Rich Eisen's Preseason Take on Ravens Proves Prescient
With the AFC North-leading Ravens riding a six-game winning streak, MVP candidate Lamar Jackson producing weekly dazzling displays, and a defense that has regained its swagger, the purple bandwagon is growing exponentially.
One national media personality who was on board with the Ravens before being on board with the Ravens was cool is NFL Network's Rich Eisen. After the Ravens' 41-7 rout of the Houston Texans this past Sunday, Eisen "raised the stakes" on his Ravens take.
"[If] I'm choosing a team to win a game in the NFL, and that includes the vaunted NFC … I'm taking the Baltimore Ravens," Eisen said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "They're the best team in the NFL. The best."
Eisen noted how well the Ravens are playing in all phases of the game.
"Man, they hit you in the mouth on defense. Try and figure out Lamar Jackson on offense, and the rest of that running game," Eisen said. "And then special teams, they'll pin you inside your own 10, play defense when they need to, and kick one from 50-some-odd yards away from Justin Tucker when they need to start playing three-pointers to try and get two-possession games or get closer should they be behind. You better jump out on this team. Man, I love what's going on in Baltimore."
How far ahead of the curve was Eisen? Remember before the season started when the Cleveland Browns were the favorites to win the AFC North and Jackson's doubters were out in full force? Eisen rejected both notions at the time.
"I think the AFC North is the Ravens' division to lose," Eisen said back in July. "The whole doubting Jackson thing, I'm over it, I'm tired of it. I think [Jackson is] going to absolutely improve throwing the football. I think the offense is going to be tight end and running back heavy with now [Marquise] 'Hollywood' Brown taking the top of the defense off."
After the Ravens' season-opening 59-10 win in Miami, Eisen also pushed back on the "it was just the Dolphins" narrative.
"They are for real," Eisen said at the time. "Let this serve as notice served."
While Eisen has been proved prescient, he isn't ready to crown the Ravens just yet, which is wise considering there's still plenty of football to be played. That said, he is a firm believer that M&T Bank Stadium will be hosting some games in January.
"Will [the Ravens] win the Super Bowl? Don't know," Eisen said. "The way things are going, will they have home-field advantage throughout the AFC? You bet. That's the way it looks like to me."
Ravens Have Second-Best Chance of Winning Super Bowl
NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund isn't crowning the Ravens either, but she says their chances are looking better all the time. The Ravens soared from sixth to second this week in Frelund's rankings of the teams with the best odds of winning the Super Bowl.
Based on her statistical model, Frelund gives the Ravens a 12.9 percent chance of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Miami this February. They trail only the New England Patriots (13 percent), who were defeated by the Ravens in Week 9, 37-20.
The model puts stock in the adage that defense wins championships, and the emergence of the Ravens defense is the reason for the team's surge in the rankings.
"Once you get sustained improvement over the course of several games, three-four games, then you can start to say this is a true trend as opposed to a one-off anomaly," Frelund said. "We already knew their offense was really good, and their offense has remained really good and very productive. How many points per game are they scoring? All of them is the answer."
The defense's smothering performance against the Texans and star quarterback Deshaun Watson amplified the unit's upward trend.
"My model thinks highly of Deshaun Watson. My model thinks Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are a very formidable duo," Frelund said. "The increase of mobile quarterbacks and the increase of improvising on the run – we have more quarterbacks like that than ever in the league – so the fact that we have them shutting down the Texans and the way that they did … Deshaun Watson had his worst game of the season."
Betting on Lamar for MVP Before Season Is Already Paying Off
Jackson is considered by many to be the MVP front-runner, and Vegas now agrees.
But if you were fortunate enough to place a bet on him with one particular sportsbook when he was a long shot, you're going to be richly rewarded regardless of whether he actually wins the award.
Even though there are six weeks left in the regular season, PointsBet – which operates in New Jersey and Iowa – announced it would pay out all bets placed on Jackson to win MVP.
A $100 bet on the Ravens quarterback winning MVP would've yielded a payoff of $7,100, according to a release issued by PointsBet, but now that same bet would net $230.
"We've really enjoyed watching Lamar Jackson make the impossible look easy every Sunday," PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken said in the release. "Considering some of his recent performances and looking ahead at the Ravens' remaining schedule, it's pretty clear to us that Lamar is simply a freight train that won't be stopped.
"He is steaming toward well-deserved NFL MVP honors as he racks up the yards, rewrites the record books and redefines the quarterback position. Given that, we think it's only fair to reward all of our clients who had the foresight to place their bets on the right long shot."
Top Vote-Getter Jackson Among Six Ravens Leading in Pro Bowl Voting
Considering the Ravens' overwhelming success as a team this season, it's not surprising that several Baltimore players are leading at their respective positions in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.
Jackson leads all players with 146,171 votes, well ahead of fellow quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (116,325 votes) and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (115,370).
Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., guard Marshal Yanda, cornerback Marcus Peters and kicker Justin Tucker also are top vote-getters at their positions, and the Ravens lead all teams in total votes.
Fans can continue to vote online until Dec. 12.
Sean McVay's OK With Eric Weddle Not Giving Up Ravens' Secrets
Former Ravens safety Eric Weddle made headlines over the summer when he said he wouldn't reveal his old team's secrets to his new team, the Los Angeles Rams. In advance of this Monday night's game in Los Angeles between the two teams, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay was asked by reporters yesterday if he'll pump Weddle for confidential information on the Ravens.
"I think what you respect about Eric is he's one of those guys that you pick his brain just because you want to talk some football," McVay said, per USA Today's Cameron DaSilva. "But in terms of some of the intricacies, I think he's got a lot of loyalty to those guys even if he's not there anymore. And I think those are things that I think he would probably say, 'I like talking ball with you,' but I don't want to do something that takes away from his ability to try to unfairly give information with the Ravens and I know that's something that he's communicated. So I haven't talked to him about it."
When the subject was first broached with Weddle during a film session with Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit in August, he said: "I can't give all the secrets away. Those are my guys. I can never turn my back on my guys over there. Coach McVay knows what he's doing. He doesn't need much.
"What kind of man would I be if I rat out my guys that I played three years with? I cherish every relationship I made on that defense, on that team. The minute I say, 'Here are all of their calls' or 'here are the checks to this,' then what am I at the end of the day? I lose everything that I gained from there. And that means more to me than anything."
McVay was asked yesterday if he thought it would be unfair for Weddle to spill the beans. He joked that Weddle may already have done so unwittingly.
"I think with his reasoning, I think it's a small demonstration of why he's a special guy," McVay said. "But we'll talk some ball, we've talked before. Maybe I already asked those questions in the free-agent visit, he just didn't realize it."