The Ravens' running back by committee approach keeps all their backs fresh, but it can drive fantasy football owners crazy.
It's hard to predict which back will emerge as the top producer from week to week, and all of Baltimore's backs would have gaudier stats if they got more touches.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, both Gus Edwards (seven carries, 101 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (11 carries, 71 yards, one touchdown) made some explosive plays, while Mark Ingram II (six carries, 28 yards) started and continued to be part of the running back rotation.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has said all season that the workload among the running backs would vary from week to week. He has not wavered from that approach, and he is not worried about what fantasy football owners think.
The Ravens have shifted the workload some, however. In the last two games in which the Ravens have had their trio, Ingram has had 13 carries, Dobbins has gotten 31 and Edwards has had 23.
Over the course of the season, Dobbins has averaged 5.4 yards per carry, Edwards 4.8 and Ingram 4.1.
"Mark's a really good player," Roman said. "All those backs are doing a good job. Mark might be getting certain kinds of runs or carries. He's getting a little more of the dirty work at times. That's just how it plays out.
"As far as scrutiny and fantasy football, that's a totally different world than the one I exist in. I like fantasy football. I'm aware of it. My kids are big into it, and if I wasn't doing what I was doing I'd probably be into it pretty big, too. I get it. Fantasy football is great. Reality football is kind of where we live. We're going to do what's best for the team."
Ravens Can't Double Myles Garrett Every Snap
The Browns' Myles Garrett is one of the NFL's top defensive players and sack leaders (10.5) despite missing two games on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Garrett returned last weekend and figures to be very engaged in Monday night's encounter with the Ravens.
The star defensive end is a primary concern for Roman. While the Ravens will likely double-team Garrett at times, Roman said there will also be times when an offensive lineman will have to deal with Garrett one-on-one.
"We've got to be very cognizant of him and what he's able to do," Roman said. "You can't commit two people to one the whole game. The math doesn't work out. When guys are in one-on-one situations they just have to swell up and get it done."
Roman said Garrett's emergence as a dominant player is obvious.
"I'd say this year more than any other, it's definitely a guy you've got to be aware of," Roman said. "I think he's made some strides in how he plays the game. I think he's done some very impressive things as you watch film. That guy's playing really well. I think he's come on this past season."
Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers Flourishing in Key Roles
Neither Patick Mekari nor Ben Powers were starters when the season began. However, Mekari has become the starting center and Powers has started the past three games at right guard. The Ravens rushed for a season-high 294 yards against Dallas, and it is clear that Powers feels comfortable in his new role.
"We're real pleased with Ben," Roman said. "Ben's always been a real hard worker. Really cares a lot about how he performs and wants to do his job. He works very diligently, he got an opportunity and I think he's taken advantage of that. He's a young player that's developing. I think he's being productive for us and we just have to continue with experience to allow him to grow as a player, which he's showing he will. We're really excited about Ben continuing that trajectory."
Mekari's ability to play any position on the offensive line has been extremely valuable during a season when the offensive line has been impacted by injuries and illness. Left guard Bradley Bozeman, who is the only Week 1 starter in the same position, appreciates having Mekari as a teammate.
"He's a great guy, and he's so freaking versatile," Bozeman said. "I think he's played every position on the O-line, tight end, fullback, whatever you name it, he's done so far for us. Hats off for him always being prepared, diving into his playbook, knowing the scheme inside and out. He's an amazing football player. He gets the job done at center. He does what he needs to do. Had a very good game last week. I think he's just going to grow into a better and better player."
Browns Rushing Attack is Elite
While the Ravens lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (169.0), the Browns are second, averaging 157.8 yards. Nick Chubb (799 yards) and Kareem Hunt (739 yards) both have a chance to have 1,000-yard seasons, and quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming off a game in which he threw four touchdown passes in the first half.
The Browns present a lot of problems for Baltimore to deal with, but the running game is the strength of their offense.
"(Head Coach) Kevin Stefanski's offense is just built for them and Baker Mayfield," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "It's been a nice marriage. I think Bill Callahan is one of the best offensive line coaches there is in the league. Their offensive line's done a nice job of understanding the schemes. They have every run there is in the NFL. They execute it really well, especially with those backs."
The onus will be on Baltimore's defensive line to win battles up front.
"They've got two Pro Bowl running backs, they've got a great offensive line, and they play as a unit well," defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. "Right now, they're doing everything right. They're doing what they need to do to win. And from seeing them since we played them, until now, they've definitely come into their own. They're a good team, they've always been a good team, and they're showing it."
Chris Board Is Special Teams Pro Bowl Voting Leader
In Pro Bowl fan voting released Thursday, Ravens linebacker Chris Board was the leader among AFC special teams players.
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton said Board is getting the recognition he deserves.
"The growth of Chris over the past few years has been just outstanding," Horton said. "I think people are just noticing him. He's been playing well for us. He's not only playing well for us, he's taking a leadership role like an Anthony Levine and really leading younger guys. And those things really make you a good player. He's got instincts. He's a ball guy. He can beat blocks. He's good with his hands. I think the work you're seeing from him now is really what he's done early on his career. He's just continuing to grow and he's gotten better every year. He's one of the top specials players in this league."