With the 6-3 Ravens coming out of their Week 10 bye in first place in the AFC North and in good position to make a strong run in the second half, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. It won’t be easy or the most likely outcome, but Buffalo’s overtime loss on Sunday made the AFC’s No. 1 seed feel more obtainable for Baltimore. Then again, Kansas City’s schedule is looking easier by the week with the rest of the AFC West falling so short of preseason expectations.
2. Jalen Hurts barely edged Lamar Jackson in rushing last season after the latter missed five full games, but Justin Fields has now run for 114 more yards in one more game than the Ravens superstar this year. I’m curious to see if Fields and Chicago can keep this going.
3. All seemed quiet on the Jackson contract front during the bye week, which wasn’t surprising. I can’t imagine anything about the first half of the season really changed the negotiating position of either side from where the parties stood in early September.
4. The Ravens won’t play anyone currently holding a winning record until Week 18. They won’t face an opponent with even four wins currently to its name until Christmas. The schedule looks great for securing a playoff spot, but would a tougher test or two along the way be beneficial?
5. John Harbaugh confirmed Marcus Williams is expected back “sometime in December” after dislocating his wrist in Week 5, but Geno Stone has done an excellent job filling in for the standout free agent. Pro Football Focus has graded Stone sixth among qualified safeties overall and eighth in coverage.
6. Odafe Oweh hasn’t made the second-year leap many anticipated with just one sack and five quarterback hits this season, but you hope a deeper edge rotation and fewer responsibilities on his plate will start paying off. Patrick Queen’s third-year improvement is a reminder of the need for patience.
7. Remember left guard being a position of concern? Ben Powers has played every offensive snap with Pro Football Focus grading him second among all qualified guards in pass blocking. That’s a compliment to Powers in a contract year and a reflection of Ben Cleveland not exactly pushing for playing time.
8. To no surprise because of their safety depth, the Ravens have made good use of the dime package, but it’s fair to wonder how that might evolve with the addition of Roquan Smith and the recent performance of Kyle Hamilton playing big nickel. Mike Macdonald certainly has options.
9. Harbaugh recently described the arthroscopic knee surgery for J.K. Dobbins as “a smashing success,” but it’s still best to keep expectations in check, especially with Kenyan Drake’s emergence since mid-October. Greg Roman could have a good problem on his hands in a few weeks.
10. With rookie Charlie Kolar being activated, Baltimore currently has five tight ends and a fullback on the 53-man roster. Kolar needs more practice for the time being, but you wonder how tenable those numbers are if injuries occur elsewhere in the coming weeks. Nick Boyle’s role remains minimal.
11. My Ravens picks to make the Pro Bowl are Jackson, Mark Andrews, Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Ricard, Justin Tucker, Devin Duvernay (as a return specialist), and Justin Houston, who hasn’t been named to one since making his fourth straight with Kansas City back in 2015. That’d make a cool story.
12. After picking the Ravens to go 11-6 and win the AFC North before the season, I’m bumping that final prediction to 12-5. And considering Cincinnati’s post-bye gauntlet of a schedule, I see Baltimore clinching the division title a week or two before their Week 18 showdown too.