Eisenberg: Fact & Opinion at the Bye


Opinion: I still believe a healthy Joe Flacco gives the Ravens the best chance to win any given game in 2018, and they desperately need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18 to keep their playoff hopes alive. For that reason, the best–case scenario for the team is he is able to play on effectively despite his hip injury.

Fact: Since Flacco became the starter in 2008, the Ravens are 2-4 in games he does NOT start. They all came in 2015 after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 10.

Opinion: If there's any hint that Flacco might be compromised, the chance to give rookie Lamar Jackson his first start would be nothing if not an exciting moment, with the potential to be momentous for the franchise. When you draft a quarterback in the first round, you're saying he's your future at the position. That has never been in doubt, just the timing. Could it happen sooner than expected because of this injury? Absolutely. All possibilities are suddenly on the table here.

Fact: Jackson's most recent start (not counting anything in the NFL preseason) came in his final college game. His Louisville Cardinals lost to Mississippi State, 31-27, in the immortal TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, on December 31, 2017. It is surely not a memory Jackson savors. He threw four interceptions.

Opinion: There have been years when the Ravens' rookie class didn't make much of a contribution, but that isn't the case in 2018. Mark Andrews, Kenny Young, Lamar Jackson and Orlando Brown Jr. all have already assumed important roles that are likely to grow. The team is counting on Hayden Hurst joining them. Chris Board has quickly become a core special-teams player. It's still early, but GM Ozzie Newsome's last class could end up being one of his most productive.

Fact: The Ravens have run more offensive plays than any other team. (The Cleveland Browns are No. 2, followed by the New England Patriots.) But Baltimore is No. 27 in average yards gained per play.

Opinion: If you want to lament Hurst's quiet start, fine. But come on. The rookie was set back by a training-camp injury his position coach labeled "significant." He is starting to look comfortable, play more, and no doubt, he's fast over the middle. Any judgments made at this point are seriously rushed.

Fact: When the Ravens face the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18, it will be a matchup of the league's top-ranked and bottom-ranked defenses, according to this week's statistics. Yup, the Ravens still rank No. 1 in fewest average yards allowed per game (305.0) despite their three-game losing streak, and the Bengals, surprisingly (to me at least), are No. 32 (447.8).

Opinion: If all of the Ravens' offensive linemen are healthy after the bye, I think the only starting position in doubt is left guard. My guess is Brown, who hasn't allowed a sack or quarterback hit, will remain at right tackle. That means either James Hurst or Alex Lewis would play left guard. My money is on Hurst.

Fact: After creating a league-high 34 turnovers in 2017, the Ravens are on pace to create just 14 in 2018, which would rank near the bottom of the league.

Opinion: There's been a lot of discussion about this head-scratcher and the defense certainly believes it will eventually benefit from the law of averages. But another factor, no doubt, is the Ravens aren't facing as many backup and lesser quarterbacks this season as they did a year ago.

Fact: Twenty other teams enjoyed their bye-week break before the Ravens this year, including all three that defeated Baltimore on this current losing streak.

Opinion: By electing not to conduct a single practice this week, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that he believes his team was tired before the bye, especially in comparison to the opposition.

Fact: The Ravens' offense has scored touchdowns on a healthy two-thirds of its trips to the red zone in 2018. That's good for a No. 8 league ranking.

Opinion: It's wrong to suggest a recent red-zone slide is responsible for the losing streak. Yes, the Ravens went 1-for-4 against Pittsburgh last Sunday, which proved decisive when the Steelers went 3-for-4. But the Ravens went a combined 5-for-6 in the red zone in their losses to New Orleans and Carolina.

Fact: Only eight teams have more players on injured reserve than the Ravens, who have 13 on their list.

Opinion: That sounds high, but the Ravens actually haven't been hit as hard by injuries to their starting lineup as other teams. Willie Henry is the only projected starter among the players on IR. The Ravens rank near the bottom of the league (No. 27, according to Spotrac) in salary cap hits on IR.

Fact: Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda and Joe Flacco are the only Ravens offensive starters who have played more than 90 percent of their unit's snaps. On defense, safeties Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle and cornerback Brandon Carr are the only players over 90 percent.

Opinion: Carr's high snap-count figure illustrates that the Ravens have seldom had available the three-headed monster they'd like to use at cornerback. Jimmy Smith missed four games due to a suspension. Marlon Humphrey missed two with a thigh injury. Carr's durability is a major asset and he is playing well, but in the Ravens' best-case scenario at cornerback, he doesn't play over 90 percent of the time.

Related Content