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Does Jackson Hold Key To Ravens' Run?

Normally, that NFL-imposed week off somewhere during the season helps the team taking the time away more than anyone else, namely the fans.

And while Ravens players and coaches can certainly use the time to refresh and heal, the fans may actually have had greater use of Sunday’s breather than team personnel.

These first seven games have been nothing short of the proverbial rollercoaster ride for fans who have watched the season unfold in rather unpredictable ways.

From a dazzling performance in Week 1 against the hapless Miami Dolphins to a putrid effort in a home loss to Cleveland that evened their record at 2-2, the Ravens were quite the model of inconsistency and confusion.

Since then, however, the team has been on a rather interesting upswing, first beating divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in successive weeks.

Baltimore then capped the run with a brilliant 30-16 win over Seattle on the road.

Given the level of the opposition, namely a Seahawks team battling near the top of their division and conference and against one of the best players in the league, quarterback Russell Wilson, the victory was the most impressive of the season.

With Sunday’s Browns’ loss to New England, the Ravens are three games ahead of Cleveland and could be two full games ahead of Pittsburgh in their division after the Monday night game.

There are few outside the Baltimore metro area who could have envisioned that scenario when the season began and certainly not after their home loss to the Browns.

Yet here the Ravens are, with nine games to play, seemingly in control of a path to win the AFC North and get back to the playoffs.

The Ravens aren’t perfect. The losses to Cleveland and Kansas City exposed dangerous gaps in their defense against the run. And their pass rush needs to improve and soon.

But this year’s edition of Baltimore NFL football will apparently rise and fall the way last year’s did, on the narrow, but steadily burgeoning shoulders of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson has been, in a word, amazing. In six words, a leading Most Valuable Player candidate.

Many things have combined to get the Ravens to this point, but few players have meant as much to a team’s success around the league as Jackson has so far.

Jackson, in his second season as a pro, is completing a gaudy 63 percent of his passes. He looks composed in the pocket, has displayed a level of touch and seems better able to throw medium-range passes.

Indeed, we were told that Jackson would spend his first offseason working on being a better passer, and, from all appearance, he is just that.

But where Jackson has proven his mettle is with his legs, where he has singularly able to spin straw into gold. Already, Jackson has run for more than 100 yards three times in games.

At his current pace, Jackson would rack up more than 1,300 rushing yards, smashing the single season NFL quarterback record in that category.  

The break ends next Sunday with a game against the unbeaten and defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. We’ll soon see how and what the Ravens learned during their time off.

And that’s how I see it for this week.