Another Wild Sunday Brings Calls to 'Embrace Chaos'
Upsets. Stunners. Shocking defeats—and ties, apparently?
On Sunday, with the Ravens resting, the league delivered more chaos.
The winless Detroit Lions tied the Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-16, in overtime. The New England Patriots demolished the Cleveland Browns, 45-7. The Kansas City Chiefs moved into first place in the AFC West with a 41-14 beating of the Las Vegas Raiders.
And this was only on the AFC side of things. More unique results came about, and when they did, NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala offered advice for us all.
This NFL season has been pandemonium and parity if nothing else. The Ravens certainly felt it with Thursday night's shocking 22-10 loss in Miami. Then the same surprising results kept Baltimore in first place by the end of the weekend.
It's what Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said almost two weeks ago when asked about the parity of the NFL.
"It's the great thing about the NFL," Harbaugh said. "It's the great thing. It's why it's so much fun. It's why it leaves you so many scars, because it's just going to be unpredictable."
"While the Tennessee Titans have been the most impressive team. it's hard to determine who else is separating themselves from the pack," wrote SI.com's Todd Karpovich. "There have been major upsets every week and there is a logjam for potential playoff spots."
Harbaugh isn't the only one recognizing the NFL's parity. USA Today's Jarrett Bell thinks picking favorites for Super Bowl 56 isn't plausible as of now.
"Somewhere, somehow, an upset is coming today that will defy the odds and expectations," Bell wrote. "When they say it's a 'week-to-week' league, believe them. Throw COVID-19 on top of the typical injury factor, off-field distractions and parity, and the equation results in unpredictability we see each week – some weeks more than others.
"Sure, it's way too early to place much stock in how the playoff order is aligned at the moment. The second half of the season, with the December stretch run, will be the typical wild chase and exactly what the NFL wants parity to produce."
Along the same lines, Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark believes parity in the NFL has become like the NBA.
"I feel like every team is going to struggle," Clark said. "You're not always going to be successful. The NFL is becoming like the NBA."
Bleacher Report Sees Rashod Bateman As a 2021 Breakout Candidate
Over the past four weeks, rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman has shown a lot of reasons why General Manager Eric DeCosta selected him with the team's first pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Most notably, Bateman has been a chain-moving machine.
With all that, he still has yet to "break out" or score a touchdown, but Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton has Bateman as the Ravens' player "who could break out before the 2021 season ends."
"In all four of his appearances, Bateman commanded at least six targets," Moton wrote. "He's caught 18 passes for 241 yards. Though the rookie first-rounder hasn't reached the end zone, 15 of his receptions have resulted in first downs. Quarterback Lamar Jackson can depend on him to move the chains in crucial moments."
Earlier in his NFL career, Jackson would maybe need more time developing his chemistry with fresh receivers. However, Bateman has already become .a playmaker in the offense.
"Bateman's immediate contribution has been a positive sign, not only because it shows his potential, but because it's an indication that he and Jackson have good chemistry already — despite not having as much time together as planned," The Associated Press' Noah Trister wrote.
Just above 20% of Jackson's completions over the past four weeks come from Bateman; he's already become a fifth of the receiving offense, and that's with incredible amount of untapped potential, and a reason the team has high hopes for the second half of the season, according to Trister.
"Bateman is a significant part of those high hopes," Trister wrote.
Are Changes Coming to the Offensive Line?
The Ravens offensive line is being discussed by multiple outlets after the Dolphins were merciless in sending the blitz on nearly every down. The Dolphins may have noticed some cracks in the foundation, which, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, has left Jackson as the second-most sacked quarterback in the NFL.
"The only quarterback who has been sacked more than Jackson is Chicago rookie Justin Fields," Zrebiec wrote. "Jackson has been sacked at least three times in four consecutive games. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that the way Jackson plays will inevitably lead to some sacks that the Ravens can live with, but 28 in nine games are too many. It's just one away from a career high for Jackson, and the Ravens still have eight games left."
Ebony Bird's Kristen Wong agrees with Zrebiec's assessment.
"[Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips] have been thrust forward into the spotlight as starting offensive linemen, but it seems like they may not yet be up to the task given their inconsistencies and Phillips' particular struggle to adapt to a new position (he filled in at right tackle after Patrick Mekari got injured)," Wong wrote.
One possible improvement could come in the form of third-round rookie Ben Cleveland, who may return in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears.
If not, Zrebiec offered possible solutions to upgrade the offensive line.
"It's not out of the question that [Patrick] Mekari could be ready to return after missing two games and he'd likely go back to right tackle," Zrebiec wrote. "If he's not ready, Harbaugh and offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris could opt to use recent veteran signee Cedric Ogbuehi, who should know the Ravens offense well enough by now, at right tackle."
Despite the concerns raised by pundits and the Dolphins' relentless blitzes, the Ravens offensive line actually had its highest grade in pass blocking of any game this season from Pro Football Focus. In run blocking, however, the Ravens got their lowest marks of the year.