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What the Ravens' 2-0 start says about the team’s playoff chances

What the Ravens' 2-0 start says about the team’s playoff chances

After two games, the Ravens are in as good of a position as they could be in with a 2-0 record. 

But the team’s start, paired with the rest of the AFC North, has the Ravens sitting in an excellent spot after just two weeks. 

The Ravens 2-0 record doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot, far from it in fact. But a quick glance around the rest of the league shows the Ravens are in a better spot than might be imagined.

According to Oddsshark.com, 98 teams have started 2-0 since the 2007 season. Of those 98 teams, 54 teams have made the playoffs and 44 missed out. The Ravens, according to fivethirtyeight.com, have a 72 percent chance to make the playoffs (fifth-highest), a 63 percent chance to win the division (third-highest) and a six percent chance to win the Super Bowl (fifth-highest). 

So while the odds are in the Ravens favor, there’s still work to do.

Statistically, and without context, a 2-0 start only means the Ravens have a roughly better chance than 50-50 to make the postseason. 

The biggest start to the Ravens season, however, is how the rest of the AFC North fared in the season’s first two weeks. 

The Steelers and Bengals started 0-2 and the Browns, who play Monday against the Jets, are 0-1. While a 2-0 start doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot, an 0-2 start has nearly been a death-knell for NFL teams since 2007.

Of the 98 teams to start 0-2 since 2007, only 12 have made the postseason — a percentage of just 12.2 percent. 

Of the seven teams to start 0-2 last season, two of them (Houston and Seattle) made the playoffs. Those teams, statistically, are the anomaly. 

Context included, the Ravens have had a strong showing, albeit against two teams expected to be at the bottom of the NFL standings this year. 

Lamar Jackson is one of two quarterbacks in the NFL that has thrown for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The other is Pat Mahomes, who will face the Ravens in week three. The defense, while it had its rough patches against the Cardinals Air Raid offense, held strong in the red zone. 

With Kansas City upcoming, the chance to not only increase the Ravens playoff chances exists, but also the opportunity to state their claim as one of the best teams in the NFL.

The Ravens aren’t guaranteed anything, especially with their upcoming stretch of games against the Chiefs, Browns, Steelers and Bengals, when their division lead can evaporate. 

But paired with their start, and the rest of the division’s start, the chance to offer a knockout blow to the rest of the division in the early weeks is there for the taking. 

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Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Don Martindale isn’t looking at Sunday’s matchup between the Ravens and Texans as a single game, but rather a game in a historical context. 

With two MVP candidates at quarterback on each side in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, the game isn’t just one that could be a playoff preview or a matchup between two of the NFL’s best, but rather a showcase of where the NFL is headed as a league.

The NFL is moving toward quarterbacks of the dual-threat variety, signal-callers that can beat teams in both the air and on the ground. Jackson and Watson are two of the NFL’s best in that department.

“It’s not just these two quarterbacks, but it’s the new era of quarterback,” Martindale said. “The lazy question is ‘Does practicing against Lamar help you for this?’ We’re preparing for more mobile quarterbacks this year than the old school, stay-in-the-pocket-and-play quarterback from the pocket.”

Jackson and Watson both entered the league with questions aplenty about whether the two quarterbacks, who relied so much on their legs, could be successful in the NFL. As of Week 10 of the 2019 season, those questions have been squashed. 

Jackson has totaled 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns through nine games and is on-pace for nearly 4,900 yards from scrimmage and 37 touchdowns. Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns through nine games, and is on-pace for 4,819 yards and 40 touchdowns.

If there are examples of the way the NFL game is headed, two of the best will be on the field on Sunday.

“I'd rather play against a quarterback that's going to stand there,” Earl Thomas said. “These quarterbacks coming now, they're able to run. They're able to throw it deep. They have the schemes. They have all the misdirection stuff. So I'm not enjoying these young quarterbacks that are coming into the league and doing all this spectacular stuff that they're doing. But, it's just the way the league is going now.”

The ability to both run and pass has left defenses flummoxed as to how to slow down the high-powered attacks, led by quarterbacks that can win with both their arm and their legs.

Last season, Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing with 695 yards. Watson was in third with 551 yards.

“I know it's hard on defenses, because when you feel you have the offense figured out and you guys are covering everyone, the quarterback gets out, gets the first down, keeps the drive going,” Jackson said. “So, the defensive guys are on the field even longer. We're just doing our thing.”

But one of the storylines that makes Jackson and Watson’s stories so unique are the doubts they endured before taking over as quarterback.

Questions of durability, passing ability and most everything else followed both quarterbacks around from the time they were drafted to even today, where questions still persist about the viability of the running quarterback in the NFL.

“I guess I would question the questioners,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “When we evaluated Deshaun, we felt, obviously, very strongly about his ability to come in here and be a winner and develop into an excellent pro quarterback, which is what he's done. I definitely evaluated Lamar and met Lamar pre-draft, and he's a great player.”

To those in Houston and Baltimore, however, the idea that both Watson and Jackson couldn’t ever be successful seems wrong.

“So, 'wave of the future,' all those different things ... I think these guys are winners,” O’Brien continued. “They were winners in college. They were winners in high school, and they're winners now.”

While both Watson and Jackson — and other mobile quarterbacks around the NFL — may not have yet reached the top of the NFL passing charts, the added dimension of what they can do on the ground has made life incredibly difficult for defenders. 

“Peyton Manning was extremely hard to defend, Tom Brady was extremely hard to defend” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “But, neither one of them could run a 4.3 (40-yard dash), so you don’t have to worry about tackling them on any given play.”

Smith added that when a quarterback breaks the pocket and gets loose for a first down, it can be incredibly demoralizing for a defense that thinks it has forced a stop. 

That can be tough to prepare for, as opponents of the Ravens have noted routinely this season, when you can’t simulate the speed and movement of the opposing quarterback.

“What happens in the game where you’re playing a mobile quarterback is, when you’re practicing, you see a guy go by and say, ‘I got him,’” Martindale said. “In game, they don’t got him. So I think that’s the biggest thing, is just adjusting to the speed of it, of the mobile quarterback.”

Still, while it’s easy to draw comparisons to quarterbacks that can run and pass, and seemingly are the future of the NFL, Jackson doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Every mobile quarterback is unique, which makes them so difficult to contain.

“I play Lamar Jackson ball,” Jackson said. “I don't play nobody else’s ball.”

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Exclusive: Mark Andrews on not letting diabetes stop him from living his dreams

Exclusive: Mark Andrews on not letting diabetes stop him from living his dreams

The thing that Mark Andrews remembers about being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine was seeing his parents cry.

He couldn’t comprehend that the diagnosis – which affects 1.25 million people in America – would change his life forever.

 “I remember the moment extremely clear," he said. "Being nine years old you don’t quite understand the significance of that, but this was the first time I saw my dad cry and my mom cry as well. But I knew in that moment something serious was definitely happening to me and something was going to change in my life.”

Andrews continues to battle the daily struggles and complications that come with having diabetes but not once has he allowed it to stop him from reaching his goals and dream of playing in the NFL. It was a dream that came true in 2018 when the Baltimore Ravens drafted the tight end in the third round.

“The big thing for me is to not let this disease get in the way of doing what I love and not letting it affect my teammates, family and all the other people that care for me," he said. "Taking care of my diabetes is a big part.”

 Andrews not only accomplished his dream of playing in the NFL, but he’s also succeeding. As one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets, Andrews leads the team in receiving yards (523), receptions (44) and targets (66) while tallying 5 TD’s and this season is far from over. He does this while overcoming all the obstacles that diabetes throws his way.

“In high school, I dealt with pricking my fingers and that was super tough to do," he said. "It wasn’t until college my freshman year, I had an incident where something serious had happened and I realized that something needed to change in my life and that’s when I found Dexcom.”

With November being National Diabetes Awareness Month, Andrews is partnering with Dexcom, a continuous glucose monitoring system, to raise awareness about diabetes especially in America’s youth. Andrews wants to encourage every young person with diabetes and hopes of playing in the NFL that it is possible. He aims to be the inspiration to others that you can overcome all obstacles that come with having Type 1 diabetes AND reach your dreams.

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