Baltimore is sitting comfortably atop the AFC North with a 5-2 record, 2.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, a very similar situation unfolded last season. Coming out of the Ravens bye in 2018, they were 2.5 games behind a tough Steelers team. The Ravens then went on a furious 6-1 run to surpass the Steelers, knock them out of playoff contention, and take the division for the first time since 2012. With that memory fresh in the Ravens minds, they know that they cannot take the foot off the gas. They’ve impressed through the first seven games of their season but need to finish just as strong.
The best way to do that, by beating one of the only two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. New England has once again been their dominant-selves to start the year but has not faced a team like the Ravens yet.
Week 9’s primetime Sunday matchup for the Ravens is their first time on national TV in 2019 and is their chance to announce to the NFL, they are for real.
Baltimore Ravens Week 9 Matchup Is Possible Statement Game
The Patriots Have Been Really Good
During the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady dynasty, the Patriots have been known for both offense and defense, depending on the year. In 2019, their strong suit is the defense. So far on the season, the Patriots rank second-best in total yardage defense and have the best scoring defense in the NFL — allowing an average of just 7.6 points per game. For comparison, the Chicago Bears led 2018 in the same category with 17.7. While they have been the number-one scoring defense as recently as 2016, the Patriots haven’t had a defense finish in the top-five in yardage defense since 2007. That year, New England went 16-0.
On the Patriots defense, they have a large group of experienced veterans in their front-seven and a secondary that can rival even the Ravens elite group. Led by the longtime Patriots Safety Devin McCourty, the unit has Pro-Bowlers at almost position. This includes three of Pro Football Focus’ top-15 corners in Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty. The unit leads the NFL in pass defenses with 69, interceptions by a wide margin with 19 (the next closest team has 10) and has punched four turnovers in for touchdowns. Having such a good secondary is also one of the biggest reasons they lead the league in sacks.
Belichick’s defense is simply playing on a different level than the rest of the NFL. Their offense also leads the NFL in points per game. Though their offense is largely untested and only averaging the 16th most yards in the NFL, Brady has enough of a resume to keep any team on their toes. At this point in 2019, this Patriots team looks like maybe the best of the decade.
The Ravens Bye Week Record
There are two things that are impossible to forget about Ravens head coach John Harbaugh; he is great against rookie quarterbacks and has a tremendous record coming off a bye. The Ravens sat at home last weekend and now go forward to face their most complete opponent on the year so far. In Harbaugh’s 11 seasons as the coach of the Ravens, he is 9-2 when coming off of a bye. This includes victories over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers as well as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Coming out of their bye week last season was also where Lamar Jackson got his first start at quarterback and never looked back. Their Week 11 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals ignited a Ravens team that looked to be out of playoff contention at 4-5, winning six of their last seven games to end the year and take back the AFC North crown for the first time in seven seasons. This year’s road out of their bye looks significantly tougher but the Ravens are sitting much prettier at 5-2. In their past five seasons, Baltimore has only been over .500 coming out of their bye week once, in 2014 (6-4).
The Ravens have a history of making things hard on themselves late in the season but their solid start could propel them down the stretch to play with even more fire than usual. They might need it as well. This season the Ravens have only played two teams with winning records but play five of their next six games against winning teams. Starting that stretch off with a win would be huge.
This Game Means a Lot to Jackson and Ravens
When you have a quarterback that plays such a perplexing style, there are going to be some doubters. As impressive as Jackson has been throughout his 15 starts as Ravens quarterback, he’s still missing that big signature win. His 68-yard dime to Mark Andrews in the Ravens Week 16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers is close but is somewhat tainted by the three quarter horror show he played in against the same team two weeks later. A victory over the Belichick and Brady could be that victory.
Jackson and Brady have very similar stats over their first 14 NFL starts. Both had identical 11-3 records as starters and have just a 2.4-yard difference in passing yards per game. Jackson holds a 16:8 touchdown to interception ratio where Brady registered one of 18:12. The Ravens quarterback also gets the edge in passer rating at 89.3 by 2.3 points. The main omission to these stats is obviously Jackson’s ability to run the ball. Over Jackson’s 14 starts, he’s put up 1,132 yards on the ground alone. Factor that into his passing yardage, and he has accounted for 3,896 yards of offense in under a full season of NFL action.
Though the Ravens went into one of the toughest places to play Week 7, primetime games have a different feel to them. This is Jackson’s chance to show that he and the Ravens belong in that discussion of great NFL teams in front of the national audience.
Prove You Belong
The Patriots have been great in 2019 but are yet to face an offense like the one they will see Sunday. Behind the ferocious rushing attack led by Jackson and Mark Ingram, the Ravens come in with the second-best total offense in the NFL. The best offense New England has played thus far has been the 19th ranked Buffalo Bills. Preparing to face the Ravens offense has been documented as being incredibly tough to game plan for, and Sunday’s game could tell us just how good it is.
A Ravens Week 9 victory over the Patriots would thrust the Ravens into the elite group of teams that are seen as true Super Bowl contenders. There have been a number of great Ravens v Patriots games over the last decade and this could be the next installment.
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