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2022 has been the year of the run. The league-wide average for yards per completion this season is 11.0, the lowest since 1933. The league-wide average for yards per rush is 4.5, the highest in NFL history. Meanwhile, the league-wide average for points per game is the lowest in over ten years. Weird. The reason for this is probably a mix of a few things, but most importantly, defenders are becoming more athletic. It’s not good enough to be a hard-nosed bruiser like Brian Urlacher or Michael Strahan anymore. If a defense wants to succeed in this modern league, they need to have a Micah Parsons or a Roquan Smith. This is why offenses are switching to the run- just look at the progression Justin Fields has made since the Bears started keeping the ball in his hand. Teams like the Rams and Chargers, who put all their energy into their passing game, are getting leveled in a changing NFL.
Nobody is better equipped for this league-wide adjustment than the Baltimore Ravens, whose 162.8 rushing yards per game (average) is good for second in the league. And being that they’re on a four-game win streak, we are seeing the Ravens thrive in real time. The most impressive part of the Ravens’ season this year has been steady improvements. We all knew coming into the season that Baltimore can run over opposing defenses like Caitlyn Jenner behind the wheel of a BMW after a few too many, but they’ve improved with passing the ball. Lamar Jackson has gotten so much better as a pocket passer thanks to his work ethic and offensive line…and also probably his hunger for a big contract. The Ravens are giving Lamar the fifth most time to throw the ball in the NFL, so it’s no coincidence his quarterback rating is up almost five points from last year. The addition of Roquan Smith on defense has built confidence in guys on the line and in the secondary. It’s been contagious. The improvement of Calais Campbell and Patrick Queen has been noticeable, and with his half, a sack against the Panthers, Justin Houston has the fifth most sacks in the league at 33 years old. Remember when the Ravens got remarkably better with the addition of Marcus Peters in 2019? This could be another one of those deadline deals.
Let’s talk about the Jaguars a little bit, who surprisingly look much better than they have in years past. The difference between this Jacksonville team, as opposed to past rosters, is that they can move the football downfield. The Jags’ 362.2 (average) yards per game is good for 8th in the NFL, and despite not yet being the only begotten son of God with a spiral, Trevor Lawrence is steadily playing well. Over the last two games, Lawrence has had 494 passing yards with three touchdowns and no picks. Travis Etienne has also shown flashes of being Jacksonville’s star running back for the future. Etienne is top ten in the NFL in both yards and average yards per carry with 5.5. If the Jaguars weren’t a terribly undisciplined team with both penalties and red-zone turnovers, they might even have had a shot with Baltimore. Sadly for every sunburnt, drunk guy in Duval County, that’s not the case. Vegas likes the Ravens -4, but being that they’re hotter than my friend’s sister on social media, the Ravens will win by more than that. Ravens Moneyline? Next question. Take the Ravens’ Moneyline and get your free $200 from DraftKings!