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The Ravens come into the halfway point of the year as a team that is just starting to reach their potential- kind of like Adele after the weight loss. Apart from their week one victory when they eviscerated the Jets and the last outing against New Orleans, every game has been close. If you combine their three losses, they’ve lost by a collective total of eleven points. ELEVEN. That’s a few missed plays away from this being an undefeated team. Despite having trouble closing out some games, Baltimore sits at the top of the AFC North. A division consisting of a star quarterback who might legally have to stand more yards away from female practitioners than he’ll throw for this year, a rookie quarterback in Pittsburgh, and Joe Burrow behind no offensive line.
The most impressive part of the Ravens’ season this year has been steady improvements. We all know 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 improved 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 seven 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. With his 2.5 sacks against the Saints, Justin Houston has the second most sacks in the league at 33 years old. Smith’s teammates were highly impressed with what they saw in the week of preparation as Smith grasped the Ravens’ defense, and the way he played Monday night only further made them believers. Calais Campbell and Patrick Queen said he gives them more confidence on the field. Remember when the Ravens got remarkably better with the addition of Marcus Peters in 2019? This could be another one of those deadline deals.
While the narrative that Lamar Jackson has struggled in the fourth quarter is statistically valid, we are talking about the quarterback with the fourth-best odds of winning MVP. Yes, his quarterback rating in the fourth quarter this season is 58.0, his lowest of any quarter by a wide margin (it’s 97.5 in the first quarter, 102.2 in the second, and 110.8 in the third), but the guy has overcome expectations his entire life…I don’t think he’s mentally impaired by a quarter of football. And with Rashod Bateman’s return and Desean Jackson’s signing, Lamar comes into the mid-way point of the season with more weapons than a Kyle Rittenhouse shopping spree.
Speaking of the mid-way point of the season, the Ravens’ defense, which has struggled at times, must be relieved to know that the most challenging part of their schedule is over. From now on, besides some AFC North games that might get dicey, Baltimore plays the Panthers, Jaguars, Broncos, and Falcons, and those are all incredibly winnable games. Even if the Ravens only win three of those, they still have a good chance of hitting their O/U win total of 10.5 because their division is trashier than a lady with four different baby daddies staying a long weekend at the Islander Motel in Ocean City.
With the help of a more manageable schedule and some terrible run defenses coming up, Lamar Jackson, Kenyan Drake, and JK Dobbins should run through the rest of the season like bad Chinese food. If you listen closely, you can almost hear Omar’s whistle from The Wire because the Ravens are coming, and you can bet on them legally for the first time ever. Let’s have a great rest of the season, Maryland, and be sure to sign up today with BetMGM to get your free $200!