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Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (21) scores on a touchdown run as Houston Texans cornerback Gareon Conley (22) tries to stop him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 11 December 2019 by Luke Jones

The AFC-leading Ravens can see the light at the end of the tunnel and simply need to handle their business in December.

After dominating the NFL over the last two months, Baltimore has already locked up a playoff berth and can clinch its second straight AFC North championship with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday night. Of course, the Ravens have bigger goals in mind as they can clinch a first-round bye as early as Sunday and control their path to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with two wins in the final three weeks. John Harbaugh’s team currently has a 95.6-percent chance of securing the No. 1 seed, according to Football Outsiders.

Meanwhile, the Jets have won four of their last five games, but they were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week after a 1-7 start sunk their chances in 2019.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Jets for the 11th time in their regular-season history and own an 8-2 advantage. Baltimore has won eight of the last nine matchups and owns a 5-0 record against New York at M&T Bank Stadium.

Below are five predictions for Thursday night:

1. Lamar Jackson will become the second Ravens quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns in a single season. Breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback appears elementary with Jackson needing only 23 more yards on the ground, but Jackson leads the NFL in touchdown passes (28) despite ranking 25th in passing attempts, a stat illustrating the brilliant efficiency of this offense. Protecting him in the pocket is a greater concern with standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley doubtful to play, but the Jets rank 15th in passer rating allowed and 22nd in pass defense efficiency.

2. The Jets will allow a season-high 155 rushing yards. New York has allowed an NFL-low 3.0 yards per carry while Baltimore has run for a league-best 5.5 yards per rush, which should make for an entertaining matchup between those units. Jackson is nursing a sore quad and the Ravens have some concern about the lower-body hits he’s recently been taking — some legal, others borderline, and a couple correctly drawing flags — so they’d love to make this game more about Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards to protect their quarterback against a defense coached by Gregg Williams, whose history speaks for itself.

3. Sam Darnold will again see “ghosts” while throwing two picks and being sacked four times. The second-year quarterback has posted a respectable 92.7 passer rating since his Week 7 debacle against blitz-happy New England, but Pro Football Focus has graded Darnold 30th among 32 qualifying passers against the blitz and no one blitzes as frequently or effectively as the Ravens. That’s not a recipe for success playing on the road on a short week. Baltimore hasn’t intercepted a pass over the last two weeks after recording a pick in the eight previous games. A new streak begins Thursday.

4. Le’Veon Bell will catch a touchdown pass against an old foe. The biggest headline the former Pittsburgh star running back has made of late was his impressive bowling score the night before a game in which he’d been ruled out due to the flu. The marriage between him and the Jets was doomed from the start with head coach Adam Gase apparently not wanting the big-ticket free agent, but Bell has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry after his one-year holdout from the NFL. Maybe the 27-year-old finds some room on the edges against the blitz-happy Ravens, a team in which he had interest in the offseason.

5. The Ravens will win their 10th straight game in a 30-13 final over New York. You never quite know what to expect with these Thursday games and the Baltimore offense is more banged up than you’d like to see with an abbreviated week, but the Jets are dealing with an even longer list of injuries themselves and bring arguably the worst offense in the NFL against a defense playing as well as anybody since the season’s opening month. New York has played better of late, but its four wins over the last five weeks have come against teams with a combined 14-38 record while the Ravens just completed an undefeated stretch in which they played six out of seven games against teams currently 8-5 or better. Baltimore’s last two games were much more of a grind, but the Jets aren’t anywhere close to the caliber of San Francisco or Buffalo, which is why the Ravens will take care of business rather comfortably for their 12th straight win in prime-time home games.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 29 December 2018 by Luke Jones

Sunday’s scenario for the Ravens appeared highly unlikely eight weeks ago.

A three-game losing streak and a hip injury to Joe Flacco made 4-5 Baltimore look like a team going nowhere fast, but a revamped run-heavy offense led by rookie Lamar Jackson and the top-ranked defense in the NFL have sparked the Ravens to five wins in their last six games. That surge and Pittsburgh’s late-season slide have put John Harbaugh’s team in position to win its first AFC North championship since 2012 with a victory over Cleveland on Sunday.

However, the Browns have also been resurrected by the strong play of their first-year quarterback. The Ravens got a glimpse of what Baker Mayfield could do in Cleveland’s 12-9 overtime win in Week 5, but the top overall pick from Oklahoma has only gotten better since Hue Jackson’s dismissal, throwing 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions with a 115.2 passer rating over the last six games — five of them wins for the Browns.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Browns meet for the 40th time in the regular season with Baltimore holding a colossal 29-10 advantage and an 18-3 mark in the John Harbaugh era. Cleveland is seeking its first season sweep since 2007, which was also the last time the Browns finished a campaign with a winning record.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Terrell Suggs will record his 20th career sack against Cleveland. Most attention has been on Flacco’s expected departure and Harbaugh’s uncertain future, but Sunday could be Suggs’ final regular-season game with the Ravens, especially if Eric DeCosta chooses to make more drastic roster changes that wouldn’t include re-signing the 36-year-old. No team has surrendered more sacks to the seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker in his career, and left tackle Greg Robinson has the lowest Pro Football Focus grade along a Browns offensive line that’s surrendered only three sacks over the last six games.

2. Breshad Perriman will catch a touchdown pass against his former team. No, I’m not forecasting the doomsday scenario of a last-second Mayfield-to-Perriman touchdown to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs — I’m not that rotten — but the former first-round bust has found a place as a solid contributor in Cleveland, catching 13 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown in 199 snaps. Injuries and poor hands predictably made him an unpopular figure in Baltimore, but it had become apparent after his lost 2017 season that Perriman needed a fresh start if he was going to get his career on track.

3. The rookie quarterbacks will combine for four turnovers in their first meeting. This game’s short-term consequences overshadow the big-picture possibility of this being the first of many meetings between two former Heisman Trophy winners playing in the same division, which is fun to ponder as a football fan. That said, the Browns defense ranks second in the NFL in takeaways while the Ravens have forced five turnovers over the last three weeks after lacking in that department all year. Mayfield and Jackson will both make impressive plays, but each will show their inexperience as well.

4. Gus Edwards will rush for 100 yards and a touchdown to protect a second-half lead. At first glance, Cleveland ranking 24th in rush defense bodes well for the Ravens, but the Browns have held their last three opponents — who all rank in the top 12 in yards per carry — to a combined 3.3 yards per attempt. Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers quietly contained the Baltimore rushing attack in the second half, but I expect Browns coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to sell out to contain the edges against the speedy Jackson, which will open more inside running lanes for Edwards.

5. The defense will lead the Ravens back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 in a 23-16 win. Since Week 11, Baltimore ranks second in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric while the Browns are fourth, which speaks to how formidable both teams have become down the stretch. In a game I expect to be close throughout, I’ll take the team that has the best overall unit on either side of the ball, and that’s the Ravens defense. Wink Martindale has this defense playing at an elite level even when the Baltimore offense has bogged down as it did in the second half of the Chargers game. The Ravens need to be ready to play against an improving team with a quarterback already moving toward folk-hero status in Cleveland. The Browns would love nothing more than to knock the original Browns out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but the Ravens’ narrative change that began last week against the Chargers will continue in Week 17, leading to a happy New Year in Baltimore after a few nervous moments.

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