We’re eleven weeks into the NFL season, and the word ‘parity’ is being tossed around like crazy these days. The overwhelming consensus is that there’s a ton of parity around the league in terms of records and general talent-level of the 32 teams.
But just how much parity are we talking about? How level is the playing field?
One way to look at it is a simple comparison to 2020 in terms of records through 10 games, where 60% of NFL teams have between 5-7 wins this year (+20% over 2020) & 69% of NFL teams are currently .500+ (+20%).
In regard to our beloved AFC North, the Steelers went from 10-0 in 2020 to 5-4-1 in 2021 (biggest drop in the NFL), while the Bengals went from 2-7-1 to 6-4, the biggest turnaround thus far in the NFL.
To me, that’s pretty damning support to show the leveled playing field, but when you add in a note that the current top-ten teams in the NFL have a combined eight losses to teams with losing records? And even the lowly Jets and Jags have wins against top-ten teams?
Let’s move on in the 2MD!
About Last Week…
Ravens 16 Bears 13
Apparently, the script stays the same for the Ravens, regardless of the talent-level of the team they face, and regardless of who is starting for either team (Hey! Parity!). Here’s how it apparently goes for Baltimore:
- Slow start on offense
- Defense starts solid
- Ravens fall behind on a big play (or two, or three)
- Missed tackling
- Late 4th quarter/overtime heroics by the Baltimore offense
That’s obviously frustrating… and heart-attack inducing… and likely fantastic for liquor sales in the Baltimore area… but the fact that these Ravens constantly stare down the barrel of a loss and find a way to win? Even in a game like this past Sunday where Lamar Jackson and Hollywood Brown were out?
That grit is a necessary element for a playoff caliber team, and I genuinely believe it’ll factor into the Ravens post-season run in a few short months.
This Week: Browns at Ravens on SNF
Baker Mayfield is playing gimpy, and Lamar Jackson is back from illness.
There, we’ve gotten that out of the way.
As for the game itself, this one has massive implications, despite seven regular season games to go.
For the Browns, a loss would drop them to three games out of first place in the AFC North, while a win would help close the gap and build their confidence headed into a bye week before coming back to take on the Ravens in Cleveland with rest, momentum and home-field advantage on their side.
For the Ravens, winning the first game of their AFCN gauntlet (vs Browns… at Steelers… at Browns) would be massive, while maintaining first place in the division. A loss would possibly drop them to 2nd in the North (pending on the Bengals vs Steelers results) and surely sting before a two-game road swing in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Feels like Baltimore needs it more (he says selfishly).
Prediction: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… the Ravens keep the game close, give up a big play late in the game, but Lamar Jackson executes an epic come from behind win in the final minutes of the game for a Ravens victory.
At this point it feels like expecting anything else is just foolish, right?
Offensively, I’ve gotta predict a Rashod Bateman touchdown in this game as the rookie goes off for his first 100+ yard game and a pair of scores, while shining under the bright lights of Baltimore in prime time. Bateman’s touchdowns account for two of Jackson’s three passing touchdowns on the day, with the third in the hands of Nick Boyle for a big emotional moment for this team.
The Ravens’ offensive momentum will be crucial, as I expect the Browns to run all over the Ravens with a healthy Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb for the first time in many weeks. Typically a strong ground game leads to clock management and fewer drives, but the Ravens’ propensity to give up the big play will allow for the backfield tandem to break off multiple long scoring plays on short drives… unfortunately.
However – as per script- the Ravens defense will make the right plays at the right time in the 4th quarter, creating a turnover at the hands of Mayfield, which allows the offense to operate on a short field and put up the winning score with less than two minutes.
Browns respond with a turnover on downs. Ravens take a knee. Drive safe and see ya in Pittsburgh, folks!
Ravens 31 Browns 27
Best of the Rest
TURKEY DAY GAMES!
Bears (-3) at Lions. 12:30pm. Two bad teams can still make for a good game. I’ve got Dalton for the win.
Raiders @ Cowboys (-7.5). 4:30pm. I think this one could surprise some folks and we’re in for a nail-bitter of a game.
Bills (-6.5) @ Saints. 8:20pm Barn burner impending…
Sunday offers much better options. Here’s the top-tier games to tune into whilst waiting all day for a Sunday night (you sang it, admit it).
Steelers @ Bengals (-4.5) 1pm. Can the Steelers kiss their sister one more time here to help the Ravens out? If not, give me a Steelers loss and make the AFCN a two-team race.
Titans @ Patriots (-6.5) 1pm. The Patriots scare me more than any AFC team right now. Dead serious.
Bucs (-3.0) @ Colts 1pm. I’m riding with the ponies on this one. Think the Bucs come back down to Earth again.
Rams (-1) @ Packers 4:25pm. The Rams haven’t played well of late and Vegas favors them on the road in Green Bay?
Final Thought- Thanksgiving Day Games
I get tradition. I do. But it’s time the NFL expands this day and moves on from loyalty to certain franchises for Turkey Day football. We’ve been forced to watch the Lions ineptitude for far too long and we’re all genuinely exhausted with the Jerrah Jones catering. Instead here’s my suggestion:
Gives us four games on Thanksgiving Day: a pair of 1 pm games, a 4:30 pm game and prime time game. This allows for every division to get a game that day, and doing so would have all NFL fans invested to some degree in regard to their team, be it direct (my team is playing) or indirect (effects the divisional standings).
Alas… asking for common sense over favoritism may be a reach in the NFL, so I won’t hold my breath on this one.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of Ravens Flock!