Buying Into Ravens' Week 1 Performance Is 'Fool's Gold'
Was the show Lamar Jackson and the Ravens put on against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday too good to be true?
That was the question posed on Sports Illustrated's MMQB TV by Albert Breer and Andrew Perloff in a segment Perloff titled, "Gold or Fool's Gold?"
Breer and Perloff agreed that buying into the hype surrounding Jackson and the Ravens after the team's 59-10 victory is fool's good.
"Five touchdowns. That's going to be [Jackson's] season best. He's going nowhere but down," Perloff said. "How many perfect rating games can you have? It was an unbelievable performance Week 1. He's probably going to be good against Arizona. Now, I think he's good, but I do not think the hype that we're seeing this week is accurate.
"Defenses are going to adjust to some extent. I do agree that he's taken a major step from last year, but what I'm hearing this week is Lamar Jackson is fully developed. No. He's in his second year. I expect that come back down a little bit, although I was as impressed as everyone else."
Wait, so the Ravens aren't going to win by 49 points every week, and Jackson isn't always going to throw five touchdown passes a game and post a perfect quarterback rating? Who knew?
Breer said the key for Jackson's continued success is to develop consistency as a drop-back passer.
"The goal of every defensive coordinator [is] get him in long yardage and force him to be a drop-back passer, and that's something that we haven't really seen yet. We haven't seen him be consistent as a drop-back passer," Breer said. "I think he's taken steps. I think the question becomes, 'How does he play from way behind?' We saw a little bit of it in the playoffs. 'How does he play when they're in third-and-10 a bunch in a game?' I think that's the next step in his development."
Breer expressed other reasons as to why those jumping on the Ravens' bandwagon might be in for a bumpy wide.
"I still think it's fool's good for two reasons. One, they're just replacing so much on defense," Breer said. "I like Earl Thomas there, but Eric Weddle was such an important piece. And they lose C.J. Mosley at linebacker. And they lose Terrell Suggs up front. That's a lot of institutional knowledge of what the Ravens do, of how the Ravens do it. And so I think that eventually that's going to hit them.
"And look how young they are around Lamar. It's not just Lamar's development. It's relying on Hollywood Brown; Miles Boykin, another rookie; Mark Andrews, second-year tight end. … I just think that there's going to be some ups and downs for them. And based on the division they play in -- Cleveland gets their crap together, Steelers get their crap together, and the Bengals look better than they have the last couple years in Week 1 – and so I think we're going to see flashes of this, but I don't think it's going to be consistent."
On a side note, FiveThirtyEight.com's Ty Schalter took a look at what can be read into the Ravens' lopsided win over the Dolphins.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been 46 games in Week 1 in which the margin of victory was at least 30 points. The team on the winning end of the blowout made the playoffs 71.7 percent of the time, the conference championship 32.6 percent, and the Super Bowl 21.7 percent.
Since 1997, however, the numbers dip to 46.7 percent (playoffs), 20 percent (conference championship) and 6.7 percent (Super Bowl).
"Even though dominating a team in Week 1 isn't nearly as strong an indicator of success as it used to be, Baltimore is still likely in decent shape for this season," Schalter wrote. "Oh, and the Ravens are all but certainly better than the Dolphins."
A Record-Breaking Season for Lamar Jackson?
As has been noted multiple times in Late for Work, one national media member who is a firm believer in Jackson is NFL Network's Rich Eisen. He has been leading the charge on Jackson for months, and after watching the quarterback's jaw-dropping performance in Week 1, Eisen predicted in his "hot take" segment that No. 8 will break several records this season.
"I'm going in even more on this kid, who I said, 'Do not overlook him. Everybody's discounting him,'" Eisen said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "They're still discounting him. He had five touchdowns in Week 1. ...
"Lamar Jackson is going to set the Ravens' single-season record for most touchdown passes, which is 33 held Vinny Testaverde, and the most touchdown passes by a Heisman Trophy winner ever, which is 35 by Cam [Newton] and Carson Palmer back in 2015. I'll even go one better. Cam had 10 rushing touchdowns the year that he had 35 [TD] passes – 45 total touchdowns. Lamar's going to take that down, too. And we're going to be talking about him for MVP towards the end of the season."
Actually, people are talking about Jackson for MVP right now. And the oddsmakers are listening. Caesars Sportsbook reduced Jackson's odds of winning the MVP award from 50-1 to 18-1 following Sunday's game.
"In a market like MVP that doesn't handle nearly as much money as the Super Bowl does, we have to be more aggressive with moves when we see something dramatic," Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis told ESPN. "While last week was likely an anomaly to some extent, the small flood of public money really adds up here. If we are too slow to react, we will end up with too much liability very quickly."
Kyler Murray Not an Ordinary Rookie QB
Jackson won't be the only first-round draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner starting at quarterback Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals come to town. Kyler Murray, however, will be making just his second NFL start in a hostile environment against a vaunted Ravens defense.
Historically, rookie quarterbacks have had a tough time on the road against the Ravens.
"More often than not, it's a losing proposition for rookie quarterbacks," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "They're just 1-10 on the road against the Ravens since coach John Harbaugh took over in 2008. Mitchell Trubisky's 2017 win with the Chicago Bears is the lone blemish, and former Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler is the only starter to have completed more than 60 percent of his passes."
As Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz pointed out, however, Murray is not an ordinary rookie quarterback. The No. 1 overall pick out of Oklahoma showed a lot of poise in his debut against the Detroit Lions last week. The Cardinals were down by 11 points at home entering the fourth quarter before Murray and the Cardinals rallied, forcing overtime and settling for a 27-27 tie. Murray went 15-for-19 with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"It's difficult to extract great significance from one game. And it's hard to tell why Murray morphed from floundering to electric," Kasinitz wrote. "Perhaps Cardinals first-year Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury made tactical adjustments to help Murray find his footing or maybe the Lions started slipping on defense. There's no trends to study, no large sample size to consider.
"Still, Murray's performance in the fourth quarter of his first NFL game seems to suggest that he won't wilt if the Ravens stifle the Cardinals' offense early in Sunday's game. He's probably not the kind of rookie Baltimore will be able to knock out with one blow."