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Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) celebrates with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) after they connected for a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 15 win over Jets

Posted on 16 December 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens clinching their second straight AFC North division championship in a 42-21 win over the New York Jets, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. John Harbaugh’s team earned some extra rest after playing its fourth game in 18 days, a challenging stretch this late in the season. It’s funny how these sorts of obstacles are little more than an afterthought when you’re the best team in football riding a 10-game winning streak.

2. The Ravens shattering the 2003 team’s rushing record with two games to go probably deserves more attention. That was the year Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards — third best in NFL history — while rookie Kyle Boller and journeyman Anthony Wright played quarterback. Slightly different than having the MVP there.

3. Lamar Jackson took arguably his biggest hit of the year on the run that broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. It’s a major relief those types of collisions are so rare with his uncanny ability to avoid violent contact in an 1,100-yard rushing campaign.

4. A missed extra point by Justin Tucker and a blocked punt for Sam Koch were aberrations, but the lackluster kick coverage we’ve seen throughout the season is something that can cost a team dearly at the wrong moment in January. That’s one of the few legitimate concerns on this team.

5. Thursday was a reminder of how much the Ravens still rely on the blitz to create pressure. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had time and room to operate when Wink Martindale called for a simpler four-man rush, especially in the first half.

6. After back-to-back quiet games, Marquise Brown delivered one of his best plays of the season by getting his feet in on Jackson’s 24-yard touchdown pass. It was also a bold strategy in the New York secondary to pass the speedy rookie off to no one in deep coverage.

7. Tyus Bowser hasn’t lived up to his original second-round billing, but he’s had a solid season as a rotational edge defender. His fifth sack of the season and the resulting fumble helped put this game away after the Ravens had punted twice to begin the second half.

8. Mark Ingram tied his career high with his fourth touchdown reception and continues to run with a relentless style that’s fit perfectly in this offense. Le’Veon Bell drew more outside attention leading up to free agency, but Ingram has been the superior player and the better bargain.

9. If the 33-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts looked familiar, it was virtually the same route that Jackson overthrew at the end of regulation in Pittsburgh back in Week 5, a game the Ravens won in overtime. Coaches note how the young quarterback rarely makes the same mistake twice.

10. A substantial sample size supported the concerns about James Hurst filling in for the concussed Ronnie Stanley, but you forgot the veteran reserve was even out there on Thursday night, which is exactly what you want. Hurst deserves praise for his play at left tackle.

11. Having a 28-7 lead certainly helped make the decision easier, but going for it on a fourth-and-1 from your own 29 is the kind of aggressive call that’s giving the Ravens an additional edge over opponents. It enhances your play calling, your win probability, and your team’s mindset.

12. Jackson exchanged jerseys with three different Jets players and even had Tom Brady tweeting about wanting to race him during Thursday’s game. It’s Super Bowl or bust when a team is 12-2 the week before Christmas, but try not to take for granted how special this all is right now.

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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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