Will Lamar Jackson Be QB From 2018 Class to Go Furthest in the Playoffs?
Three quarterbacks selected in the first round in 2018 have led their teams into this weekend's divisional playoffs. Which one will go the furthest this postseason out of Lamar Jackson (selected No. 32 overall), the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield (No. 1) and Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (No. 7)?
NFL.com posed the question to five of its analysts. Jackson and Allen, who will square off in Buffalo on Saturday night, received two votes each, while Mayfield got one.
"Lamar Jackson got the monkey off his back when he led the Baltimore Ravens to a playoff victory on Super Wild-Card Weekend. The lifted weight will allow Jackson to zero in on what he does best: beating defenses with his dynamic running ability," Maurice Jones-Drew wrote. "We saw Indianapolis run all over Buffalo's defense last weekend, which bodes well for Baltimore's top-ranked rushing attack Saturday night. Jackson and the mostly-healthy Ravens (defense included) should get it done against the Bills, then get a shot to dethrone the Chiefs."
Marc Ross said the winner of the Ravens-Bills game has the quarterback who will make the deepest playoff run. He gave the edge to Jackson.
"Though Allen will make plays, ultimately the stark contrast between the Ravens' dominance in the run game on both sides of the ball (No. 1 run offense, No. 8 run defense) and the Bills' feebleness in ground play (No. 20 run offense, No. 17 run defense) will carry Jackson and Co. to a spectacular showdown in Kansas City," Ross wrote.
David Carr was all in on Allen, who has made a huge jump this season.
"When it comes down to it, the teams with the most complete quarterbacks often progress deep into the playoffs. For that reason, Josh Allen is the clear pick over Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield to take his team the furthest," Carr wrote. "His improvement in nearly every aspect of the position over the last year has been critical to the Bills' success, and his supporting cast is matching his level of play."
Add Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey to List of Ravens' X-Factors
Yesterday in Late for Work, we discussed running back Gus Edwards being an X-factor for the Ravens in the playoffs. Last week, it was kicker Justin Tucker and defensive end Yannick Ngaokue who were tabbed as X-factors.
Now it's Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey's turn. At this rate, the Ravens will have enough "X-men" to start their own superhero movie franchise.
The All-Pro cornerbacks face a tough test in Allen Saturday night.
"Pro Football Focus shows that Baltimore's top two corners have been tested downfield a lot this season, with Marcus Peters in coverage against 48 targets of 10-plus air yards (tied for eighth-most) and Marlon Humphrey facing 43 such targets (tied for 11th-most)," NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund wrote. " … Buffalo QB Josh Allen has been productive at all passing depths, including 10-plus air yards, where he's piled up 21 of his 37 touchdown passes on a 113.9 passer rating.
"That said, this is the area where Allen has thrown nine of his 10 picks, so the playmaking Peters could have takeaway opportunities. Overall, the Ravens have allowed just a 45.6 percent completion rate and an 82.6 passer rating against throws of 10-plus air yards."
Peters, whose interception sealed the Ravens' win over the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, was singled out as an X-factor by San Francisco 49ers All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Real recognizes real, as the kids say.
"Marcus Peters is also going to be an X-factor because he can just take the ball," Sherman said on his podcast with Cris Collinsworth. "Marcus has a knack for it. And as somebody who has a knack for it, you either have it or you don't, and he can do it. He can take it when it's not his name. 'Oh, I drifted off this receiver. I thought this guy was running this play. So I went over here and took the ball.'"
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz noted that the Ravens heavily invested in their cornerbacks for a challenge like the one Allen and a talented receiving corps led by Stefon Diggs presents.
"Their success in the face of that challenge, as much as any other, could determine whether the Ravens extend their season beyond Saturday night," Kasinitz wrote.
Pundits Continue to Question Why Wink Martindale Isn't Getting Head Coaching Interest
Wink Martindale is recognized as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, and his reputation was further enhanced with his unit's dominant performance against the Titans and All-Pro running back Derrick Henry.
So why isn't he getting interest from the seven teams with heading coaching vacancies? The topic was touched on in Tuesday's Late for Work, and now more pundits are weighing in.
Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said it exemplifies how "[screwed] up" those evaluating the talent of coaches are.
"This just shows you how bad the NFL hiring cycle is [that] Don Martindale can't get an interview," said Lombardi, who hired Martindale as linebackers coach when he was the Raiders' senior personnel executive. "I've seen him relate to players. I've seen him grow as a coach. I've seen him understand the big picture. He's not a defensive coordinator, he's a head coach. I see a lot of Bill Parcells in him. He's witty, he's fun, he can make his point to the players in a way that they need to hear it."
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said it's "beyond odd" that Martindale, who interviewed for the New York Giants' head coaching position last offseason, isn't receiving more head coaching buzz.
"The man can flat-out coach, he continues to oversee an elite defense in Baltimore — albeit one that isn't exactly loaded with pass rushers — and he is coming off an absolutely master-class performance against a coordinator [Tennessee's Arthur Smith] who all six teams seeking a head coach wanted an audience [with]. Yet not a single request to interview Martindale. … Alas, apparently, he is not this year's flavor.
"The trend on the defensive side of the ball is trending decidedly younger, not that Martindale is by any means over the hill at age 57; in fact, his fire, ability to connect with very young players and unique teaching style should be exactly what is attracting him to NFL teams. To say nothing of his ability to call a football game, exert great pressure on the opposing quarterback despite an outside pass rusher who is gifted with superior moves. He is aggressive and creative with his blitz packages, and perhaps someone interviewing Smith should check out the film of last Sunday's game."
The Baltimore Sun's Daniel Oyefusi noted that just because Martindale hasn't gotten an interview for one of the current vacancies yet, it doesn't mean he won't at some point.
"With the window for teams to interview assistants who are currently coaching in the postseason closed, it's unclear how that will affect Martindale's chances this year. Teams could elect to fill their vacancies in the coming days and weeks," Oyefusi wrote. "However, an extended postseason run against the potential gantlet of offensive minds who have been mentioned as head coaching candidates — Tennessee's Smith, Buffalo's [Brian] Daboll and the Kansas City Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy — would bring Martindale further into the spotlight."
Where Does Lamar Jackson's TD Run vs. Titans Rank Among Ravens' Greatest Playoff Plays?
Head Coach John Harbaugh called Jackson's 48-yard touchdown run against the Titans the best run he's ever seen by a quarterback, but where does Jackson's dazzling dash rank among the greatest postseason plays in Ravens history?
PressBox's Glenn Clark compiled a top-10 list, and he placed the Jackson play at No. 7.
"If the Ravens make a deeper run, this play might well end up being even higher on the list," Clark wrote. "It's arguable that the third-and-7 rollout and throw to Mark Andrews at the end of the first quarter was perhaps even more important in Jackson's first-ever playoff win, but few playoff plays have ever been nearly this spectacular."
The fact that Jackson's touchdown run was only No. 7 shows just how many terrific plays the Ravens have made in the postseason.
Not surprisingly, the Mile High Miracle — Joe Flacco's game-tying, 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in the Ravens' upset of the Denver Broncos in January 2013 — topped Clark's list.