Late for Work 12/16: Why One Pundit Has More Concern Than Optimism After Win Over Browns

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Left: RB Gus Edwards; Right: RB J.K. Dobbins

Pundits Express Concern After Win Over the Browns

Is there more reason for concern than optimism surrounding the Ravens? It seems crazy to think about coming off a win in what many considered to be the game of the year, but that was the sentiment expressed by some pundits.

NBC Sports' Chris Simms even went as far to say he's more concerned than ever with the Ravens.

"I come away from that game and I don't go 'Oh man, Baltimore's back,'" Simms said. "I come away more concerned than ever with Baltimore. I mean what's there to really look at with Baltimore last night and go 'that was good?' I mean they really didn't run the ball that great. And when I say run the ball I mean smashmouth, move people out of the way, like that … no, they ran the ball because they've got Superman at quarterback."

"... It's a different team with them this year. They're not as dominant, they're not as consistent. I'm glad they found a way to win, but I don't feel quite as strong about their football team."

Added Fox Sports' Emmanuel Acho: "The Ravens win got them closer to the playoffs, but the way the Browns play got them closer to the Super Bowl."

Simms' biggest concern centers around the offensive performance outside of Lamar Jackson.

"The run game only started to work because Lamar wore the defense out, because they were chasing him around all over the field for two-and-a-half quarters, and then [the Ravens] finally get it going," Simms said. "To me, that's where it's a little bit more concerning than just like, it started out the game and they just started moving people. Cleveland moved people from the start, and they consistently dominated the line of scrimmage. I didn't feel the same way with Baltimore on the offensive side of the ball."

In yesterday's Late for Work, pundits expressed concerns with the defense after the Ravens gave up 493 yards and 42 points to the Browns, but it's surprising that Simms is concerned with the offense, specifically the run game.

Jackson led the Ravens on the ground with 124 yards and two touchdowns, but Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins made their contributions felt with a combined 102 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Edwards broke off touchdown runs of 11 and 19 yards.

Since Jackson has returned from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Ravens have made a concerted effort to get the ball in his hands as a runner. Jackson has totaled 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his last two games.

What doesn't make sense with Simms' argument is that it pretends like Jackson didn't have an impact on the rest of the running game last year. Baltimore's offense has been centered around Jackson for two-plus seasons. Him being at the top of his game right now, and that opening up more for those around him, isn't cause for concern.

Didn't the Ravens record-breaking offensive success last season come when Jackson broke the single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns? And they're coming more creative schematically in that area.

"For me, this was the Jackson experience that I've been asking for," Good Morning Football's Nate Burleson said. "… [H]e's extending the play with his legs in a way that only Jackson can do. After that, he just goes like, I'm just going to take matters into my own hands, like a superhero, and he gets in the end zone."

On the other hand, Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager and Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski had more optimism. They believe the Ravens could become the team "no one wants to face" heading into the playoffs.

"The Ravens are coming on strong," Sobleski wrote. "The possibility Jackson will get back on an MVP-like trajectory should frighten the rest of the AFC. They'll be the squad no one wants to face—and deservedly so. As the game of the campaign came to a close, Baltimore showed there's a lot more to it than it had let on. The Ravens might have been on the ropes, but they've come back swinging."

Ravens Rise as Browns and Steelers Fall in Latest Power Rankings

Two straight wins have the Ravens moving up the power rankings. Baltimore cracked the top 10 in all six publications we looked at this week.

The concern following three straight losses and a COVID-19 outbreak has turned into an overwhelming sense of optimism from pundits.

The Ravens jumped four spots in CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated's rankings. They also moved up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in ESPN, Bleacher Report, and USA Today.

"The Ravens needed a win against Cleveland to stay on track for a postseason bid, but they (and we) got a lot more than just that!" Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas wrote. "... Don't count the Ravens out, especially with their soft final stretch: Jags, Giants, Bengals."

"This one win isn't going to fix all that ails a Ravens team that threw for 154 yards and allowed 493 total yards of offense," BR wrote. "But Baltimore found a way to win. It found a way to survive. It gutted it out. And in that moment, that's all that mattered."

The Ravens have momentum on their side, and they were the only team in the AFC North to take a step forward in the rankings this week. Despite the Browns still having a better record at 9-4, Baltimore moved ahead of them in five of the six publications we looked at.

Meanwhile, the Steelers dropped at least one spot after suffering their second straight loss.

"The Steelers are in a certified funk," NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote. "Pittsburgh has followed 11 consecutive wins to start the season with back-to-back losses, the latest a convincing 26-15 setback against the Bills on Sunday Night Football. … With an absentee running game and a nearly non-existent vertical attack, the Steelers have become rote and predictable on offense. Can they adjust on the fly? Is this version of Big Ben up for that challenge? The Steelers' season may depend on it."

Table inside Article
Source Ranking Last Week's Ranking Comments
ESPN No. 10 No. 12 “The Ravens are the only NFL team to rank in the top 10 on offense, defense and special teams.”
NFL.com No. 8 No. 9 “The Ravens are suddenly alive and well in the AFC playoff race, and Jackson looks like a man on a mission … as long as he can get those mysterious cramps under control.”
Bleacher Report No. 10 No. 12 “Baltimore found a way to win. It found a way to survive. It gutted it out. And in that moment, that's all that mattered.”
USA Today No. 10 No. 12 “Jackson has started 34 games, and Baltimore has rushed for 100 yards in every single one ... and is on verge of being playoff entry in all three of his NFL campaigns.”
Sports Illustrated No. 9 No. 13 “Jackson has started 34 games, and Baltimore has rushed for 100 yards in every single one ... and is on verge of being playoff entry in all three of his NFL campaigns.”
CBS Sports No. 10 No. 14 “Winning at Baltimore Monday night was huge for this team. The schedule is soft the rest of the way. They are getting it going at the right time.”

Dan Orlovsky: Credit Goes to Trace McSorley

Trace McSorley played just 11 snaps on Monday, but they may have been some of the most crucial, according to ESPN's Dan Orlovsky.

As Jackson was sidelined with cramps, McSorley took over late in the fourth quarter and led the Ravens to the Cleveland 41-yard line.

That set up Jackson's touchdown pass to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown on fourth down following McSorley's knee injury.

Orlovsky said McSorley made one of the most important plays of the game on a 13-yard completion to Willie Snead IV on third-and-10 earlier on that drive.

"We're talking about Lamar, rightfully so. I got to give a shout out to Trace McSorley," Orlovsky said, via NBC Sports. "This is the play of the game, third-and-10. If he doesn't make this play, Lamar never gets to be hero ball."

Snead also deserves credit for making a tough catch on the play. He was tightly covered and had to go up to snatch the rocket from McSorley.

Tyus Bowser Has Evolved Into the Complete Linebacker

Late in the third quarter, Tyus Bowser stepped in front of a Baker Mayfield pass and fell just short of the end zone on the Browns' 1-yard line. The interception set up a Dobbins touchdown that gave the Ravens a 34-20 lead and further solidified a strong campaign for the fourth-year outside linebacker.

Pass rushers in Baltimore have a knack for putting together breakout seasons in the final year of their rookie deals, and pundits believe Bowser is developing into the complete defensive player on the edge.

"Bowser has just two sacks this season, but he now is tied for the team lead with three interceptions — all in the past four weeks — and has evolved into a more complete linebacker," Press Box's Bo Smolka wrote. "That might not lead to the huge paycheck that the big pass rushers earn, but he is working himself into a second contract and, more importantly, has become a significant part of the Ravens' pass defense.

"Bowser, who at one point was a two-sport athlete at the University of Houston before giving up basketball to focus on football, has the athleticism to make plays in space as he did in this game."

"The Ravens have increasingly depended on Bowser's versatility (he also came into the game second on the team in quarterback hits) over the last month," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote. "Perhaps that unremarkable sack total will actually help them bring him back for a modest price in the offseason. He's earned such consideration."

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