Welcome to Ravens Reality Check, where we collect the takes that have been sitting on asphalt in the midday sun and bring them into the shade.
A ho-hum win over the Arizona Cardinals doesn’t provide much take fodder, but an approaching Tuesday trade deadline does. Here’s some of the takes that are haunting the Ravens ahead of a possible blockbuster Halloween:
Hold tight for 24 hours of wild speculation, head-scratching hypotheticals and a whole lot of lying. My favorite part of the trade deadline is how no team is interested or plans to trade anyone — up until the moment they get traded. On a segment Monday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter talked about how none of the big stars (several of them the Ravens could perhaps use) are projected to get traded … barring the right offer. That’s the definition of how trades happen.
The Reality Check has covered some ground on trade possibilities, specifically about New York Giants back Saquon Barkley. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said again Monday that the Ravens “might as well book the plane from Baltimore to Kansas City for the AFC title game” if they trade for Barkley.
I think Jonas Shaffer and Paul Mancano had a great discussion about this on The Banner Ravens Podcast recently. The upside of a great rusher like Barkley or Tennessee’s Derrick Henry might not be worth the squeeze, especially considering the opportunity cost of using draft capital and cap space to upgrade at another position. In all likelihood, either Barkley or Henry would be a short-term solution for the Ravens: Barkley is franchised this year and Henry is in the final year of a massive contract.
The Ravens, to date, average 4.4 yards per carry (8th in NFL). The advanced metrics weren’t out of this world for Gus Edwards’ workmanlike effort yesterday, but if you view the Ravens’ rushing attack as a three-headed monster with Edwards, Justice Hill and Lamar Jackson, that’s probably good enough in most situations.
The question to consider might be depth. The Ravens running back room has been banged up a lot: Do they feel good about Melvin Gordon III if he needs more carries? How about Keaton Mitchell, who has been injured for most of the year? It’s not so sexy to trade for another backup, but that might be the better deal for the Ravens in the bigger picture.
OK, I’m listening.
The more intriguing idea might be if the Ravens can steal a pass rusher, because many seem potentially available. Jonas and Paul also had a good discussion about Chase Young and/or Montez Sweat from Washington and why either could fit, along with possible compensatory picks if one of them walked next offseason.
The question is whether the Commanders are willing to sell, and if the Ravens can scare up the best package. There are probably more than a few teams that would like to upgrade their pass rush right now. Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter is allegedly not going to be moved unless the Vikings are “blown away,” but that’s what all teams say, and it’s worth wondering if the outlook is different with Kirk Cousins potentially out for the season.
The Ravens struggled at times to contain Josh Dobbs in the pocket and missed a few opportunities to wrap him up in the backfield on Sunday — if you start thinking about playoff matchups against Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, that might be a little scary with the current alignment (with all due respect to Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who have been playing above expectations). David Ojabo is still out; Odafe Oweh got shaken up during the game, and you could almost hear a collective gasp in Baltimore (he later went back in).
Then again, the Ravens still have an NFL-best 31 sacks. That might be a little deceptive, especially given the caliber of quarterbacks they’ve faced so far, but it might convince Eric DeCosta and crew that if they get healthier, this group can compete.
The Ravens probably don’t need to swing a big trade as they have in past years with Roquan Smith or Marcus Peters, but doing so would probably strengthen their Super Bowl quest. It’s one area that could use a high-upside talent.
Joe Burrow and crew were in fine form yesterday, crushing a previously vaunted San Francisco defense 31-17. Burrow was 28-of-32 for 283 yards and three touchdowns, and added another 43 yards on the ground.
I buy it: I do think the Bengals will be the Ravens’ best competition down the stretch for the AFC North crown. Like last season, they’re regaining their edge as we get midway through the season. But it’s gonna be a fight to keep up.
NFL stat geek Aaron Schatz punched out some interesting numbers after Week 8, including that the Ravens have a 10% lead in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) over the rest of the league. When you add that to Baltimore’s point differential, there are clear markers that they’re the upper crust of the NFL.
The flip side is the Ravens have a hard schedule: Schatz noted they have the second-hardest schedule remaining by DVOA of any other team.
This week, Cincinnati has the Bills, and they still have the Jaguars and Chiefs on the schedule. They also have Houston and Indianapolis, teams that have been scrappier than expected, and their road schedule, including at Jacksonville, at Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, and at Kansas City, seems pretty darn tough.
With the Ravens ahead 6-2 over the rest of the 4-3 AFC North teams, they’ve got an edge, and I don’t think the schedule actually helps the Bengals catch Baltimore, especially with the Nov. 16 date at the Bank.