Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen Ranked as One of the Best Quarterback Combos in NFL Draft History
When Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen take the field for Sunday's game between the Ravens and Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium, not only will it be a matchup of elite quarterbacks and leading MVP candidates, but also a meeting of one of the all-time best quarterback duos to come from the same draft.
ESPN ranked the top 10 QB duos from the same draft class dating back to 1967. Allen and Jackson — who were drafted seventh- and 32nd-overall in 2018 — came in at No. 3.
The only combos ranked ahead of them were John Elway and Dan Marino (1983), and Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning (2004).
"Ranking Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson this high requires faith in their ability to produce in the postseason, but there's no denying the two have already emerged as elite players in their young careers," ESPN's Matt Miller wrote. "Jackson has won an MVP award and led the NFL in passing touchdowns (36 in 2019) while also torching defenses as a runner. He has twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. And Allen has seemingly gotten better and better. He's currently the favorite to win MVP this season. He has accounted for 145 total touchdowns, and his completion percentage has jumped from 52.8% as a rookie to 71.2% this season.
"If how this duo has changed the game with their downfield throwing and running ability is any indication of where they're headed, then both look like future Hall of Famers and multiple MVP winners. Ranking them ahead of proven winners like Joe Montana, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees might ruffle some feathers, but it's that potential that puts them this high on the list."
Jackson and Allen's combined 261 total touchdowns is the fourth-most by a first-round quarterback pair in their first five seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They need three touchdowns to pass the duo of Marino and Elway.
"That's not bad considering it was Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen who were pegged as the more polished QB prospects in 2018," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Allen was a small-school passer from Wyoming who struggled with accuracy, and Jackson was labeled a boom-or-bust talent from Louisville who didn't fit the mold of the traditional pocket quarterback."
Bill Belichick's Game Plan Was Focused on Stopping Rashod Bateman
New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has earned a reputation for identifying an opposing team's best offensive weapon and taking it away.
Heading into the Ravens-Patriots game this past Sunday, it was reasonable to assume that All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews would be the player in Belichick's crosshairs. But that wasn't the case.
Belichick focused on taking away Rashod Bateman, says Russell Street Report’s Jim Zipcode. The effort was largely a success, as Bateman was targeted just four times and finished with two catches, both of which came in the fourth quarter.
The takeaway, though, is that Belichick thought enough of the second-year wide receiver to make shutting him down the priority.
"That's AMAZING if you think about it," Zipcode wrote. "Andrews is the reigning All-Pro tight end and a two-time Pro Bowler. He had over 1,300 yards last year. He has been, if not the engine, then the drivetrain for the Ravens' pass game. Belichick chose to play him straight-up, and instead schemed to take away Bateman. That tells us something about Bateman, if we're paying attention."
With the Patriots blanketing Bateman, Jackson successfully spread the ball around and made smart decisions based on what the defense was giving him. Andrews was the main beneficiary, catching eight of 13 targets for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, eight different players caught at least one pass.
As for Bateman, he still finished second on the team in receiving yards, as his two catches totaled 59 yards. He had a 35-yard reception on the Ravens' game-clinching drive late in the fourth quarter of the 37-26 victory. Through three games, the 2021 first-round pick is on pace for 1,280 yards.
"Even blanketed, Bateman shows why he commands defensive attention," Zipcode wrote. "He almost had another chunk play on a bomb down the sideline that was just off his fingertips. He's a nightmare after the catch. He's just a problem. In limited opportunities, Bateman showed why Belichick would have his defense focus on him."
Jackson Continues to Destroy 'Blitz' Narrative
In Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins, Jackson made a statement to those who believed he couldn't beat the Blitz. Against the Patriots, Jackson put an exclamation point on it.
"The Patriots' defense recorded pressure at a 56% rate on early-down dropbacks in the first three quarters Sunday, the highest rate of any defense in the NFL. They blitzed at a well-above-average rate," Fox Sports’ Warren Sharp wrote. "And against the blitz, Jackson went 11-for-12 with four TDs and +0.98 EPA. His performance against the blitz, based on EPA/att delivered with a minimum of 12 dropbacks, was second-best on the season of any QB.
"The only time this year that a QB delivered more EPA per attempt against the blitz than Lamar Jackson did against the Patriots in Week 3? Lamar Jackson, facing the Dolphins the week before."
Sharp added that no quarterback over the past 10 years has been as efficient against the blitz than Jackson so far this season.
Ravens Have No. 1 Offense and Special Teams, Based on Metrics
The standings say the Ravens are tied for first in the AFC North. The power rankings say they're somewhere between the fifth- and eighth-best team in the league. So what do the metrics say?
In Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings, which measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent, the Ravens are No. 3 overall, trailing the Bills and the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars.
Baltimore has the No. 1 offense, No. 18 defense, and No. 1 special teams, based on DVOA.
Also, as noted by The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer, the Ravens have the fourth-toughest schedule, according to the metrics, as the aforementioned Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are all better than expected thus far.