Baltimore Ravens

Peter King sees major improvements in Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s passing at training camp

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OWINGS MILLS, Md.—Four Ravens thoughts:

1. What a weird look. Think how many stalwarts are missing. Quarterback Joe Flacco. Pass-rusher Terrell Suggs. Linebackers C.J. Mosley and ZaDarius Smith. Safety Eric Weddle (admittedly a late-arriver, but a really good contributor recently). Change is good, usually. Revolution … that’ll take a big adjustment.

2. The DeCosta takeover. I’ve always been interested by Baltimore’s ability to do things a different way. The Ravens were leaders in accumulating compensatory draft picks, and the league followed. The Ravens figured out that offensive linemen in spread systems were tortured acclimating to the NFL, so they made hay with mid-round Big Ten, pro-style linemen. Now they’ve got an analytics-savvy GM, Eric DeCosta, taking over for the legendary Ozzie Newsome, and he’s great friends with the progressive Astros team that was hired to rebuild the Orioles—GM Mike Elias and assistant GM Sig Mejdal. “They question everything, and I love that,” DeCosta said. This offseason, the Ravens put an ad on social media for an analytics hire. In baseball, analytics is the new wave. The NFL is still trying to figure it out. “We got hundreds, I mean hundreds, of applications,” DeCosta said. The Ravens hired a 22-year-old woman who will try to make sense of the new data—including GPS tracking of players in practices and games. DeCosta is so protective of the Ravens’ analytics plans that when I asked him how many analytics hires he had this year, he said, “More than one.” And about the number of analytics employees in the organization? “Less than 10.” DeCosta doesn’t think analytics provides a magic formula, but that’s not what he wants. He wants a small edge. A tiny edge. “We’re looking for 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent advantages,” he said. “There’s no 50 percent edge anymore.”

3. Lamar Jackson looks like more of a thrower than runner. It’s just one practice that I saw, but new quarterback Lamar Jackson stuck in and around the pocket Friday. He spent the offseason doing what smart quarterbacks do—adjusting to the passing portion of his team’s playbook. He was a 58 percent passer last year, but his 170-147 pass-run ratio in 2018 should be far more lopsided in favor of the pass in 2019. “I’m not afraid of anything in this offense, what they ask me to do,” he said. “Pressure busts pipes, but I don’t feel pressure. I just feel opportunity.”

4. The defense it is a-changin’. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale led the second-stingiest unit last year (287 points allowed) but now the Ravens are relying on imports like Earl Thomas to buttress the D. What’s interesting about Thomas’ role after arriving from Seattle is that he’ll be asked to be orchestrator and play-caller, the way Ed Reed was here, more than he was in Seattle. “Excited about it,” Thomas said. “New place, new coast, new energy.” The Ravens need Thomas, 30, to be the playmaker and enforcer he was in the Legion of Doom.

Read more from Football Morning in America here

How to watch Ravens vs. Steelers on Sunday Night Football

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to host the rival Baltimore Ravens for an AFC North showdown on Sunday Night Football, which airs Sunday night at 8:20 p.m. ET.

The Steelers are coming off a narrow victory against the Buccaneers, moving their record to 1-1-1 on the season. Look for Pittsburgh to rely on veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — who has thrown three touchdowns in back-to-back weeks — getting the ball to his playmakers in wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, as well as, running back James Conner.

More coverage of Sunday Night Football

The Ravens come into hostile territory with a record of 2-1 after alternating wins and losses to begin the season. While Baltimore is known for running the ball and playing strong defense, quarterback Joe Flacco has been airing it out a bit more this season (296 passing yards per game as opposed to 196 in 2017) thanks in large part to adding wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV in the offseason.

Pregame coverage of Ravens-Steelers and a recap of Week 4 begins with Football Night in America at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC.

How to watch Sunday Night Football:

What: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

When: Sunday, September 30, 2018

Football Night in America: 7:00 p.m. ET

SNF kickoff: 8:20 p.m ET

Where to watch: NBC, or right here

NFL Week 13: Cowboys, Seahawks, Falcons seek wins as favorites

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Dak Prescott and the streaking Dallas Cowboys will face a top pass rush against the Minnesota Vikings, who are tough to defeat twice in a row.

The Cowboys are listed as the 3.5-point favorite against the Vikings in the Thursday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Cowboys come in red-hot, going 6-0 straight-up and 5-1 against the spread in their last six games as a favorite.

Prescott has proven unflappable and his strong offensive line will have the challenge of nullifying the Vikings defense, which has an impressive 28 sacks. The Vikings are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games after losing the previous game in a matchup, but based on what they have shown, it’s doubtful whether QB Sam Bradford and their mediocre offense can keep pace with Dallas.

The Atlanta Falcons are four-point betting favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs. While Chiefs CB Marcus Peters might negate WR Julio Jones, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has many more weapons including WR Taylor Gabriel and RB Devonta Freeman. The Chiefs had a thrilling overtime win last week in Denver, but are 0-7 ATS in their last seven games after an ATS win.

The Arizona Cardinals are 2.5-point favorites against the Washington Redskins. Arizona’s No. 1 defense could cancel out Washington’s No. 2 offense. On the other side of the ball, Washington is susceptible to the run and Cardinals RB David Johnson is capable of taking over a game. The Cardinals, who were blown out by Atlanta in Week 12, are 7-3 SU in their last 10 games after a loss.

The New Orleans Saints are five-point favorites against the Detroit Lions. Chances are, quarterbacks Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford might trade touchdowns all afternoon. New Orleans, which is 2-8 ATS over its last 10 games as a favorite of at least 4.5 points, is giving up more yards per game on defense than Detroit but has faced a higher caliber of opposing offenses.

The Baltimore Ravens are favored by 3.5 points against the Miami Dolphins in a matchup of two teams that have crept into the AFC playoff picture. The Ravens’ No. 2-ranked defense, led by ILB Zachary Orr and SS Eric Weddle, should be able to slow down the Dolphins’ balanced offense that is built around QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Jay Ajayi.

The Indianapolis Colts are the one-point road favorite against the New York Jets in the Monday Night Football matchup. Colts QB Andrew Luck is practicing again, and he tends to make his teammates better while struggling Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick does the opposite. The Colts, who are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 Monday games, will have to keep Jets RB Matt Forte and WR Brandon Marshall from taking over the game.

And the Seattle Seahawks are favored by seven against the Carolina Panthers in the Sunday Night Football matchup. The Seahawks, sitting third on the odds to win Super Bowl 51, are 11-1 SU in their last 12 home games against teams with losing records. The Panthers, though, are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven matchups as underdogs of at least seven points.