Ravens' Playoff Odds Vary, But Beating Browns Is Crucial
The Ravens (7-5) are currently two spots outside the seven-team AFC playoff field, so what are their chances of making it to postseason play?
It depends on who you ask.
NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund gives the Ravens a 69 percent chance to make the playoffs. That's better odds than the Miami Dolphins (57 percent) and Las Vegas Raiders (43 percent), who are currently the sixth and eighth seeds, respectively. The Colts, currently the seventh seed, have a 70 percent chance.
ESPN's Football Power Index has the Ravens at 68 percent, which puts them ahead of the Colts (61 percent), Raiders (50 percent) and Dolphins (41 percent).
The Ravens' playoff odds are lower in FiveThirtyEight's algorithm (59 percent) and the New York Times' prediction simulator (49 percent).
If the Ravens lose any of their four remaining games, they could end up watching the playoffs from home. There's a 40-percent chance that a 10-win team misses the AFC playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Browns (9-3) are the only team with a winning record left on the Ravens' schedule. Defeating Cleveland on Monday night increases the Ravens' playoff odds to 72 percent in The New York Times' model, but a loss knocks their postseason chances all the way down to 20 percent, which underscores just how important the game is for the Ravens.
Is Defense's Showing Against Cowboys Cause for Concern With Browns Next?
After the Ravens rushed for 294 yards in their 17-point win over the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday night, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport described Baltimore's offensive performance as "an emphatic statement."
Conversely, did the Ravens defense make a different kind of statement by allowing the Cowboys offense to gain nearly 400 yards, their highest total since Week 5 when Dak Prescott was the starting quarterback?
NFL Network's James Jones said the Ravens should be concerned about their defense heading into Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns, who have gained 459 and 458 total yards in their past two games.
The Browns have the No. 2 rushing attack in the league, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who both have a chance to run for 1,000 yards this season (and that's with Chubb having missed four games). Quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming off a game in which he threw four touchdowns and posted a season-high 147.0 quarterback rating in a 41-35 win over the Tennessee Titans.
"This Ravens defense did not slow the Cowboys down at all, not in the run game, not in the pass game," Jones said. "You have Kareem Hunt, you have Nick Chubb coming in the building and they are ready to go to work. They watched the tape. … You see the holes that [Ezekiel Elliott] is running through. You see receivers wide open on the football field.
"The Baltimore Ravens defense looked bad, and if they do not get it fixed with [the Browns] coming in there, after the first quarter, the little brothers are going to be looking on the sideline like, 'We the big dogs now. They can't stop us. We're going to continue to run this ball down their throat.'"
The Ravens will never make excuses, but to be fair, they were coming off a short week to face a well-rested Dallas squad that hadn't played since Thanksgiving. Also, the Ravens were without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon (who was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list yesterday). Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams were also playing in their first games in weeks following injuries.
Lamar Jackson vs. Baker Mayfield Is Among Week 14's Best QB Storylines
Mayfield and Lamar Jackson had strong performances in Week 13, but they both have something to prove in Monday night's meeting, said NFL Network's Kurt Warner, who ranked Jackson versus Mayfield as one of the three best quarterback storylines for Week 14.
"Baker has a great game last week. OK, let's see you do it again," Warner said. "Lamar Jackson, we know that he's the reigning MVP, but they've struggled a little bit this year, so everybody's starting to ask … is this the real Lamar Jackson or is last year the real Lamar Jackson."
Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd said unequivocally that Jackson is the real deal. He said criticism of Jackson as a passer is overstated.
"He passes well enough," Cowherd said. "If you look at his NFL rank right now, TD/interception in the first three seasons is third in the NFL; his passer rating is fourth."
Cowherd contended that Jackson's phenomenal running ability makes him special, as does his 26-7 record as a starter.
"Lamar does something that's not available on the market. There's nobody that electric," Cowherd said. "I'll live with the passing stuff. He makes enough throws. He made one in the corner [to Marquise Brown Tuesday night] that was great."
Dez Bryant Situation Shows Need for Rule Change Regarding Roster Flexibility
When Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant was ruled inactive for Tuesday night's game against his former team a half hour before kickoff, it was yet another surreal moment in a surreal NFL season in a surreal year.
By league rule, the Ravens were not allowed to activate another player to replace Bryant. The NFL's roster flexibility rules for 2020 allow teams to activate up to 16 practice-squad players up to 90 minutes before kickoff. After that point, the game-day roster locks in place.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the Ravens' situation illustrates the need for a change to the rule.
"If the goal is to ensure full flexibility given the pandemic, why not let a team that suddenly loses a player activate a replacement?" Florio wrote. "Making this adjustment even more appropriate is the fact that teams have some discretion when it comes to the timing of game-day testing. If a team gets players tested early enough to have results returned before kickoff, the prospect of losing one or more players without the ability to replace them provides no incentive to do the right thing and get players tested as early as possible.
"The league has adjusted a wide range of rules for 2020, due to the pandemic. Why not make this change given what happened to the Ravens? If teams know they won't be potentially penalized for getting game-day testing done as early as possible, teams will be more likely to do just that, resulting in more opportunities to identify players who may be positive and get them off the field, away from the sideline, and/or out of the locker room."
Joe Buck Responds to Jinxing Justin Tucker
Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck has responded to the large number of tweets accusing him of jinxing Justin Tucker during Tuesday night's game.
After it was noted that Tucker had converted 70 straight field goals from within 40 yards as the kicker lined up for a 36-yard attempt, Buck assured analyst Troy Aikman that Tucker would continue his streak.
"I'm just gonna say he is," Buck said. "No announcer's jinx, come on."
The kick went wide left.
Buck had some fun when Sports Illustrated asked him about the announcer's jinx.
"There are few things I relish more than affecting the outcome of kicks, no-hitters, wins and losses from the broadcast booth. It's fun. It's power that cannot fall into the wrong hands," Buck said. "Think about it — had I not said what I said, Justin would have made the kick. There is zero doubt.
"I have sent a letter of apology to Tucker, the Ravens, their fans and Kim Jung Un (just to be safe). I'm most fun at parties. All I have to do is say it and the opposite happens. Please, Jimmy, don't let this secret get out. I beg you. People's lives and careers are at stake and I'm tired of being asked to parties."