Pundits Are Near Unanimous in Picking Ravens Over Bears
An interesting fact heading into the Ravens' road game against the Bears on Sunday: The Ravens have never won in Chicago.
Another interesting fact: Lamar Jackson is 12-0 as a starter against NFC teams.
Something has to give, and an overwhelming majority of the pundits we looked at believe Jackson will extend his winning streak. To be exact, 47 of 50 pundits picked the Ravens (6-3) to hand the Bears (3-6) their fifth consecutive loss.
The three who picked the Bears — who are coming off their bye week — are NFL Network's Adam Rank (an admitted Bears fan), ESPN's Emmanuel Acho and CBS Sports' Dave Richard.
Want a couple more interesting facts?
The Ravens are 3-0 when Jackson has missed at least one practice during the week. He's missed two days of practice this week because of illness. Jackson, who has never faced the Bears, is 25-2 against teams he's facing for the first time.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:
It's all about Jackson vs. Bears rookie QB Justin Fields.
ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson: "The Bears hope Fields can one day emulate Jackson's dominant style of play, and coach Matt Nagy called Jackson 'special' on Wednesday. Fields added that Jackson does things that most other players cannot. With just four touchdowns to eight interceptions, Fields himself remains very much a work in progress. However, the rookie had a strong fourth quarter in Pittsburgh that Nagy thinks can carry over to the Ravens game. The Bears will need Fields to have a tremendous afternoon to knock off Baltimore."
The Ravens' defense will be a difficult challenge for Fields.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: "Justin Fields has made terrific progress. Facing Baltimore is a great test of how much progress. There are holes in the Ravens' secondary that can be exploited, but coordinator Wink Martindale will test the Bears' protection schemes before Fields can let go of any rainmakers. … This is usually the time of year when the Ravens' defense begins to sort out its problems."
The Ravens will prevail because they have the edge in third-down defense and red-zone offense and defense.
CBS Sports’ Will Brinson: "The Ravens and Bears are both bad at third-down conversions on offense (29th and 28th, respectively). But the Ravens are much better on defense at stopping the same conversions, second in the NFL (32%) versus the Bears at 14th (40%). Additionally, Baltimore is an elite red-zone team on offense (70% of the time it scores a touchdown) and defense (44% allowing one), while Chicago is below average in red-zone conversions (54%). Unless the Bears decide to change their defensive tendencies — they rank second-lowest in the NFL in terms of blitzing — Lamar should cook here."
The Ravens will bounce back in a big way from last week's disappointing loss to the Dolphins.
Pro Football Network’s Ben Rolfe: "It is hard to see the Ravens getting embarrassed twice in consecutive weeks on the road against a lesser team. Additionally, with how sloppy many teams have looked coming off the bye week, the Bears could struggle against a well-coached team. This should be a convincing win for the Ravens unless their offense continues to stagnate."
The New York Times’ Emmanuel Morgan: "The rookie quarterback Justin Fields's development has progressed after each game, but it is hard to imagine the Ravens will perform poorly in back-to-back games."
Sporting News’ Bill Bender: "The Ravens are 6-3 after a loss the last three seasons with Lamar Jackson, who will bounce back enough at Soldier Field."
Chicago Sun-Times’ Rick Morrisey: "Miami figured out a way to stop Lamar Jackson last week, which means the Bears are going to be facing a very motivated quarterback Sunday."
The Bears' defense presents a different challenge for the Ravens.
Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich: "The Ravens struggled against the Miami Dolphins' aggressive pass rush in Week 10. Baltimore now faces the Chicago Bears, a team that doesn't blitz nearly as much but poses different challenges. Chicago has a stout defensive line and has a physical secondary that is ranked 10th in the NFL, allowing 226.1 yards passing per game."
The Ravens are trending in the right directionwith injuries, while the Bears are trending the other way.
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "Baltimore could welcome back Patrick Mekari, Latavius Murray, and Nick Boyle on Sunday, but the Bears didn't appear to benefit too much from their bye with the availability of Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, and Akiem Hicks still in doubt. Chicago isn't talented enough to overcome such absences multiple weeks."
The Ravens will win, but the Bears will keep it close.
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Ravens don't look right at all. The Bears will hang around behind their defense. The Ravens win it, but barely."
FanSided’s Matt Vederame: ""Baltimore has to be sick about losing to the Dolphins, and the Ravens get a chance at redemption against Chicago. However, Justin Fields is playing better and coming off a bye. Won't be easy."
|ESPN||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Baltimore Sun||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens came out flat in Miami and never solved the problems thrown at them by an attacking defense. They’ll have another chance to bank a victory in Chicago, where the Bears have been mediocre on defense and erratic on offense with rookie Justin Fields at quarterback.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|NFL.com||Ravens 28, Bears 20||“Justin Fields has made terrific progress. Facing Baltimore is a great test of how much progress. There are holes in the Ravens' secondary that can be exploited, but coordinator Wink Martindale will test the Bears' protection schemes before Fields can let go of any rainmakers.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|Sporting News||Ravens 24, Bears 20||“Chicago has enough flaws to be exploited on both sides, while Jackson saves the day again in the fourth quarter, with a lot of his arm and some of his legs.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||7 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens looked awful in losing to Miami last Thursday. The Bears are coming off their bye, and Justin Fields looked better against the Steelers just before the bye than in any other game. The Ravens don't look right at all. The Bears will hang around behind their defense. The Ravens win it, but barely.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“Justin Fields can make some big plays against a suspect Ravens defense, but Lamar Jackson can make even more big plays, and the Ravens will win.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|FanSided||Ravens 25, Bears 20||“Baltimore has to be sick about losing to the Dolphins, and the Ravens get a chance at redemption against Chicago. However, Justin Fields is playing better and coming off a bye. Won’t be easy.” — Matt Verderame|
Was Not Re-Signing Matthew Judon a Mistake?
It's understandable if Ravens fans had a difficult time watching Matthew Judon thrive in the New England Patriots' 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons last night.
The former Ravens outside linebacker had a sack and a tackle for loss in the shutout. He now has a career-high 10.5 sacks, which is third in the league, and his 11 tackles for loss are also tied for third.
Judon, who went to two Pro Bowls during his five seasons in Baltimore, signed a four-year deal with the Patriots this offseason for a reported $56 million.
Did the Ravens make a mistake in not re-signing him? It's not a simple answer, Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried wrote.
"The Ravens wanted Judon back, and Judon wanted to come back," Fried wrote. "But in a salary-cap-driven league, just because two sides want the same thing, doesn't mean it actually gets done."
Fried said that given the Ravens' lack of salary-cap flexibility, it's likely for the best that they didn't re-sign him at the necessary price point.
"Judon's cap hit explodes to $16.5 million in 2022 and 2023 with no feasible out until 2023 or 2024. That's a lot of money to be tied into a player who will turn 30-years-old next August," Fried wrote. "With the Ravens looking ahead to extensions for players like Bradley Bozeman, DeShon Elliott, and, of course, Lamar Jackson in the near future, having Judon's contract on the books would restrict them even more than they already are.
"There's also the notion that Judon's production likely wouldn't be the same if he was still in Baltimore. Sacks are rarely the best indication of a player's pass-rush success, and the analytics would indicate that Judon's pass-rush productivity hasn't increased much since his departure."
Jackson Named Ravens' Most Improved Player
It seems like a stretch that a player two years removed from being the second unanimous MVP in league history would be named his team's most improved player, but that is the case with Jackson in Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox’s opinion.
Knox pointed to Jackson becoming a more prolific passer this season as the main reason for selecting Jackson.
."Yes, he had a down game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10, but he's also on pace for a career-high 4,622 passing yards," Knox wrote. "A higher volume hasn't led to diminished returns either. Jackson is still completing passes at a 64.4 percent clip — the same as last season — and continues to be one of the game's most dangerous ball carriers at any position."
Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher said other players such as wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, cornerback Anthony Averett and safety Chuck Clark deserve consideration for the Ravens' most improved player, there's no denying Jackson has "made massive strides in multiple areas."
"He looks a lot more poised and collected in the pocket this season, showing his confidence week in and week out," Oestreicher wrote. "He believes in himself, and that has translated over to the football field."
Was Ravens' Poor Performance Against Miami's Cover-Zero Defense an Anomaly?
After the Dolphins derailed the Ravens' offense by playing Cover-Zero and blitzing Jackson all game long, you just knew you would hear cliches about Miami providing a blueprint and the NFL being a copycat league.
“The Film Room’s” Brett Kollmann contends that the game was an anomaly and it's a mistake to put too much stock in it.
"As for what this means for Baltimore and Miami and the rest of the season, most likely it doesn't mean anything at all. ... This game was just really, really weird, and I think we can leave it at that," Kollmann said.