring a more polished passer with very good mobility or the lesser — but rapidly improving — thrower with transcendent rushing ability.
Either way, there’s nothing fair about it for defenses having to account for their kind of dual-threat ability that’s changing the NFL.
“Peyton Manning was extremely hard to defend. Tom Brady is hard to defend. But neither one of them could run a 4.3 [40-yard dash],” ninth-year cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “You don’t have to worry about tackling them on any given play. There’s nothing more backbreaking for a defense than to keep an offense at third-and-10 or third-and-15 and a freaking quarterback just takes it with his legs and gets a first down and extends a drive. It just hurts. These types of quarterbacks can do that now days.
“It’s just basically the whole college offense transitioning to the NFL. It’s kind of great to see actually.”
Three years after squaring off as the two best players in college football, Jackson and Watson will again be starring on the same field. This week, Jackson referred to Watson as “Brodie” — a term of endearment — while the Texans quarterback described himself as a “proud friend” watching the quarterback who edged him out for the Heisman Trophy silence his critics, speaking to their affection for one another. On Thursday, both were nominated by their teammates for the 2019 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, a reflection of their character and leadership ability at such young ages.
Jackson and Watson are changing the game, making you believe what they did in their first meeting at the collegiate level three years ago was only scratching the surface. Whoever comes out on top this time around could be making a loud statement in the MVP race.
“We’re just doing our thing,” Jackson said. “We’re just playing ball, having fun, doing what all of us have done since we were kids, doing something we love. That’s all.”
With starting defensive tackle Michael Pierce dealing with an ankle injury, the Ravens have signed a pair of veteran linemen tackles to help fortify their depth in the trenches.
On Tuesday, general manager Eric DeCosta added former Cincinnati and Denver defensive tackle Domata Peko and former Oakland defensive tackle Justin Ellis, two veterans with a combined 228 starts in their respective careers. Their arrivals come after Baltimore allowed 157 rushing yards in Sunday’s 49-13 win over Cincinnati and an unimpressive 5.7 yards per carry in the first half.
Described as “day-to-day” by head coach John Harbaugh on Monday, Pierce injured his right ankle on the first defensive play of the game and played only three snaps in Sunday’s victory.
The Ravens are very familiar with the 34-year-old Peko, who spent the first 11 seasons of his NFL career with the Bengals. The 6-foot-3, 325-pound lineman has played in 201 NFL games, collecting 585 tackles, 20 sacks, and 14 passes defensed. Peko had yet to sign with a team this season after his two-year contract with Denver expired in March.
Ellis, 28, is in his sixth season and was released by the Raiders in October after being placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason. The 6-foot-2, 350-pound defensive tackle started 41 games over his first four seasons, but a foot injury limited him to just six games in 2018. Ellis has recorded 119 tackles, one-half sack, and two passes defensed in 66 career games.
It was apparent the Ravens lacked trust in reserve defensive lineman Zach Sieler on Sunday as he played only 24 defensive snaps while starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams played a season-high 59 in the blowout victory over the Bengals. Defensive end Chris Wormley also played a season-high 47 snaps in Week 10.
In addition to the Peko and Ellis signings, the Ravens activated rookie cornerback Iman Marshall from injured reserve. To make room for these three roster additions, cornerback and punt returner Cyrus Jones and defensive end Ufomba Kamalu were waived and rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack was placed on IR with knee and hip injuries.
After losing a fumble in the Week 9 win over New England, Jones was benched and replaced in Sunday’s game by newcomer De’Anthony Thomas. It was a quick hook for the Gilman product, who had no other fumbles this season and ranked sixth in the NFL in punt return average. Thomas fumbled twice earlier this season, which contributed to his release from Kansas City last month.
Mack, a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M, had appeared in only one game this season while Kamalu was signed off New England’s practice squad during the bye week and wasn’t active for either of his first two games with the organization.
2. Being traded in the middle of a contract year can be a challenging transition, but Marcus Peters has now returned two interceptions for touchdowns over his first three games as a Raven. A cornerback with a boom-or-bust reputation is putting himself in position for a huge payday.
3. Marquise Brown has caught seven of eight targets for 128 yards and a touchdown since returning from an ankle sprain. The rookie performing like this at less than 100 percent continues to be impressive and encouraging for his future if he can stay healthy.
4. The Ravens haven’t posted a winning road record in the regular season since 2010, but they’re 4-1 in away games this season and 6-2 on the road since Jackson became the starter last year. Road success in the regular season is what allows teams to play at home in January.
5. Brandon Williams has played some of the best football of his career in recent weeks, which included a season-best seven tackles in 59 defensive snaps with Michael Pierce exiting Sunday’s game early. Williams’ Week 4 spat with Earl Thomas feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
6. Nick Boyle had four catches for a career-high 78 yards and has now set a new single-season high in receiving yards nine games into 2019. Mark Andrews headlines, but all three Baltimore tight ends have been superb, combining to catch 71.6 percent of targets for 949 yards and seven touchdowns.
7. In a combined 30 snaps between offense and defense, Patrick Ricard had a big block on Mark Ingram’s touchdown run, recorded a tackle for no gain, logged a strip-sack returned by Tyus Bowser for a touchdown, and had another tackle for a minimal gain. That’s quite a splash.
8. The “Heisman Package” resulted in a 12-yard gain as Jackson pitched to Robert Griffin III on the option. As John Harbaugh said, “Guys like to have fun,” but I’m now expecting Vinny Testaverde, Ricky Williams, and Troy Smith to come back if they’re serious about this Heisman thing.
9. With the return of Jimmy Smith, the arrival of Peters, and the shift of Brandon Carr to safety and Chuck Clark to the box in the dime, Anthony Levine has played only 11 defensive snaps since the bye. Levine is a good player, but it speaks to improved secondary depth.
10. Sam Koch didn’t have to punt until the 1:14 mark of the fourth quarter in Cincinnati. His career low for punts in a season is 60, but the longtime Raven is currently on pace to punt only 37 times in 2019. Things sure have changed here in Baltimore.
11. Jackson did the heavy lifting, but CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan’s call of the electric 47-yard touchdown run was a lot of fun. Harlan is one of the more underrated broadcasters in the business. “He is Houdini!” will be remembered by Ravens fans for a long time.
12. I couldn’t have been the only one who thought of Tony Siragusa late in the Ravens’ 2000 playoff win over Tennessee when Jackson was shown wearing sunglasses on the sideline. Siragusa gets bonus points for taking those shades from Brian Billick and that being a more important game, however.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Little went wrong in the Ravens’ blowout win over Cincinnati, but an ankle injury to defensive tackle Michael Pierce could loom large with AFC South-leading Houston coming to town Sunday.
The run-stopping lineman hurt his right ankle on the first defensive play against the Bengals and tried to return on the following drive before exiting the game for good after only two more snaps. Sunday’s X-ray was negative, but Pierce could miss some time, which would be significant for a run defense currently ranking eighth in yards per game allowed but only 18th in yards per carry surrendered.
“I would say he’s day-to-day right now. Nothing serious,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It won’t be a long-term injury, which is good news based on the MRI today. There’s a chance he’ll play on Sunday. We’ll just have to see how he does.”
With Pierce missing all but three defensive snaps on Sunday, the Ravens struggled to stop the Cincinnati run game, allowing 102 yards and 5.7 yards per carry in the first half before settling in to give up just 55 yards on 22 carries over the final two quarters. Baltimore allowed a season-worst 6.7 yards per carry in the Week 4 loss to Cleveland in which Brandon Williams sat out with a knee injury, making it clear the run defense isn’t the same without the two hulking defensive tackles in the middle.
With Pierce out, Williams made a season-high seven tackles and played 59 defensive snaps, the fifth-highest total of his career. Second-year defensive lineman Zach Sieler played a career-high 24 defensive snaps while third-year defensive end Chris Wormley picked up a sack and played 47 defensive snaps, the second-highest total of his career.
“Zach fought in there and got better as the game went on. He played well in the second half,” Harbaugh said. “‘Worm’ fought through there and had a lot of good plays. And like anything, probably plays he’d want to have back too and improve upon.
“But Brandon was a force. Brandon kind of took it upon himself to get that run stopped, especially in the second half. He played a lot of plays, played super hard, very physical in there. We needed him to, and he did a great job with it.”
Fullback and defensive lineman Patrick Ricard was impressive in just 12 defensive snaps with a strip-sack and three other tackles, but his role on offense will make it challenging to manage his workload if Pierce can’t play against the Texans in Week 11.
Harbaugh confirmed rookie cornerback Iman Marshall could be activated from injured reserve as soon as this week. The fourth-round pick from USC has been sidelined with toe and hamstring injuries since early in the preseason, but he was designated to return from IR on Oct. 28, which triggered a 21-day window in which he can practice and the coaching staff can evaluate him. The Ravens would need to make a decision by early next week whether to active him to the 53-man roster or to leave him on IR for the remainder of the season.
Given the depth of the secondary, Marshall’s path to a game-day role would be on special teams, an area that’s taken some significant hits in recent weeks.
“We plan on bringing him up,” Harbaugh said. “Whether he’s active or not just kind of depends on how the roster shakes out. He has practiced well. He looks healthy, and hopefully he can contribute to us. … That’s an area that could use some bolstering, personnel-wise, so that’s one option for us.”
Week 10 brought no shortage of excitement with 10 of 12 games decided by a single possession ahead of the marquee Seattle-San Francisco showdown on Monday night.
But none of it — not even the Patrick Mahomes jump pass — trumped Lamar Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run that was made for Chris Berman’s famous “whoop!” on “NFL Primetime.” As head coach John Harbaugh said after the Ravens’ 49-13 demolition of Cincinnati, “They’ll be watching that run for decades and decades. That’s one that everyone in the country is going to see by tomorrow afternoon.”
That Jackson’s highlight-reel run reminiscent of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders — watch some old highlights and tell me you don’t see it — came on a day in which he posted a perfect passer rating says it all about what we’re watching every Sunday. This goes beyond even the 22-year-old’s MVP candidacy that’s strengthening by the week or Baltimore’s growing Super Bowl aspirations, the goal that remains paramount to the 6-foot-2, 212-pound quarterback with thrilling athleticism and good passing acumen that’s still improving.
Playing just 100 miles from where he won the Heisman Trophy at Louisville on Sunday, Jackson continues to wreck the NFL quarterback establishment before our very eyes. Dwelling on long-term sustainability or trying to compare him to any quarterback who’s come before him is really missing the point and much of the fun. We haven’t seen anyone quite like this — certainly not in Baltimore or across the NFL.
A look at the numbers from his first 16 regular-season starts illustrates that point:
First 16 career starts
Lamar Jackson (13)
Patrick Mahomes (12)
Lamar Jackson (1,258)
LaDainian Tomlinson (1,236)
Lamar Jackson (94.4)
Tom Brady (90.1)
Yds per Att
Lamar Jackson (7.6)
Aaron Rodgers (7.5)
He’s been called a “cheat code” and compared to playing Madden, but video games wish they were as fun as Jackson in the flesh. There’s so much substance that accompanies the highlight-reel style, however.
Consider Sunday’s first play from scrimmage when Jackson stood tall with pressure in his face to deliver a 49-yard strike to Marquise Brown. What about evading Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and keeping his eyes downfield to find Nick Boyle over the middle for 10 yards? He took his hardest hit of the day — in the pocket — as he threw the pretty 20-yard touchdown to Brown on what would be his final play of the afternoon.
The spectacular plays garner the attention, of course, but the down-to-down consistency, good field vision, dramatically improved ball security, and better accuracy — all in his first full year as a starter — support why any lingering thought of “solving” Jackson and this offense borders on silly at this point. Sure, an opponent may devise a game plan to beat him and the Ravens in a given week, but there’s no “figuring out” a quarterback and an offensive system capable of punishing you in so many different ways.
The Ravens now own two of the four biggest margins of victory in the NFL this season. Jackson has produced two of the five perfect passer ratings, becoming only the second quarterback in league history to be perfect twice in the same season. He’s destroyed bad defenses and made game-changing plays at Seattle and against a New England defense that was off to a historic start through its first eight games. Jackson’s unique skill set and intangibles make his offensive teammates better and his defensive teammates grateful that he’s on their side. Opponents are simply left in awe after defeat.
Tough games remain down the stretch, but none are as imposing as their opponents seeing the Ravens on the schedule. The preparation is enough to give opposing coaches insomnia, let alone what awaits on game day. On Sunday, the Ravens improved to 7-2 for the first time since 2012 — the last time they won the Super Bowl — and won their fifth straight game in a season for the first time since 2006, which was the best regular-season campaign in franchise history at 13-3.
This goes beyond 2019, however, as the following sideline conversation between Harbaugh and Jackson showed:
A little sickness wasn’t about to keep Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson from making his 16th career regular-season start.
The second-year starter and NFL MVP candidate is active and will play despite being officially listed as questionable on the final injury report for the Week 10 tilt against winless Cincinnati. Jackson was a full participant in Friday’s practice and declared himself “good” after that workout, removing any doubt about his status. Jackson rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games against the Bengals, who haven’t come close to finding an answer for the talented 22-year-old to this point.
The Ravens have made a change at punt returner with wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas replacing cornerback Cyrus Jones, who was a healthy scratch Sunday after losing a fumble in the second quarter of last week’s 37-20 win over New England. The speedy Thomas has extensive experience as a return man dating back to 2014, but his two fumbles earlier this season contributed to his release from Kansas City last month.
Wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore is also inactive after a left thumb injury severely limited him in practices this week. That means Thomas is likely to also be a kick returner with rookie running back Justice Hill against the Bengals. Moore also serves as a gunner on the punt team, which means special teams coach Chris Horton will be replacing both gunners from last month’s meeting with Cincinnati when special-teams ace Justin Bethel was still on the roster.
As expected, wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh) and safety Earl Thomas (knee) are active and will play after being listed as questionable on the final injury report.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley will be making his NFL debut for the Bengals, but the fourth-round pick won’t have the services of seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle), who was officially ruled out Friday after initially hoping to make his season debut this week. Cincinnati also deactivated left tackle Cordy Glenn despite him practicing fully all week, continuing an uncomfortable saga in which the veteran was suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team last month and hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion in the preseason.
Sunday’s referee is Scott Novak.
According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cincinnati calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 50s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.
The Ravens are wearing their white jerseys with white pants while Cincinnati dons black tops with black pants for Week 10.
Sunday marks the 48th all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 24-23 edge after last month’s 23-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is aiming for its first season sweep of of the Bengals since 2011, but John Harbaugh’s team is just 1-6 in its last seven trips to Paul Brown Stadium.
Below are Sunday’s inactives:
WR Chris Moore
CB Cyrus Jones
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack
DE Ufomba Kamalu
CB Dre Kirkpatrick
CB Torry McTyer
G Alex Redmond
G/T Fred Johnson
LT Cordy Glenn
WR A.J. Green
QB Jake Dolegala