The Ravens and Jaguars are two teams trending in opposite directions.
After a shaky start to the season, Baltimore has won four straight and sits atop the AFC North. Meanwhile, Jacksonville has only amassed one win since their Week Three romping of the Chargers.
That said, this game is no cakewalk for the Ravens. Jacksonville has played everybody close this season, even scoring more points than they’ve allowed. With a positive point and turnover differential, no one would expect this Jaguars team to be 3-7, yet here we are. It’s another reminder of how razor-thin the difference between a win or a loss is in the NFL.
Disappointing record aside, I really like the foundation of this Jaguars team. They’ve invested in the defensive line with multiple top-10 draft picks, a proven formula for success.
It’s a youthful bunch on the back end as well. Cornerback Tyson Cambell is blossoming into one of the better cornerbacks in the sport. The Jaguars have some nice pieces but they’re yet to put them together on a consistent basis this season. Consistency has also been lacking in Trevor Lawrence’s play.
He has all the talent to be an elite NFL quarterback, but he misses too many layups. For the Jaguars to truly be counted on as a threat to the premier teams in the AFC, Lawrence will have to improve in that department.
This segment isn’t Prancing with the Pride, it’s Flying With the Flock, so let’s talk about our birds.
Coming off an embarrassing win versus Carolina, the point should be hammered into Baltimore’s heads that no game is a gimmie in this league. Last Sunday’s offensive woes exposed some areas of concern for this team. For one, when the run game isn’t going, who’s going to step up?
It’s unrealistic to expect to have an elite quarterback with great weapons and a scheme that perfectly blends every one of their skill sets. It’s still possible to run a respectable passing attack while being deficient in one of these aspects. A great coordinator can mask some of the weaknesses of his personnel.
A great quarterback can elevate the personnel around him. But when you have a case like the Ravens, where they have a seemingly incompetent passing game OC in Greg Roman and a glaring lack of weapons, all of the pressure falls on Lamar Jackson to make chicken salad out of chicken crap.
Sure, Demarcus Robinson looked great last week but you’re delusional if you think that’s going to be sustainable in January. Unless the Ravens’ passing scheme takes a substantial step forward, Baltimore will squander another year of Lamar Jackson’s prime in the postseason.
Potential Trap Game?
But enough doom and gloom. How do these teams stack up against one another?
The Jaguars have a big front that should make running the ball difficult. It’s no surprise that they’re a stout bunch because their defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell came over from the Buccaneers, where he helped coach some of the best run defenses in the league. But that size means Lamar Jackson should look as fast as ever. Ronnie Stanley’s absence means Jackson might need to show off that speed a few times to stay upright. Baltimore’s defense will likely put together another dominant showing.
Trevor Lawrence is a lock for an errant throw or two, which I trust Baltimore’s elite secondary to capitalize on. Gus Edwards’ return is another factor that shouldn’t be understated.
He’s pretty much good for three yards anytime the Ravens need it, which is key in short-yardage situations. Another player who’d better not be underutilized is Devin Duvernay. Duvernay is far and away the best wide receiver on our offense, yet he’s seeing a criminally low target share.
Lamar Jackson has a 122.3 passer rating when targeting him and he’s still yet to drop a ball since his rookie season. The Ravens should win this game, but if the offense lays another egg, don’t be surprised if Jacksonville pulls off the upset.