Baltimore Is a Near Unanimous Pick to Win at Jacksonville
Not only were the Ravens a unanimous pick to defeat the Carolina Panthers last week in a sample of more than 40 pundits, but nearly 70 percent of those who predicted the score had Baltimore covering the 13-point spread.
After seeing the Ravens grind out a 13-3 win in a game that was tied after three quarters, the prognosticators don't love the Ravens as much this week, but they still like them a lot.
Of the 40 pundits we looked at, 36 picked the Ravens (7-3) to beat the host Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) on Sunday. While NFL Network's Adam Rank, Sports Illustrated's John Pluym, and The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer and C.J. Doon went with the Jaguars to pull the upset, the majority of pundits who predicted the score (17 of 29) have the contest being decided by one score.
It won't be surprising if the game is close. Despite the Jaguars' losing record, which includes six losses in their past seven games, all but one of their defeats (a 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10) has been by one score. Among Jacksonville's wins this season is a 38-10 rout of a talented Los Angeles Chargers team in Week 3. The Jaguars are plus-11 in point differential, which is better than the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.
Moreover, the Jaguars, who are coming off their bye week, are healthy and well-rested.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens will prevail in a close game.
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Ravens cannot afford a flat performance against the Jaguars, who run the ball efficiently and string together first downs when quarterback Trevor Lawrence is on form. Jacksonville has not been blown out all season, so expect a nail-biter before the Ravens assert themselves with superior defense and more reliable special teams."
Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton: "Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson doesn't have prolific playmaking wide receivers to attack the Jacksonville secondary. Over the past four weeks, he has thrown for just three touchdowns with one interception. Tight end Mark Andrews poses the only consistent threat; wideout Devin Duvernay has two catches for eight yards over the last two games. With running back Gus Edwards still on the mend from a hamstring injury, Baltimore won't be able to bully its way to a big victory. Jaguars lose by a field goal at home."
NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "I think [the Jaguars'] defense gives Baltimore's offense some issues. I think a lot of Baltimore's defense the way they're playing right now — it's good. Jaguars got good balance. I think the Jaguars are going to hang around in this one."
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "The Ravens have traditionally had a tough time with the Jaguars and this game likely won't be much different. Jacksonville plays hard and their front seven will give the Ravens a challenge. However, Baltimore has more depth and will outlast Jacksonville on the road."
Bold prediction: The Ravens won't take a double-digit lead in a game for the first time this season.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Baltimore is just the sixth team in NFL history to go ahead by 10 or more points in each of its first 10 games of a season. But the Jaguars are a more competitive team than their 3-7 record indicates, as they have a plus-11 point differential. Jacksonville's average margin of defeat is only 6.8 points."
The Jaguars will pulloffthe upset.
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "The Jaguars are the only team with a losing record to produce a positive point differential this season, having outscored opponents by 11 points. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is an above-average quarterback with superstar traits, and he's got a solid group of weapons around him. Jacksonville's defense is vulnerable, but it's not facing the best version of the Ravens' offense, especially if Lamar Jackson is banged up. All signs point to an upset.
The Ravens offense will get back on track.
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith: "The Ravens' offense was slow and shaky in last week's ugly win over the Panthers. I think they'll right the ship this time around."
Fox Sports’ Ben Arthur: "The Ravens win their fifth straight game. The Jaguars have faced dual-threat quarterbacks this year, but none of Jackson's caliber. He's in his own tier. Yeah, the former NFL MVP doesn't have great weapons around him, but All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews returned from injury last week, and he's a major boost to Baltimore's passing attack. Jacksonville has been inconsistent defensively all season."
USA Today’s Safid Deen: "Lamar Jackson was sick while Mark Andrews came from injury last week, and the Ravens barely got by the Panthers last week. They'll be back to normal, like the playoff team we know they can be, when they visit the Jacksonville Jaguars this week."
Let Lamar loose.
Russell Street Report’s James Ogden: "A Lamar scramble is the biggest momentum swinger the Ravens have in their arsenal, and one thing you can see on film is that the Jags, even against QBs who are a threat to run, can be a little undisciplined with their rush lanes. This ill-discipline has increased with each passing week that they struggle to pick up sacks and get more desperate to get home. That can be a recipe for disaster against Jackson, and it might be a good time for him to test his decision-making on when to leave the pocket, as well as reminding the league that his legs still need to be accounted for."
ESPN’s Mike DiRocco: "Lamar Jackson has run for 100-plus yards 12 times in his career, including twice this season. His career high is 152 yards against Cincinnati in 2019. Why is that important? Because the Jaguars allowed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to rush for 107 yards earlier this season, the first time a Giants QB has rushed for 100 yards since 1946 (per Elias Sports Bureau). It could be another big day for Jackson on the ground, especially since the Jaguars get little pressure off the edge, which should give Jackson plenty of opportunities to get outside and take off."
The Jaguars running game vs. the Ravens run defense figures to be a good battle.
Walker: "The Jaguars will present a significant challenge to a Baltimore defense that has not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 50 yards since Week 7. Travis Etienne is a dynamic runner who averages 5.5 yards per carry and 72.5 yards per game. His Pro Football Focus run grade of 90 ranks fourth among all running backs. Lawrence (4.8 yards per carry, three touchdowns) is also a threat if left unattended. The Ravens smothered a solid Carolina running attack and have played with increased speed and ferocity in their two games since the trade for [inside linebacker Roquan] Smith. He and [Patrick] Queen combined for 19 tackles against the Panthers with both playing every defensive snap. Defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike grade as very good run defenders on the interior. The Ravens allow just 4.1 yards per carry, seventh best in the league."
|Baltimore Sun||3 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens cannot afford a flat performance against the Jaguars, who run the ball efficiently and string together first downs when quarterback Trevor Lawrence is on form. Jacksonville has not been blown out all season, so expect a nail-biter before the Ravens assert themselves with superior defense and more reliable special teams.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||Ravens 20, Jaguars 17||“[The Jaguars] are better than their record, but I can't take them over a Ravens defense that is peaking. The Roquan Smith addition has helped to unlock Patrick Queen and, suddenly, the defense is strong at every level. Jacksonville will make Baltimore sweat, though.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Ravens 27, Jaguars 17||“The Ravens didn't play well offensively against the Panthers. Lamar Jackson wasn't at full speed with his usual running after the bye and the passing was off in trying to force the ball to limited wide receivers when not targeting Mark Andrews. Baltimore will get back to running effectively while the defense will again frustrate a team vs. run and pass. Jacksonville has more pop than Carolina at home but it won't be enough.”— Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“The Jaguars come off their bye with a tough home game against the Ravens. The Baltimore defense has come alive in recent weeks and will present a real challenge for Trevor Lawrence. Lamar Jackson and the offense have to pick it up. This will be low scoring, but it's close.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens’ offense was slow and shaky in last week’s ugly win over the Panthers. I think they’ll right the ship this time around.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||4 of 5 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Ravens 24, Jaguars 21||“The Ravens have had some close calls against bad teams this season, but the Jaguars might not have enough offensive punch to pull the upset.” — Matt Verderame|
Searching for Consistency on Offense
During the Ravens' four-game winning streak, they've gotten contributions from several different players on offense, but is that necessarily a good thing?
Russell Street Report’s Jim Zipcode posed the question, noting that while certain players have had good performances in specific games, the consistency hasn't been there:
"[Rashod] Bateman ties his season high for catches against the Browns, then is lost for the year.[Isaiah] Likely breaks out with a big game against the Bucs, and then over his next two he catches only 25% of his targets for 3 yards-per-target. [Kenyan] Drake looks unstoppable against the Saints, then is successful on only 30% of his runs against the Panthers. [Demarcus] Robinson looks like a Pro Bowler on Sunday, but is that going to translate next week or is it just another one-off that the Ravens can't build on?
"Those performances can mean two different things, right? Either the Ravens have a variety of playmakers – Likely, Drake, Robinson – who each have stepped up in different games, a testament to the breadth of the roster and the offense's versatility. Or they don't have any reliable playmakers after Andrews, just a few hit-or-miss guys who will be slapped down when the Ravens face a playoff-caliber defense. Which interpretation is correct? Hell if I know."