Can This Year's Ravens Win if They Fall Behind?
With the way the Ravens have been punishing opponents with their running game, familiar questions have resurfaced: Can they win if they fall behind? More specifically, can they win when Lamar Jackson — who started the season red hot throwing the ball but has since been inconsistent — has to use his arm rather than his legs?
Baltimore has held double-digit leads in every game this season, so it's a question that has yet to be answered. It's reminiscent of 2019, when the Ravens played from ahead for the majority of the season before finding themselves trailing in the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans in a game they lost, 28-12.
Until this year's team is put in that situation, the questions will persist. However, there is reason to believe the Ravens can indeed come from behind and win with Jackson throwing. It happened twice last season.
In Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts, Jackson led the Ravens to a 31-25 overtime win after trailing by 19 points in the third quarter. He finished the game 37-of-43 for 442 yards and four touchdown passes. In a 34-31 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings a month later, Jackson rallied the Ravens from a 14-point deficit midway through the third quarter. In the second half and overtime, he went 19-for-24 for 201 yards with two touchdown passes.
The 2022 Ravens' run-heavy approach, as well as a lack of proven wide receivers, has sparked another question: Can they beat the AFC's elite teams in the playoffs with this offense?
"It's a fair critique and it's still hard to imagine the Ravens making a deep playoff run with their current group of wide receivers," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "In victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Saints, the Ravens struggled at times in the passing game and took over in the second half by embracing a run-heavy approach. Will they be diverse and dynamic enough offensively against the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins to win in January?"
Press Box’s Glenn Clark agreed that it's a fair question.
"To be clear, there is of course no answer to this question," Clark wrote. "The Ravens, by virtue of what they did at the trade deadline, are essentially announcing that they believe the answer is 'yes.' They seem to have fully recommitted to the Greg Roman strategy and intend to control the ball and play defense. Whether they're doing that because it's what they always wanted to do or simply out of necessity given their personnel, who knows?
"But because of their past playoff struggles, losses to the best teams they faced earlier in the season and few opportunities to record 'statement' wins for the rest of the year, this question will continue to linger. Even if the Ravens keep up this time of possession dominance, they'll be hard pressed to prove that it will translate to how they play against the top teams in the conference come January. It's easy to say things like 'running the ball travels' and 'defense wins championships,' but that kinda still has to be proven by this group."
Ravens Hailed As Contenders, 'Team You Don't Want to Face in the Playoffs'
Rather than asking whether the Ravens' offense is good enough to make a deep playoff run, perhaps the question that should be asked is: Are the Ravens the team no one will want to see in January?
"The Ravens have the statistical profile of 'that team you don't want to face in the playoffs,'" NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund wrote. "They're improving in the areas that are most correlated with playoff upsets (such as effective in-game adjustments), which is especially impressive considering Lamar Jackson's best offensive weapon, Mark Andrews, has been banged up. One recent example occurred in Week 9, when Kenyan Drake posted 26 rushing yards over expected in the second half against New Orleans after rushing for 16 yards under expected in the first half. Baltimore's trade deadline addition of Roquan Smith and in-season signing of veteran DeSean Jackson help, as well."
Frelund projected each team's win total at the midpoint of the season, and she has the AFC North-leading Ravens (6-3) at 11.9, trailing only the Chiefs (13.4) and Bills (13.1) in the conference.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani sorted the contenders from the pretenders at the halfway point. He named three contenders in the AFC: the Bills, Chiefs, and Ravens.
"The Ravens are a new addition to the 'contender' category. The main reason why is because of the improvement shown on defense," Dajani wrote. "That 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night was impressive. The Saints came into that matchup with the No. 3 offense in the NFL, averaging 394.4 yards per game, but this Ravens defense held them to just 243 total yards. Justin Houston was fantastic with 2.5 sacks and an interception, Tyus Bowser made an impact in his return to the field and former Bear Roquan Smith clearly showed he can help this team. Rookie David Ojabo could make his debut soon and star safety Marcus Williams should return before the playoffs."
"Offensively, I think everyone knows what the Ravens are. Lamar Jackson leads the No. 2 rushing offense in the league, and the offensive line is talented," Dajani continued. "Per PFF, Baltimore has the No. 1 pass-blocking line, and the No. 5 run-blocking line. I have the Ravens as the best team in the AFC North, and if they stay healthy, they could have an opportunity to make a run."
Looks Like Ravens 'Struck Gold' With Tyler Linderbaum and Kyle Hamilton
The Ravens' two first-round rookies – center Tyler Linderbaum and safety Kyle Hamilton – continue to earn recognition for their performances this season.
ESPN ranked Linderbaum, the 25th-overall pick, at No. 9 on its list of the top 10 rookies at the season's midpoint.
"Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Linderbaum is 'all ball,' and it's true through nine weeks," ESPN's Jeff Legwold wrote. "Baltimore is the league's No. 2 rushing team (168.1 yards per game), thanks in part to Linderbaum's 76.5% run block win rate (fifth among rookies). He has played all but two snaps this season (549 of 551)."
ESPN's Matt Miller added: "Much like Kansas City's Creed Humphrey did last year, Linderbaum has solidified an offensive line at center. He was considered one of the most all-around solid players in the 2022 draft class, but he's still exceeding expectations, playing as one of the top centers in the league and potentially receiving Pro Bowl attention."
As for Hamilton, FanSided’s Russell S. Baxter said the Ravens are starting to see what they hoped for from the 14th-overall pick.
"There's progress being made [on defense] in Baltimore and Hamilton's play as of late has certainly been a factor," Baxter wrote. "Hamilton has played in all nine games this year. He's racked up 21 tackles, one sack and knocked down two passes on defense. He's also added four stops on special teams.
"[General Manager Eric] DeCosta and the team look like [they've] struck gold with both the former Golden Domer and Tyler Linderbaum, the other first-round pick in April."
Jackson Moves Into Top 5 in NFL.com's QB Index
Even though he hasn't been putting up huge passing numbers, Jackson moved up three spots to No. 4 in NFL.com’s weekly QB Index.
"Against a confused and increasingly tired Saints defense, Lamar did Lamar things on Monday night, bashing and dancing his way to 82 yards on the ground, flashing deadly escapability, and whipping a ridiculous, super-chill-stanced completion that compelled Peyton on the Manningcast to announce: 'I've never seen that. ... Young quarterbacks, don't watch that. That is not normal. ... Lamar Jackson is different,'" NFL.com's Marc Sessler wrote. "His 100th career touchdown pass was a testament to Baltimore's unique playbook, having Lamar sweep right behind a legion of big bodies — forcing the Saints to prepare for the run — before flinging a pinpoint ball to rookie tight end Isaiah Likely. This all came with Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins out of the lineup, reminding us once again that Jackson can devastate no matter who's jamming with him."