Late for Work 12/12: Predictions for Ravens vs. Jets

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Predictions for Ravens vs. Jets

The Ravens (11-2) enter tonight's game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium riding a franchise-best nine-game winning streak. They can clinch their second straight AFC North title and move a step closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Jets (5-8) have won four of their past five, but all of those wins were against teams who currently have losing records, and their lone loss during that span was to the then-winless Cincinnati Bengals 11 days ago.

Baltimore is coming off a stretch of four games in a row (and six of seven) against playoff-caliber teams, but a letdown tonight seems unlikely given how laser-focused the team has been all season. The last time the Ravens played a team with a losing record, they routed the Bengals, 49-13, on the road in Week 10.

The question among pundits isn't who will win tonight's game, but whether the Ravens will cover the 14½-point spread. All nine pundits we looked at who predicted the score picked the Ravens to win, with the average margin of victory being just under two touchdowns.

Overall, 29 of 30 prognosticators who got their picks in by this morning went with the Ravens. The lone media member to pick the Jets was Pro Football Focus' Bruce Gradkowski. The former NFL quarterback, who has played for every team in the AFC North except Baltimore, has picked against the Ravens five weeks in a row.

Both teams are dealing with injuries. For the Ravens, quarterback Lamar Jackson – who is 23 yards away from breaking Michael Vick's record of 1,039 rushing yards by a quarterback – said Tuesday that he would play, and he was a full participant at practice yesterday. However, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (concussion), who protects Jackson's blindside, is doubtful. The Ravens hope to have tight end Mark Andrews (knee), Jackson's No. 1 target, in the lineup, but he is questionable after being a limited participant yesterday.

For the Jets, two key starters on defense – safety Jamal Adams (ankle) and tackle Quinnen Williams (neck) – are doubtful. Four players have been ruled out for New York: starting tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle), starting right tackle Chuma Edoga (knee), cornerback Brian Poole (concussion) and running back Bilal Powell (ankle/illness)

Here's a sample of what pundits are forecasting for the game:

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will see plenty of blitz packages.

NFL.com's Jelani Scott: "The absence of Griffin could prove costly to the Jets' game plan against a Ravens front-line that loves to blitz. … Darnold will likely be in for a rough night like many of signal-callers before him, but his performance against the blitz in recent weeks suggests that [Jets Head Coach] Adam Gase can breathe a little easier when the Ravens send the house. After struggling in Weeks 6-9, Darnold has reacted well to blitz packages in Weeks 10-14. He has upped his completion percentage (43.9 to 63.2), as well as his yards per attempt from 3.7 to 7.8 and passer rating (22.5 to 104.7). He has also thrown zero picks over the past five games under pressure after previously throwing six."

WNST's Luke Jones: "Sam Darnold will again see 'ghosts' while throwing two picks and being sacked four times. … Baltimore hasn't intercepted a pass over the last two weeks after recording a pick in the eight previous games. A new streak begins Thursday."

The Jets' No. 2 run defense will not be able to stop the Ravens' top-ranked rushing attack.

NFL Network's Kurt Warner: "They may be able to slow them down a little bit, but we haven't seen anybody really be able to stop this run game. … Love what this Jets defense is doing against the run, [but] this is a different beast. Seeing Lamar Jackson the first time is a different beast. So maybe slow them down a touch, but they're not going to stop them."

NFL.com's Scott: "The Jets are also allowing the second-fewest rush YPG (78.8) and the 14th-fewest rush scores (14). Handling Baltimore's all-time rush attack will be no small potatoes, though, especially with a few key D-linemen banged up. [Mark] Ingram figures again to be a dominant force behind a steady offensive line and his impact, in tandem with Jackson continuing his MVP-level play, will be much needed."

If Andrews doesn't play, Jackson will have other viable options in the passing game.

Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "Andrews has accounted for 28.9 percent of the Ravens' air receiving yards, the most on the team and 25th-highest rate in the NFL. … Air yards represent the distance a ball travels across the line of scrimmage, and Jackson has targeted Andrews more than any other pass catcher this season. But it also hints that Baltimore isn't entirely dependant on one player to ignite its passing game. Eleven teams have receivers who account for more than 35 percent of their air yards, while Jackson and the Ravens are more prone to spread the ball around. Wide receivers Marquise Brown (22.2 percent of the team's air yards) and Willie Snead (11.8) and tight end Nick Boyle (7.3) also play a large part in the team's offense, and tight end Hayden Hurst proved he can fill in well for Andrews when he had three catches for a career-high 73 yards and a touchdown against the Bills."

After having difficulty stopping the run the past two games, the Ravens defense has a good chance to rebound.

The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "The Ravens again showed vulnerability against outside runs in Buffalo, where running back Devin Singletary (17 carries, 89 yards) was easily the Bills' most effective offensive player. The previous week, San Francisco's Raheem Mostert attacked the edges of their defense with great efficiency. With [Le'Veon] Bell struggling, the Jets don't have a similar weapon. …The Jets rank 31st in the league in both [rushing] yards per game and yards per carry and have run for more than 100 yards just twice all season."

Ravens Are Revolutionizing Defense, Too

The word "revolutionary" has been used to describe the Ravens' style of offense, but Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo contends that Baltimore also is revolutionizing play on the other side of the ball.

"As forward-thinking as the offense has been, the Ravens defense is finding its own ways to win on the margins," Palazzolo wrote.

Here's a sample of what Palazzolo identified as the keys to the success of the Ravens defense:

Build through the secondary: "Instead of replacing [Terrell] Suggs and [Za'Darius] Smith up front, the Ravens made free safety Earl Thomas their key offseason signing, adding to a plethora of riches in the secondary and prompting us to declare the Ravens as the best secondary in the NFL heading into the season. That unit got even better with the midseason acquisition of CB Marcus Peters, who is known for his ability to create turnovers despite giving up his fair share of yards in coverage. The pass-rush group did not get the same glowing remarks, ranking 25th in the preseason rankings as its question marks were hardly answered during the offseason. … Recent Patriots Super Bowl winners had excellent coverage units with below-average pass-rushes, and that's where the Ravens are trending this season. Teams that are capable of covering despite a lackluster pass-rush are way ahead of the game."

Manufacture pressure: "Baltimore's defense consistently crowds the line of scrimmage, creating havoc for opposing offenses through blitzes and stunts, and that's led to players like Matthew Judon already reaching his career-high with 53 pressures (nine sacks, 20 QB hits, 24 hurries). Overall, the Ravens have 12 players with at least 10 pressures, including five edge defenders, three interior defensive linemen, two linebackers, and two safeties. Which poses the question, are the Ravens truly changing the game defensively?"

Positionless football: "The Baltimore defense is unique in how they're using the players in the back-7 to create confusion for opposing offenses. Consider Thomas, who came over from Seattle as the quintessential free safety in a cover-1/cover-3 scheme. Thomas was the catalyst for the Seahawks' best defenses, which were some of the simplest, assignment-driven units in the league. Each player had a specific role and they played it extremely well. … Baltimore has had a different plan for Thomas, tapping into his instincts and athleticism by playing him closer to the line of scrimmage much more than he ever did in Seattle. … The Ravens could have kept Thomas in his comfort zone as a center field safety, but they've expanded his skillset and his presence close to the line of scrimmage has led to multiple big plays."

Ravens' Three-Man Rotation Has Eased Loss of Mosley

When middle linebacker C.J. Mosley signed a five-year deal worth a reported $85 million with the Jets during the offseason, the Ravens expected to see their former teammate for the first time as an opponent in tonight's game. However, Mosley landed on injured reserve recently with a groin injury that limited him to just two games this season.

While the departure of the four-time Pro Bowl selection initially left a huge void in the defense, the Ravens' three-man linebacker rotation – Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, the latter two being signed during the season – has proved to be one of the keys to the defense's recent resurgence.

"According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Bynes (39 tackles) has performed well defending the run, while Fort (two sacks) has stood out as an inside pass rusher," The Baltimore Sun's Daniel Oyefusi wrote. "Onwuasor, who isn't as highly regarded by the website, has made an impact as well, recording two sacks and a key forced fumble against the New England Patriots since his return from a midseason high-ankle sprain.

"The combination of Onwuasor, Bynes and Fort — Onwuasor and Fort providing speed, Bynes bringing a veteran savviness — have helped negate the loss of Mosley."

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