Rashod Bateman Says There Was Uncertainty About Whether He'd Be Able to Play This Season
Limited to 18 games due to injury over the past two years, wide receiver Rashod Bateman played in all but one game this season.
While he hasn't had a breakout game this season, it has been a breakthrough campaign for the 2021 first-round pick, who told The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec that when he reported for training camp in late July, he wasn't sure whether he'd be able to play at all this season.
"Nobody really knows that, but I think I can tell that story now because I've made it this far," Bateman said last week. "When I first got back here, me and the coaches and training staff, we didn't even know if I was going to be able to play this year. We thought I might need another surgery.
"I was in pain and I wasn't seeing the results. I wasn't able to physically run or cut or put pressure on my foot. Based on my rehab, I was supposed to be able to train this offseason and show up for training camp in tip-top shape. That was according to my surgery date and the rehab process. Unfortunately, my foot took a left turn this past offseason."
Bateman had his best game of the season two weeks ago when he had four catches for 54 yards against the Miami Dolphins. Head Coach John Harbaugh said afterward that Bateman's performance would be a "prelude to what's coming."
"It still bothers Bateman that nobody has seen his full potential, whether it's because of injuries, lack of opportunities or other circumstances," Zrebiec wrote. "There would be no better time than now for Bateman to show it as Baltimore is readying for a potential Super Bowl run. But Bateman has made it to this point of the season by not getting ahead of himself and not worrying about things he can't control. He says a prayer to his late grandmother every day, asking her to watch over him. He paints his fingernails black to honor his late cousin, who was a burgeoning musician."
Bateman said: "I feel incredibly better, physically, as well as mentally. To be here today, to be able to physically play, to know that things mentally are good, all is well. I'm just letting the chips fall where they fall."
Zrebiec wrote: "When he's right, Bateman, 24, makes things look effortless on a football field. He chews up space with long strides and precise routes. Metrics show that when it comes to separating from defenders, Bateman has been one of the most effective receivers in the NFL this season. When his fundamentals and focus are sound, he snatches balls out of the air in one fluid motion. It's pretty to watch."
Lamar Jackson Voted Unanimous MVP by Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated’ MMQB staff voted on its regular-season awards, and there was only one unanimous winner: Lamar Jackson as league MVP.
The Ravens quarterback received every first-place vote from a 10-person panel of writers and editors, who all submitted a top-five ballot for every award, resulting in five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote, etc.
"Lamar Jackson took over late in the season as the betting favorite, and he was the unanimous choice on our staff after leading the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC's top seed," the MMQB staff wrote. "This would be his second career MVP. Lest you worry our entire exercise is mired in groupthink, this was the only award with a unanimous winner."
Three Ravens received votes for Defensive Player of the Year, a testament to the unit's talent and depth. Safety Kyle Hamilton and Roquan Smith tied for fifth, and inside linebacker Patrick Queen was 10th.
Wide receiver Zay Flowers was fourth in voting for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Harbaugh placed third for Coach of the Year.
The honors continue to pile up for the Ravens. It also was announced yesterday that Jackson, Hamilton, and Smith were named to the NFLPA's second annual Players All-Pro Team, voted on by the league's players.
Ravens-Cowboys Is Super Bowl Matchup NFL.com Pundit Most Wants to See
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra ranked the five matchups he'd most like to see for Super Bowl LVIII, and the Ravens versus the Dallas Cowboys took the No. 1 spot.
Patra's self-imposed rule was that he couldn't choose the same team more than once.
"Honestly, I could have pitted the Ravens against anyone and loved the matchup," Patra wrote. "If you don't like watching Lamar Jackson petrify defensive linemen before ripping a strike to Odell Beckham Jr. or witnessing a defense play like its follicles are on fire, I don't know what to tell you. John Harbaugh's club walloped seemingly every other NFC heavy this season, so let's see what they could do with Micah Parsons, Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb.
"The Ravens have been the NFL's best team, on balance, leading in the final two minutes in each of their first 16 games this season. Their point differential of 203 is tops in the league. Harbaugh's club dismantled good opponents, collecting double-digit wins over the Lions, 49ers and Dolphins, among others. They could add America's Team to the list."
Patra said a Ravens-Cowboys meeting would present compelling matchups on both sides of the ball.
"This star-studded matchup would see Parsons and an up-and-down Dan Quinn defense try to wrangle Jackson," Patra wrote. "Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense has discombobulated QBs, but when Prescott is in rhythm, there has been no better signal-caller to dice up a D. Lamb's ability to win off the line of scrimmage would be massive.
"Give me two MVP candidates on the biggest stage any day of the year."
On a side note, No. 3 on the list was the Joe Flacco-led Cleveland Browns versus the Detroit Lions.
"The space-time continuum might rip apart if this matchup occurred," Patra wrote. "The only two teams in NFL history to go 0-16. Two clubs who have never been to the Super Bowl, their fans enduring generations of losses, fruitless rebuilds, quarterback quandaries and depressing campaign after depressing campaign — all of it wiped out in one contest."
ESPN's Bill Barnwell Predicts Chiefs Will Knock Off Ravens in AFC Championship Game
ESPN's Bill Barnwell predicted how the postseason will play out, and he also has the Cowboys making it to the Super Bowl. However, he doesn't see the Ravens getting there.
Barnwell predicted the Ravens would defeat the Houston Texans, 23-13, in the divisional round before losing to the Chiefs, 20-17, in the AFC Championship Game.
"Ever so narrowly, I lean toward the Chiefs, who are a little stronger along the offensive line, healthier on defense and have offensive contributors I trust more than the playmakers in Baltimore," Barnwell wrote. "Getting Mark Andrews back might shift things, and the Ravens have been the better team on the whole this season, but I just can't bring myself to pick against Patrick Mahomes."
Tyler Linderbaum Makes Next Gen Stats All-Pro Team
Center Tyler Linderbaum was the lone Raven to make the Next Gen Stats All-Pro Team.
"In just his second NFL season, Linderbaum anchored a Baltimore offensive line that helped propel the Ravens to the NFL's best record at 13-4," the Next Gen Stats Analytics Team wrote. "The pivot's 4.8 percent pressure rate allowed was the fifth lowest among centers with at least 300 pass-blocking snaps this season — and he only allowed one half-sack over 15 starts. Time to pressure is a common highlight for the linemen on this All-Pro roster: Linderbaum's 3.57-second mark in this area was the third-longest among centers who allowed at least 20 pressures this season."
Despite Jackson likely winning his second MVP award, Prescott was the quarterback selected for the team. The NGS All-Pro Team was based on advanced data.