This upcoming Sunday the Baltimore Ravens travel to Dallas to face-off with the hottest team in the NFL currently. The Cowboys are on an eight-game win streak behind two electrifying rookies that are playing like seasoned veterans. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are taking the NFL by storm just nine games into their NFL careers.
While the rookies are getting all the attention, the Cowboys offensive line plays the most important role to their success. This star-studded line includes three first-round draft picks in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zach Martin.
Behind this line, both Prescott and Elliott, along with the rest of the offense, are playing fast, aggressive, and efficient football. The unit is ranked 5th in the league, and is scoring 28.7 points a game.
Can Baltimore compete in this game?
Baltimore started the season hotter than it has in seven years, but sizzled after a 3-0 start. Following a heart breaking four-game losing streak, the squad has regrouped with two divisional wins, which placed them back on top of the AFC North. Along with those wins came something Baltimore was lacking in the prior weeks: confidence.
The Ravens’ 1st ranked defense will face its toughest test of the season while they try to prove they are indeed the NFL’s best.
Since the Bye Week, the defense has taken their game to the next level. In two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, they allowed an average of 210.5 yards per game and only 21 points total. Pittsburgh’s offense is widely regarded as a top three offense, and Cleveland’s offense has produced this season as well. The defense is playing with the mentality that they need to win games, and that is good for Baltimore.
While this is the toughest test Baltimore has faced so far, this will also be the toughest defense Dallas has faced to this point as well. The best two defenses Dallas has faced to this point come from their own division in Philadelphia and New York. New York held Dallas to 19 points in Week One, and Philadelphia could not hold on to two separate 10-point leads in Prime Time.
Baltimore’s defense has the tools to match up with Dallas’ offense. With no. 1 ranked rush defense, and arguably the best front seven in the NFL, Baltimore can test Elliott and the offensive line early. The secondary matches up well with the receivers in that Jimmy Smith can cover Dez Bryant while Tavon Young can focus on slot receiver Cole Beasley. If the defense can keep the ball in front of them and limit the rookies’ explosive plays, this game will be close.
If the game is close, can the offense step up and win the game?
Joe Flacco’s offense has left something to be desired this season. Many, myself included, expected the offense to be explosive and fun to watch this season, even with Flacco coming off a torn ACL. Flacco’s group has dealt with critical injuries to key players for much of the season, which has affected productivity.
Baltimore’s offense is currently ranked 27th in the league, and has shown problems getting into the endzone this year. Before his last game, Flacco had only thrown six touchdowns in eight games. In the second half alone against Cleveland, he drilled three passes to the endzone. Two of those passes came within the redzone, an area of weakness for Baltimore’s offense this season. After a stagnant first half against Cleveland, the offense revealed its potential. Touchdowns to three different targets, a two-point conversion, and moving the ball at will were all on display last Thursday.
Flacco needs to play a complete game in Dallas to compete. The defense can keep Baltimore in the game, but Flacco will need to produce the upset.
Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Posts Perfect Passer Rating
Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback continues to make a strong argument for MVP honors this season, and Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals only strengthened his case.
Jackson became the second player in NFL history to produce a perfect passer rating (158.3) in multiple games in a single season, joining Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who accomplished the feat twice back in 2007.
Jackson posted a perfect rating in the Ravens’ season opening victory against the Miami Dolphins, becoming the sixth player in league history to post perfect ratings in multiple career games.
Jackson fueled the Ravens’ rout of the winless Bengals on Sunday, a game that resulted in a 49-13 final score.
“I’m a quarterback at the end of the day,” Jackson said, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “I want to prove that each and every day I go out and practice. I treat it like it’s a game. If I miss a pass at practice, I’m ticked off.”
“I mean, jeez, you go out there and he’s whipping the ball and putting it in awesome spots,” Ravens tight end Nick Boyle said. “You saw his awesome passes today. That’s something he can do that people don’t think he can do or didn’t think he could do. That’s what makes him so dangerous. He could do everything.”
Jackson entered the 2019 season with plenty of questions regarding if he could be the long-term NFL quarterback for the Ravens, given his style of play.
Jackson has answered those questions, and then some.
“He’s one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “(He’s) dynamic. I’m interested to see what teams do down the road here to stop him, because he certainly is hitting on all cylinders right now.”
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Ravens’ Earl Thomas Celebrates Victory Over Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas was extra motivated when playing his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, on Sunday, and the victory over Seattle meant a little bit more than a normal regular season win.
Thomas spent his first nine seasons with the Seahawks, including their Super Bowl championship back in 2014, but had a rather sour departure from the team, highlighted by a rift with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Thomas and the Ravens won the game 30-16 at CenturyLink Field.
“I definitely came in here with a purpose, and we got it done,” Thomas said following the game, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
While Thomas had his issues with his former head coach, he has the utmost respect for his former teammate, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has the same respect for Thomas.
“I hold Earl in high regard, man,” Wilson said. “I really love him. Just how much he’s meant to my family, his family and everything else, and what that means and then also just to the Seahawks organization and what he’s meant … he played really good today, he played great, he was battling out there, back-and-forth … Earl’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Throughout the game Thomas could be seen talking trash to the Seahawks sideline.
“You knew I was going to say something,” Thomas said. “I definitely said what I had to say. It was between me and them.”
Thomas played a big part in keeping the Seahawks offense in check, chipping in five tackles of his own, in an impressive, and convincing victory.
“Earl had a great game,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “And it meant a lot to Earl. Earl didn’t have much to say. He just wanted to go ‘do.’ I think he played great. No big plays. Nothing over the top, Earl and Chuck both. Earl was back there, patrolling the back end. A couple of critical tackles. I mean, sometimes you forget about the safety when he’s doing his job so well.”
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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Says ‘I hate running’; I’d rather pass
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson worked all offseason to change the perception of him that he is a running quarterback, intent on changing the narrative about his style of play and vowing that he would be running less.
Three games into the season and Jackson is showing his preference of throwing as opposed to taking off for a run.
“I hate running,” Jackson said, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “Only if I have to, but my job is to get the ball to the receivers, the tight ends, running backs. If I have to run, I’ll do it, but I’d rather just sit back and pass it. I like throwing touchdowns instead of running them.”
Thus far this season, Jackson is averaging 33 passes and just nine rushes per game, which is a considerable drop from his 17 carries per game during his rookie season.
Jackson did tuck the ball and run for a score during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but he insists that running the ball was his only option on the play.
“I only could run it. There was no one open,” Jackson said. “I had to make him miss. I’m one-on-one. I like my chances over anyone one-on-one.
Currently, Jackson is on pace for over 900 yards on the ground, and his ability to create highlight-reel runs often amazes his teammates.
“He’s wild, man. He’s amazing,” Ravens’ running back Mark Ingram said. “I don’t think there is anything like him in the league, as far as just extending plays and being able to juke defenders. He’s special. He can extend plays and buy time for us to get open, receivers to get open, or him take off and run at the last resort and juke people, spin around people, make people fall.”
But even more impressive than his production on the ground has been Jackson’s improvement as a passer, and he carries a 113.9 passer rating s the Ravens enter their Week 4 tilt against the division-rival Cleveland Browns.
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