Ravens' memorable 2019 season spoiled by early playoff exit

Mon Jan 13 3:59pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (48) sits on the bench after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. The Titans won 28-12. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leaves the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. The Titans won 28-12. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews cleans out his locker Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020 in Owings Mills, MD. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


Baltimore Ravens guard James Hurst fills bags with items from his locker, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020 in Owings Mills, MD. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Patrick Mekari (65) leaves the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. The Titans won 28-12. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) As top-seeded Baltimore approached its playoff opener last week, linebacker Josh Bynes was asked to compare the current edition of the Ravens to the Super Bowl champions of 2012.

Bynes, who played 10 games for the 2012 champs, replied, ''That team is special, and this team is special. But we won a Super Bowl back then. We haven't won anything yet. We're having a great season, but if you don't win it all, what does it matter?''

The 2019 Ravens went 14-2, the best regular season in franchise history, earned a No. 1 seed for the first time, and received a record-breaking performance from second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. They had 12 players picked to the Pro Bowl, tying a record, and five All-Pros.

All of that is noteworthy, but those associated with this team will always remember the one-and-done outing in the playoffs.

Less than 24 hours after a 28-12 loss to Tennessee on Saturday night, Bynes and his teammates began an offseason that arrived far sooner than expected by somberly clearing out their lockers. After winning 12 straight to finish with the best record in the NFL, the Ravens' first loss since late September sent them packing for home.

''This game is going to be the one that we'll remember because it's the last one,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''I told them, in the end, there's only one team that gets to be the one true champion - and that's not going to be us this year.''

Jackson set an NFL record for yards rushing by a quarterback (1,206) and led an offense that compiled more yards on the ground (3,296) than any in league history. He's got a great shot at being NFL MVP, but Jackson won't be taking home a Super Bowl ring. Although he accounted for more than 500 yards in offense against the Titans, Jackson committed three turnovers and was twice stuffed on fourth-and-1 runs.

And now he's 0-2 in the playoffs.

WINDS OF CHANGE

Regardless of how the Ravens fared in the postseason, the roster will change before the team returns for training camp in July.

Sacks leader Matthew Judon, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and cornerback Jimmy Smith are among the notable unrestricted free agents. Most would prefer to return if the Ravens are willing to pay to retain them.

''This is the only family I've known,'' said Pierce, who's played four years with Baltimore. ''I would love to stay and be a part of this amazing group.''

Also, eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda turns 36 in September and will decide in the months ahead if he's up for a 14th NFL season.

JACKSON THE NUCLEUS

Jackson was a far better quarterback this year than last, and if he continues to improve the Baltimore offense could be even better in 2020.

In addition to finishing sixth in the league in rushing, Jackson threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with only six interceptions. But he was picked off twice and lost a fumble against Tennessee.

''I need to improve on everything,'' Jackson said, ''whether it's running, throwing the ball, pocket poise, everything.''

STRONG SECONDARY

The addition of cornerback Marcus Peters during the season shored up a solid secondary that includes safety Earl Thomas and cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr.

Peters was locked up with an extension, which leaves general manager Eric DeCosta with one less free agent to sign.

''Man, it just feels good to be around this place,'' Peters said. ''The workplace was a fun atmosphere; everybody came to work. We fell short on our goal, but I believe in this team a lot.''

TARGET PRACTICE

Jackson had plenty of options when passing the ball, although he usually homed in on tight end Mark Andrews, who led the team in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches.

Rookie Marquise Brown shined against the Titans and ranked second during the regular season with 46 catches, but he had eight games with three receptions or fewer.

Willie Snead had 31 catches, half his total in 2018. He received a one-year extension in October, so the Ravens evidently have plans to make him more of a factor.

HOW TO GET IT RIGHT

It's tough to find a whole lot of flaws in a team that went 14-2, but the loss to Tennessee exposed some issues that must be addressed.

Though Baltimore was ranked fifth against the run, Derrick Henry rambled for 195 yards. Pierce and Brandon Williams are solid in the middle of the line, but they need capable backups.

The Ravens also need more production at middle linebacker. The loss of C.J. Mosley during the 2019 offseason proved hard to overcome, as pending free agent Patrick Onwuasor, Bynes and L.J. Fort did not adequately fill the void.

Putting pressure on the quarterback is a concern, especially if Judon heads elsewhere. Baltimore ranked 21st with 37 sacks, including 9 1/2 by Judon, five by Tyus Bowser and no more than three by anyone else.

Offensively, the Ravens ranked 27th in passing, a stat that can attributed greatly to their propensity to run. But as proven against the Titans, playing from behind is not a strength of this team. Baltimore must improve this aspect of its attack before the 2020 season.

Player Notes
Kenny Golladay Sep 25 12:50am ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday but is in line to make his season debut in Week 3 against the Cardinals. Golladay suffered a strained hamstring in practice on Sept. 9 and has missed the first two games of the season. Normally a pretty solid WR1 option for fantasy lineups, the Lions No. 1 wideout will carry a bit more risk with him if he makes his 2020 debut this weekend. Plus, Golladay will likely be covered by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, which won't be an easy task by any means. You're probably starting Golladay if he's active, but it might be wise to temper expectations a bit. If he's back, it'll be bad news for Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Sep 25 12:40am ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) missed his second straight practice on Thursday. It's not a good sign for the 23-year-old after he missed the Week 2 game. Brown will need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at suiting up this Sunday against the Vikings. Have a backup plan in place if you own him. Corey Davis will be worth flex consideration if Brown misses another game, Adam Humphries would have some sleeper potential in DFS and deeper leagues, and tight end Jonnu Smith would have real TE1 appeal after going for four catches, 84 yards and two touchdowns without Brown in the lineup last weekend.

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Laviska Shenault Jr. Sep 25 12:30am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was a popular pick to have a breakout game against the Dolphins in Week 3, but it didn't happen, as he finished with just 33 receiving yards. Shenault did record five receptions, but with his usage mainly coming in the short-yardage passing, Shenault didn't have the chance to do much with the opportunities he received. Moving forward, Shenault is a low-ceiling fantasy option until we actually see him used in a way that offers a chance for him to produce more than just a handful of yards.

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Chris Thompson Sep 25 12:20am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Thompson continued to see his role expand on Thursday night, catching five passes for 35 yards and adding three rushing yards on two carries. Thompson isn't the same receiving threat that he was in Washington, but he's becoming a larger part of things for the Jaguars. That doesn't mean you need to rush out and put him in your fantasy lineups moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on what Thompson does in Week 4 against the Bengals.

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Keelan Cole Sep 25 12:10am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught four passes for 43 yards in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was Cole's first game this year without a touchdown. Thursday showed us what Cole's floor this year likely looks like: a handful of catches with an average of around 10 yards per reception. You'll take that in deeper leagues, but he's likely just a tad too inconsistent to be a weekly start in 12-team leagues, especially when you consider this was a matchup that felt ripe for the taking for the Jaguars passing game and they responded with their worst offensive output of the season.

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Chris Conley Sep 25 12:10am ET

With D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) out, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley was a popular pick to see an expanded role on Thursday night. And he did, as he led the team in targets with eight. The problem? Drops and some poor positioning led to Conley catching just three of those passes for 34 yards. This was his chance to impress and show he deserved a larger role, and it just didn't happen. Conley's on the fringes of rosterability in season-long leagues at this point, with his value fully dependent on Chark missing more time.

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James Robinson Sep 25 12:00am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson was the only consistent source of production in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. The undrafted rookie ran the ball 11 times, finishing with 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also led the team in receptions, catching six of them for 83 yards. Robinson might be the only player who can be a weekly starter on this offense right now and should be considered a fantasy RB2 going forward. Even when the Jaguars offense looks like a train wreck, Robinson manages to get his numbers.

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Gardner Minshew II Sep 24 11:50pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't supposed to be blown out by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, but they were, as the Dolphins took the 31-13 victory. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II struggled all night, going 30-for-42 for 275 yards with no touchdowns while throwing an interception and narrowly avoiding throwing a second. He also added 22 yards on the ground. Minshew was a huge disappointment to fantasy managers, and now we have reason to doubt the mustached passer, who we thought was on his way to being a consistent fantasy QB2.

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Lamar Jackson Sep 24 11:30pm ET

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has his most formidable challenge of the 2020 season thus far against the Chiefs on Monday night. The third-year signal-caller has played relatively well against Kansas City throughout his career (two games), throwing for 414 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 22 carries for 113 yards and an additional score. While his previous performances against the squad doesn't guarantee a similar output, it is reasonable to assume that fantasy managers may see the same type of production once again. In case there was any doubt, keep him starting in all formats.

From RotoBaller

Drew Sample Sep 24 11:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample caught seven of his nine targets for 45 yards against the Browns in Week 2. Although it's unlikely that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow will throw 61 passes against the Eagles as he did against Cleveland, the sophomore will likely be in line for an uptick in production after Cincy lost C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. While Sample probably can't be depended on for consistent production moving ahead, he is a suitable dart throw for those in need of a tight end in Week 3 and the remainder of the year.

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Tyler Boyd Sep 24 11:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has racked up 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown throughout his first two games of the year. With A.J. Green back in the mix after missing some time due to injury, concerns emerged as to whether or not Boyd would be able to produce a third-straight 1,000-yard season. Nonetheless, as the 25-year-old builds a familiar rapport with rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow, the door could open for an uptick in fantasy production moving head. While Green, John Ross III, and Tee Higgins will also be looking for Burrow's attention, Boyd may emerge as the undisputed No. 1 wideout for the team from a production standpoint. As far as his Week 3 outlook against the Eagles, fantasy managers should keep him starting, regardless of format.

From RotoBaller

Joshua Kelley Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley continues to get work as the No. 2 running back. Kelley received 52% of the snaps out of the backfield and 23 carries compared to the 16 that starter Austin Ekeler got. Kelley has now recorded 124 rushing yards on 35 attempts and has scored one touchdown in two games. He has also chipped in with a pair of catches for 49 yards. The Chargers have a favorable matchup against a Panthers Defense that has given up the sixth most points per game this season. Kelley is a solid option at the flex position for managers in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Keenan Allen Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen will look to build off of a strong Week 2 outing in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers. Allen was a beneficiary of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert drawing the last minute start over Tyrod Taylor (chest) this past Sunday. Allen capitalized by hauling in seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards. The Panthers Defense is 10th in the league in allowing the fewest receiving yards per game, but that same defense has allowed 32.5 points per game this year and that would increase the odds of Allen getting a chance for his first touchdown. Allen should be considered a low-end WR2 in Week 3.

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Hunter Henry Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry has been off to a hot start in 2020, but will have a tough challenge against the Panthers in Week 3. Henry has been one of the better options at a tough position and most importantly has looked healthy in two games. The Panthers have been successful in shutting down the tight end position thus far and have held Darren Waller, Jason Witten, O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski to just eight catches and 58 yards over the first two weeks. Henry should still be considered a TE1, but this will be his toughest test so far this season.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Sep 24 10:50pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green hasn't had the most spectacular 2020 campaign but will attempt to get on track against Philadelphia in Week 3. Despite being targeted 22 times by rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow throughout the first two games of the year, the veteran has hauled in only eight of them for an unimpressive 80 yards. After having not played for nearly two years due to injury, the 32-year-old may have needed a game or two to get rid of any residual rust. While many are likely apprehensive about starting him against the Eagles due to his underwhelming play thus far, he has done enough throughout his career to earn another start or two before fantasy managers decide whether or not to pull the plug. For now, keep him starting.

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Austin Ekeler Sep 24 10:50pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will look to continue his strong season with a matchup against the Panthers in Week 3. Ekeler has been sharing work with rookie Joshua Kelley and received 56% of the snaps in Week 2. Kelley also got a big chunk at 52% last Sunday. The backfield has worked out well so far for fantasy managers and Ekeler should be considered a low-end RB1 against a defense that is allowing 127.5 yards per game and 32.5 points. Ekeler has rushed for 177 yards on the season with five receptions for 58 yards.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Sep 24 10:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to get things going against Philadelphia on Sunday. The 24-year-old has been a colossal disappointment through the first two games of the year, racking up an underwhelming 115 yards off of 35 attempts for a miserable 3.3 YPC. He has also hauled in just five catches for 42 yards. The former Sooner isn't a stranger to slow starts, especially since he didn't score on the ground until Week 11 of the 2019 campaign. Although Mixon hasn't done much to earn the trust of fantasy managers, there aren't many options with an upside as high as his. Keep him starting in all formats against the Eagles in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Sep 24 10:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will look to keep things on track in Week 3 against the Eagles. The rookie has had an impressive inaugural season, throwing for 509 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception throughout his first two games. He has also racked up 65 yards and an additional score on 15 attempts on the ground. The 23-year-old has displayed maturity and game-management skills well beyond his years. Although he may have a few rough performances over the team's next 14 games, fantasy managers, especially in deep, Superflex leagues, shouldn't hesitate to roll with Burrow against Philadelphia on Sunday as the upside is certainly there.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Sep 24 9:40pm ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense is a solid fantasy option for their Week 3 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Washington's offense has not been very potent through two weeks, scoring 42 total points and while allowing seven sacks and committing two turnovers. Cleveland is installed as a seven-point home favorite in a game that could be rather low-scoring. Fire up the Browns defense as a top-10 fantasy option for Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Leon Jacobs Sep 24 9:03pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars LB Leon Jacobs (knee) suffered a knee injury during the Week 3 game and has been ruled out.

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