NFL 2019 (Week 15): New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 15): New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

The Baltimore Ravens, on the strength of a nine-game winning streak, are the AFC’s top seed and may just be the best team in the entire NFL. In those nine games, they have beaten the Steelers, Seahawks, Patriots, Texans, Rams, 49ers, and Bills, as well as clinched a playoff spot. Lamar Jackson is the odds-on favorite to win the MVP at the end of the season to boot. The New York Jets’ season has not been quite so fortuitous. Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold missed a month of action with mononucleosis, and the team started 1-7 amid those struggles. Darnold and his cohorts have rebounded to win four of their last five games, although the one loss was a disappointing 22-6 stunner in Cincinnati, which is the Bengals’ only win of the year. In order to finish 2019 on a strong note and springboard into the offseason with some momentum, the Jets must overcome Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, which is among the most daunting of schedules remaining. What chance do they have against Jackson’s Ravens? Anything is certainly possible, but key injuries may play a role.

Jets: New York has nine starters and four primary backups listed as questionable for Thursday night. The good news is that running back Le’Veon Bell will return to the lineup after missing Sunday’s win over Miami with the flu. The bad news is that all three of the Jets’ starting defensive linemen carry a questionable designation. To have any shot of bottling up Baltimore’s explosive offensive attack, Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon and Quinnen Williams will need to dig deep and play through their ailments. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is nothing if not aggressive, so he will likely break out something new for Jackson and Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman to digest. As with most NFL games, quarterback play will be the largest determining factor in the outcome, and Darnold needs to return to his November form instead of the performances he has rolled out in two December games so far. Darnold completed over 65 percent of his passes in the three-game win streak to end November but has dropped to 57 percent in the month of December.

Ravens: While the number of players on Baltimore’s injury report is lower than New York’s, the significance of the players listed is far higher. Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews (who leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns) were both limited in walkthroughs, and starting tackle Ronnie Stanley sat out of practice while in concussion protocol. Stanley may be unable to complete the requisite steps to return to play on Thursday night, but the most pressing concern is Jackson. If he is unable to go, Baltimore’s entire offense becomes pedestrian. While backups Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley have similar skillsets to Jackson, they are nowhere near as electrifying as he is (though few, if any, people are). The Ravens’ advantage is its pass defense, which is second in the league in opponent passer rating (78.1), opponent completion percentage (59.7) and touchdowns allowed (11). Darnold will need to be on his A-game to keep things close.

Prediction: Jackson plays and shows no signs of weakness, and the Jets are outclassed from start to finish.

Baltimore Ravens 31, New York Jets 10

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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