Late for Work 10/1: Predictions for Ravens vs. Broncos

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TE Mark Andrews

Predictions for Ravens vs. Broncos

Through the first three weeks of the season, every Ravens game has been excruciatingly close. The Ravens (2-1) could be 3-0 just as easily as 0-3.

So what are the pundits expecting when Baltimore plays the Broncos (3-0) in Denver on Sunday? Another close game that could go either way.

Unlike the first three weeks, when the pundits were near unanimous in picking the Ravens to win (Raiders, Lions) or lose (Chiefs), they're more split on this one.

Twenty-nine of the 48 pundits we looked at picked the Ravens, who are 1-point underdogs, to hand Denver its first loss. (Note: All of the picks were made with the assumption that Lamar Jackson, who missed his second straight practice yesterday with back soreness, will play as expected).

Of the 27 pundits who predicted the score, 25 had the game being decided by five points or fewer, including 18 who forecasted the winner prevailing by three points or fewer. At least one pundit thinks Justin Tucker could be the Ravens' hero for the second straight week.

"In Week 3, [the Ravens] won on a freaking 66-yard field goal," CBS Sports' John Breech wrote. "This week, they're playing in Denver, which is the one city most kickers love to play in, so I'm guessing Tucker wins it on a field goal, which may or may not be from 67 yards out."

Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Broncos' three wins have come against teams that are a combined 0-9. The Ravens present a much stiffer test.

FanSided's Matt Vederame: "The Ravens are a huge, huge step up in class from Denver's first three opponents in the Jets, Giants and Jaguars. Baltimore will be challenged by the altitude and crowd noise, but it's been in tougher spots before."

CBS Sports' Breech: "Facing the Jags, Jets and Giants is like go-karting against your 8-year-old nephew. Facing Lamar Jackson is like entering the Indianapolis 500, except you don't have a car and you have to run the race on foot. The cars are just going to whiz by you and I feel like that's what Jackson is going to do to the Broncos defense on Sunday."

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "The Broncos are undefeated, but they haven't defeated a team with a victory yet. This will be their first major challenge. But the Ravens are playing consecutive road games and barely hung on to beat the Lions last week. The Broncos defense will do a great job against Lamar Jackson to limit him some, and Denver will do just enough on offense."

Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "The Broncos are better than people are giving them credit for, and they're going to keep it going on Sunday."

The Broncos are No. 1 in fewest points allowed (8.7 per game), but their defense is banged up and could be overmatched against the Ravens offense.

CBS Sports' Will Brinson: "Baltimore is not a bad team and should be able to run on a Broncos front seven dealing with a bunch of injuries. The defensive injuries for Denver are so bad (DL, LB) against this Ravens offense. It could be a big breakout day for Mark Andrews via Lamar Jackson."

The Ravens, who have been hit harder by injuries than any other team this season, are facing a Broncos team with its own injury issues.

The Washington Post's Matt Bonsteel: "Its receiving corps took another hit when KJ Hamler (14.8 yards per catch through three games) suffered a season-ending ACL tear against the Jets on Sunday. He joins fellow wide receiver Jerry Jeudy on injured reserve, and the injuries don't stop there: linebackers Josey Jewell and Bradley Chubb and cornerback Ronald Darby, all starters, still are out, while starting guards Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow both left Sunday's game with injuries that could keep them on the sideline against Baltimore."

NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "The defense got back to blitzing last week in Detroit, and Baltimore could feel more confident about one-on-one matchups against Denver after K.J. Hamler joined Jerry Jeudy on the sidelines."

Despite the injuries on offense, the Broncos' passing game still could exploit the Ravens' pass defense.

The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "A few months ago, we might have expected the Ravens secondary to shut down a Denver passing offense that struggled last season. That's no longer close to a given. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has delivered high efficiency in his first season as the Broncos' starter, completing 76.8% of his passes with no interceptions despite frequently throwing downfield. … The Ravens rank 30th in pass defense and have allowed opponents to average 7.7 yards per attempt, but they are getting healthier, with veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith back in the lineup and outside linebacker Justin Houston expected to return from a one-week absence on the reserve/COVID-19 list."

RT Patrick Mekari vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller is a key matchup.

Russell Street Report's James Ogden: "Miller isn't the same guy as he was when he entered the league, but he has adapted his game and is still a weapon off the edge. Mekari will need to hold up, at times without help (the Ravens will need to give him some help) for the passing game to succeed this week. The Broncos coverage schemes are even more deadly when combined with an effective four-man rush, usually spearheaded by Miller. Mekari has to neutralize him as much as possible."

Table inside Article
Pundits Picks Comments
ESPN 6 of 11 panelists pick Ravens
Baltimore Sun Broncos 27, Ravens 24 “The Ravens will have the most dynamic player on the field in Jackson, but the Broncos have made fewer mistakes and have played better defense. They’ll edge out another victory at home.” — Childs Walker
USA Today 5 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
NFL.com Broncos 23, Ravens 21 “This Broncos defense is begging to be run on. Usually, Baltimore would be up for the task. But this does not feel like that Ravens team — at least not yet.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 7 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
Sporting News Ravens 23, Broncos 20 “Teddy Bridgewater keeps playing well, but Baltimore's defense gets more on track to take a low-scoring battle of attrition.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 5 of 8 panelists pick Ravens “Baltimore is not a bad team and should be able to run on a Broncos front seven dealing with a bunch of injuries. The defensive injuries for Denver are so bad (DL, LB) against this Ravens offense. It could be a big breakout day for Mark Andrews via Lamar Jackson.” — Will Brinson
Pro Football Talk 2 of 3 panelists pick Broncos “I just don’t trust Baltimore yet. I know they’re gritty and tough and I respect everything about them. But I think Denver’s defense is real.” — Chris Simms
Sports Illustrated 3 of 5 panelists pick Ravens
Fansided Ravens 25, Broncos 20 “The Ravens are a huge, huge step up in class from Denver’s first three opponents in the Jets, Giants and Jaguars. Baltimore will be challenged by the altitude and crowd noise, but it’s been in tougher spots before.” — Matt Verderame

Jackson's First 1,000 Passes Mark NFL's Greatest QB Start Ever

It's long been established that Jackson is held to a different standard than other quarterbacks. Deadspin's Chuck Modiano illustrated just how wrong Jackson's critics are.

Modiano took a deep dive into the metrics, comparing how Jackson has fared in his first 1,000 passes (he's at 1,034) versus all other current starting quarterbacks; current/future Hall of Famers, and former league MVPs in the Super Bowl era, taking into account the higher difficulty of past passing eras.

Modiano concluded that Jackson is off to the best start of all time. Jackson has the best overall passer rating and overall production rating.

"Not bad for a dual-threat quarterback," Modiano wrote. "Lamar's Production Rating treats his runs and TDs as passes instead of separating them. This isn't hard. Just add a few more simple combined stats to the other 800 NFL advanced metrics. Instead, the NFL analytic community keeps devaluing Lamar Jackson. … Lamar Jackson is only 24 years old, and just posted the greatest FIRST 1,000 Pass start in modern quarterback history."

Modiano noted that Jackson's passing production is way better than he's given credit for.

"It's historic just by itself," Modiano wrote. "When compared with QB greats at FIRST 1,000 passes, Lamar is top-5 in NFL passer rating; touchdowns; and TD-to-INT ratio (3.5) which also ranks 3rd all-time after [Patrick] Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. And he did all this with Marquise Brown and Willie Snead as his primary wide receivers."

Jackson threw for 70 touchdowns (to 20 interceptions) in his first 1,000 passes, trailing only Dan Marino (75-26), Kurt Warner (73-34) and Mahomes (71-16).

"So how can Lamar have 70 passing TDs with no top wide receivers? The answer is Lamar himself," Modiano wrote. "As a run-threat on every down, he is often the one creating the receiver separation. Lamar's throwback jump pass for a 4th quarter TD came after a Chiefs defensive 'miscommunication.' Lamar tends to cause many 'miscommunications' where defenders freeze unsure whether to trail the receiver or stay home to stop Jackson.

"Jackson can produce elite stats without great receivers in ways immobile pocket passers like Warner couldn't."

Lions DC Says Multiple Coaches Asked Him How to Defend Ravens Offense

Yesterday, Lions Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn said he received multiple calls from coaches around the league asking him how to defend the Ravens offense and commending him on his game plan.

In other words, they were asking Glenn how he "figured out" the Jackson-led offense.

Oh boy.

"All things considered, Detroit did an overall solid job of stopping the Baltimore offense, holding them to just 17 points," Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher wrote. "However, the Ravens also contributed to stopping their offense, as drops, penalties, and more prevented them from putting the Lions away early. If Baltimore hadn't made so many mistakes early in the game on the offensive side of the ball, Glenn might not have gotten so many calls.

"Even with a few slip ups, the Ravens still averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per pass, mustering 387 total yards of offense. Quarterback Lamar Jackson also had one of his best days throwing the football, which could have been even better had it not been for a few drops."

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