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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 16 November 2019 by Luke Jones

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.

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Jackson, Watson renew college rivalry as superstars at next level

Posted on 14 November 2019 by Luke Jones

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.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 10 win at Cincinnati

Posted on 12 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their fifth consecutive game in a 49-13 final at Cincinnati, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After posting a 158.3 passer rating 30 miles from his hometown in Week 1, Lamar Jackson had another perfect day 100 miles from where he won a Heisman Trophy at Louisville. Playing like that in front of so many who watched him on his path to NFL stardom is special.

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.

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I fell asleep once on Lamar Jackson and it ain’t happening again – Bleedat!

Posted on 11 November 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

It was quite a show on the banks of the Ohio on Sunday afternoon.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh boldly promised a “revolution” this season and while I’m not 100% sure that Lamar Jackson will soon ride down Pratt Street with the Lombardi Trophy, you can’t help but be impressed by the here and now and the thrill of what this kid is doing if you love Baltimore football.

Let’s put it this way: every defensive coordinator breaking down nine weeks of film this year sees the Che Guevara in what Greg Roman and his band of marauders is coming do to the 11 guys you dare put out there to chase Number Eight and varying triple-threat Heisman packages.

As I waited by the visiting locker room door (one that I have stood at many times in recent years after awful losses in Cincinnati) and watched Lamar from 50 feet away signing autographs for Ravens fans to the “MVP!” chants as he came off the field at Paul Brown Stadium, it started to hit me.

I called that play “an instant classic” and tweeted “send it to Canton” about 15 seconds after it happened. A few minutes after watching this purple coronation coming off the field in Cincy, Harbaugh confessed the obvious: that play is probably gonna change his life from an “under the radar” guy to more of a “what comes next?” set of expectations. I think the Patrick Mahomes “Jedi” play last year at Arrowhead was one of those, and well…he was the MVP of the NFL last year.

In the post game chats with Luke Jones, we literally talked about Michael Jordan.

And yes, I saw Michael Jordan play.

I’ve done this for 35 years. I haven’t ever compared anyone to Jordan – not in any sport.

Never.

And it’s because Lamar doesn’t have a football player to be compared to, really.

OK, maybe his teammate Robert Griffith III or Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham or Steve Young, etc. but not really because football is a different game in 2019. It all runs together and it’s all ancient history compared to what happened at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

I chatted with Lamar briefly after the game – we have a little fist-bump thing after he wins games and he wins most of the time – and the steadying voices of his teammates you hear surrounding him after the games make you feel like he might not fully grasp the truth of what happens when you do the things he’s doing on the field. He was surrounded more by old Louisville media and was smiling with familiar people around him in what amounts to northern Kentucky. I am assuming this will serve as his “homecoming” game for as long as he cardinals the Ravens offense.

Because I don’t sleep much, I woke up at 4 a.m. in my Covington, Kentucky hotel room and watched varying versions of the NFL Network, ESPN and anywhere else football is shown at such hours and every single segment showed “the Lamararama” that baked the Bengals linebackers and secondary into the Ohio turf. The “Houdini” moment…

The records don’t matter. The victims don’t matter. The results don’t lie.

Lamar Jackson is 13-3 as a starter in the NFL.

And he did something none of us have ever seen before on Sunday. One of the greatest football plays I’ve ever seen.

And isn’t that why we watch sports?

It doesn’t matter that it happened against an 0-9 team albeit for a diminished audience in beating a hapless, winless shell of a franchise in Cincinnati.

It happened.

And you know what?

It can happen again…

I zoned in just on the visual of his footwork in slow motion – just watch the way his feet stop, turn, wheel and land and then accelerate – and I become convinced his skill set and comparison tree is indeed “one of one” when it comes to the

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Lamar Jackson continuing to wreck NFL establishment in thrilling fashion

Posted on 11 November 2019 by Luke Jones

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.”

It didn’t take nearly that long.

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:

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:

“You know how many little kids in this country are going to be wearing No. 8 playing quarterback for the next 20 years because of you?”

I’m not smart enough to know exactly what the future will bring, but I’m wise enough not to try to put any ceiling on the Lamar Jackson Experience.

What we’re watching in our own backyard is special.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 10 November 2019 by Luke Jones

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:

BALTIMORE
WR Chris Moore
CB Cyrus Jones
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack
DE Ufomba Kamalu

CINCINNATI
CB Dre Kirkpatrick
CB Torry McTyer
G Alex Redmond
G/T Fred Johnson
LT Cordy Glenn
WR A.J. Green
QB Jake Dolegala

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 09 November 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens going from an electric prime-time home win over New England to a half-empty Paul Brown Stadium on a sleepy Sunday in November is the proverbial setup for a letdown.

John Harbaugh’s team has emerged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender over the course of its four-game winning streak, but the NFL has a way of humbling you when you get too high, making it critical for the Ravens to be focused and energized against winless Cincinnati coming off its bye.

It’s time to go on the record as these division foes face off for the 48th time in the all-time regular-season series with the Ravens owning a slight 24-23 advantage. However, Baltimore is just 1-6 in its last seven trips to Cincinnati and is seeking a season sweep for the first time since 2011.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will rush for 100 yards against the Bengals — again. I’ve often compared Jackson’s speed to that unique pitcher with a 100-mph fastball and a slider with impossible bite. You have no idea what you’re dealing with until you step in the box, and your chances are unlikely to improve until you see that pitcher a few times. The Bengals are familiar with Jackson’s speed by now, had an extra week to prepare, and won’t let him set a career high like he did with 152 rushing yards last month, but Carlos Dunlap being on the field this time around only goes so far for the NFL’s worst run defense.

2. A long punt return will set up a score for Cincinnati. Much attention this week was on Cyrus Jones and his fumble that gave new life to the Patriots, but it was a kick return for a touchdown last month that kept the Bengals competitive in a game the Ravens totally dominated statistically. With Justin Bethel gone and Chris Moore dealing with a substantial thumb injury, the Ravens could be using two different gunners on the punt team than they used in that first meeting with the Bengals. That’s notable against a special-teams group rated first in the NFL in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.

3. The Ravens defense will register a season-high four sacks and an interception. The combined three sacks collected over the last two games don’t tell the story of a pass rush showing recent improvement as Baltimore hit Russell Wilson eight times in Week 7 and Tom Brady 10 times last Sunday night. That pressure has been dependent on blitzing, something you’d expect Wink Martindale to use even more against a rookie quarterback. Unlike Wilson and Brady, however, Ryan Finley will hold the ball longer against tight coverage, allowing the Ravens to take him down in the pocket.

4. An up-tempo drive will lead to Finley’s first NFL touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd. The Patriots totaled 302 yards in the second and third quarters using a no-huddle attack that neutralized blitzes and prevented the Ravens from using their various sub packages, an approach likely to be copied in the coming weeks. Trusting Finley to operate without a huddle for the entire game would be too much to ask, but that strategy will help create some open throws. After being held to three catches for 10 yards in the first meeting, Boyd will have some modest success against Marlon Humphrey with a score.

5. Baltimore will again play “keep away” in the fourth quarter to prevail 24-16. The Ravens haven’t won three straight games by multiple scores since 2011 and are playing on the road against a team with nothing to lose coming off its bye, factors that should make one pause — at least a second — before simply expecting an easy win against a poor opponent. That said, the Ravens will have the chance to put together a nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game, a remarkable feat that drains any semblance of life from an opponent. This one won’t be the prettiest, but part of being a great team is handling inferior teams even when you’re not at your best, especially on the road. This is the kind of game that’s given the Ravens problems in recent years, but there will be no letdown as they extend their winning streak to five in a row, their longest within a single season since 2006.

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Jackson practices fully as Ravens list seven questionable for Cincinnati

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after missing practice with an illness, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was back on the field for final preparations ahead of the Week 10 trip to Cincinnati.

The reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week was a full participant Friday and will play against the Bengals despite being officially listed as questionable on the final injury report. Asked if he was feeling better as he exited the locker room after practice, Jackson smiled and said, “Yes, sir, I’m good.”

Jackson will be making his 16th career regular-season start on Sunday as the Ravens seek their first season sweep of the Bengals since 2011.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed safety Earl Thomas (right knee) would play despite missing Friday’s practice, his second absence in three days. Listed as questionable for Sunday, Thomas has been limited with a knee issue since returning from the bye week, but he arguably played his best game of the season against New England last Sunday night.

In addition to Jackson and Thomas, the Ravens listed right guard Marshal Yanda (illnesss), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (left knee), and wide receivers Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh) and Chris Moore (thumb) as questionable. Yanda and Stanley were full participants on Friday and are good to go while Brown was limited, continuing the pattern of the Ravens managing the rookie wideout’s practice reps at the end of the week.

The biggest question among the official questionable designations appears to be Moore, whose left thumb was heavily wrapped in practices throughout the week. The reserve wide receiver and special-teams standout barely took part in any special-teams work throughout the week and only caught passes with his right hand, putting his status in real question.

(3:05 p.m. update — Rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack (knee/hip) was added to the injury report as questionable after being a limited participant on Friday.)

Meanwhile, the Bengals ruled out wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) after the seven-time Pro Bowl selection failed to practice all week. Cincinnati began the week expecting Green to make his season debut, but the 31-year-old experienced swelling in the left ankle he originally injured on the first day of training camp in late July.

Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) was listed as questionable after practicing fully all week, making it possible the veteran lineman makes his season debut.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday in Cincinnati calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 57 degrees with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh), QB Lamar Jackson (illness), DT Daylon Mack (knee/hip), WR Chris Moore (thumb), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness)

CINCINNATI
OUT: WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Cordy Glenn (concussion)

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Lamar Jackson misses Thursday’s Ravens practice due to illness

Posted on 07 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed Thursday’s practice with an illness that isn’t expected to jeopardize his availability for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

Jackson was the second Baltimore player to miss practice due to being under the weather this week after seven-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda didn’t participate in Wednesday’s workout. It’s never ideal for your starting quarterback to miss practice time three days before a game, but the Ravens are preparing to face a winless Bengals team ranking last in the NFL in total defense and rush defense, which should ease concerns. Baltimore is aiming for its first season sweep of Cincinnati since 2011 after winning 23-17 at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 6.

Third-string quarterback Trace McSorley did his usual work on the scout-team special-teams units as No. 2 quarterback Robert Griffin III threw passes to tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle during the media viewing portion of practice, another indication that the Ravens expect Jackson to be OK to play on Sunday.

Coincidentally, the only other time Jackson has missed a regular-season practice in his brief NFL career was the Thursday prior to his first start against the Bengals last November, which was also because of illness. Two of Jackson’s four career 100-yard rushing performances have come against Cincinnati, including his career-high 152-yard outburst on Oct. 13.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday wearing a brace on his left knee after tweaking it in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over New England.

After receiving a veteran day off on Wednesday, safety Earl Thomas was listed as limited as he continues to nurse a minor knee issue. Wide receiver Chris Moore was limited with a left thumb injury for the second straight day and didn’t attempt to catch any passes with that hand during the portion of practice open to the media.

A day after suffering a setback with the ankle injury that’s sidelined him since the start of training camp, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has all but ruled himself out for Week 10. Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor indicated Green was ready to make his season debut prior to Wednesday’s practice, but the seven-time Pro Bowl selection is experiencing swelling in his ankle that’s prevented him from practicing this week. It’s another tough blow for a struggling team whose chances for Sunday’s game already weren’t great with rookie fourth-round quarterback Ryan Finley making his first NFL start.

Green, a 2011 first-round pick who’s given the Ravens defense significant problems over the years, is in the final year of his contract.

“I’m a competitor. I want to play, but sometimes you go through these bumps in the road that you’ve got to stay focused,” Green told reporters in Cincinnati on Thursday. “You’ve got to look at the long-term picture. I’ve got to make sure I can play for another five years without having to worry about this thing, not just thinking of the now.”

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB Lamar Jackson (illness), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Mark Ingram (non-injury)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Denard (hamstring), TE Tyler Eifert (non-injury), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Carl Lawson (hamstring), G John Miller (groin)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 9 win over New England

Posted on 05 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 6-2 for the first time since 2012 after a 37-20 win over New England, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore couldn’t have asked for a better start with 17 points on the first three drives against a team that hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in an entire game. The Ravens gained 133 yards in that first quarter while the Patriots possessed the ball for all of 132 seconds.

2. You knew it couldn’t continue to be that easy when Cyrus Jones muffed the punt early in the second quarter. The Gilman product has been pretty sure-handed with the Ravens, but coughing one up against his original team had to bring back some unpleasant memories that hopefully won’t linger.

3. The defense did strong work holding the Patriots to field goals on the final two drives of the first half, but kicking twice inside the 5 didn’t feel very “Belichickian.” Was it hubris that his defense had figured out the Ravens offense or some telling concern about his own offense?

4. To drain more than 17 minutes from the clock over its last two drives (not counting the final two kneels) speaks to this offense’s ability to crush an opponent’s soul. Lamar Jackson’s conversions to Mark Andrews and Willie Snead in that third-quarter drive were massive when leading by just four.

5. Earl Thomas played his best game as a Raven as he recorded a quarterback hit and grabbed his first interception since the opener. However, his best play came late in the second quarter when he broke up a Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman at the goal line.

6. Marquise Brown didn’t post big numbers in his return from an ankle sprain, but his diving third-down reception and his catch and run for 26 yards set the tone on that opening drive. He wasn’t at full speed, but his presence is important for this offense to continue to thrive.

7. The rotation at inside linebacker was about what we expected, but Patrick Onwuasor reminded why he’s more effective playing the weak-side spot. He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, recorded a sack on a blitz, and forced the fumble returned for a touchdown by Marlon Humphrey.

8. Sunday was five seasons in the making for Nick Boyle, who caught his first career touchdown. Boyle is the constant in a tight end room that’s changed plenty since he was drafted in 2015 — three rounds after Maxx Williams — so it was cool seeing him enjoy the celebration with teammates.

9. Not only did Brandon Carr see extensive work at safety in the dime and quarter packages when Chuck Clark moved to linebacker, but he often played deep as Wink Martindale moved Thomas around the field. Carr, 33, rolls with the punches and embraces whatever the defense needs from him.

10. In addition to the conservative decisions to kick short field goals, New England committed four penalties that gave the Ravens first downs, headlined by a neutral-zone infraction turning a short field goal into a touchdown on the opening drive. A few of those flags were back breakers.

11. No team has advanced to the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye since the 2012 Ravens. At 6-2, the goal is no longer to simply win an underwhelming AFC North. Several tough opponents remain, but securing the first weekend off in January is more than doable.

12. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, and Lenny Moore being in the building was special and highlights how incredible Baltimore’s football history is. Seeing Reed watch from the sideline reminded me of the legendary Johnny Unitas watching the new Ravens years ago. Sunday night was an electric atmosphere.

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