I’m locked in, are you?!. For 3 players to watch and Week 10 of the NFL schedule.
It is the halfway point of the NFL season and if the season were to end today, the Cleveland Browns would be in the postseason. However, Cleveland will enter a pivotal two-game stretch against divisional opponents. On tap this Sunday is the current division leader Baltimore Ravens.
The last time these two teams played, back in Week 4, things were different. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was out and rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson got the start.
No need to relive that game, it’s in the rearview mirror.
As of right now, the Ravens should be considered the best team in the NFL.
Offensively, we are pretty familiar with what this team is despite a new offensive coordinator. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is currently the front-runner for the regular season MVP. The offense appears to be clicking at a high level and the stats show it. Since week 6, the offense ranks 1st in both offensive EPA/per play and rush EPA/per play. Playmakers everywhere on the field. Running backs Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell are making contributions. As far as the receiving options go, wide receivers Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr and Zay Flowers have contributed and tight end Mark Andrews has helped out as he always does.
Defensively, this unit is up there with Cleveland in terms of being one of the best in the NFL. Well coached, well rounded and dominant. Led by linebacker Roquan Smith, they have been suffocating and they find ways to take over games. The defensive line has been productive in terms of getting to the quarterback, they don’t have a Myles Garrett but they have a rotation of players that can make an impact. In the secondary, the unit has been stout and safety Geno Stone has been a ball magnet as he currently leads the NFL in interceptions.
Here are my 3 players to watch for in this pivotal matchup:
QB Lamar Jackson
Of course, I will discuss the quarterback. During the offseason, Lamar Jackson had to deal with a ton of scrutiny in terms of his contract situation. Many believe that Lamar wasn’t worth giving a huge contract, some believe that Lamar was handling the situation poorly and that the Ravens weren’t obligated to give him a lucrative deal. So much for that. Baltimore paid their franchise quarterback and it has paid dividends for both Lamar and Baltimore.
- 1st in Completion Percentage
- 6th in Passer Rating
The most accurate QB on 10+ yard attempts— PFF (@PFF) November 8, 2023
Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/Vz5fg44Tz2
Jackson’s passing has improved (as I’ve mentioned multiple times) and he doesn’t necessarily have to use his legs. If you take away his running, he can pick you apart with his passing. That’s how good he has been this season. He’s accurate, has good pocket movement, and has a solid arm.
The first time around, Jackson pretty much had his way in the 2nd quarter but mainly because of the short fields that were given by the offense, however, Cleveland was able to give Lamar some problems with generating pressure from their defensive front. Cleveland’s job defensively has to essentially contain Jackson, they aren’t going to shut him down. Take away the middle of the field, and make things difficult for him.
S Geno Stone
If there is one player on the Ravens defense that has come out of nowhere, enter Geno Stone.
Stone was drafted by the Ravens in the 7th round in the 2020 NFL Draft, he was cut, claimed off waivers by the Houston Texans (didn’t play a single game for the team) and he later signed with Baltimore after not receiving a qualifying offer from Houston.
With the injury to safety Marcus Williams, Smith has stepped in and filled in admirably.
He has shown off his ball-hawking ability, as he currently leads the NFL in interceptions. Whether it is making open-field tackles or coming up clutch when he needs to, Stone has made plays when he gets the opportunity.
For Cleveland, it’s imperative that they are aware of Stone. Cleveland’s passing game is starting to get it together but Stone is someone who can come up with a turnover if Cleveland isn’t careful. Watch for #26 roaming in the Ravens secondary.
DT Justin Madubuike
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, I want to highlight someone who some aren’t familiar with.
Enter defensive tackle Justin Madubuike. Baltimore’s defensive line is deep with talent across the board but Madubuike has been a disruptive force. He’s one of the many reasons why Baltimore leads the league in sacks. In terms of run defense, he’s about as stout as can be. His ability to clog rush lanes and knock back offensive linemen has been crucial. In terms of his pass rushing, he has been one of the best interior defensive lineman pass rushers in the NFL.
He’s big, powerful and he’s a problem.
Cleveland’s interior offensive linemen have fared well this season but this is another test against another stout defensive front. Look for Madubuike to be a game-wrecker in this game.
Besides Jackson, what Ravens player are you most interested in seeing on the field this week versus the Browns?