I am taking a break from gambling content to do something I’m actually good at: harass people with stupid opinions and discredit their entire existence with facts.
Today’s victim is not an NZI Writer, but rather, Giants writer for Fansided, Matt Lombardo.
The internet is a great place for free expression; however, it provides a platform for hack journalists like Matt who want to spew hot takes for clicks.
Well, Matt, congrats; I fell for your bait, and now it’s time to explain to the world why you are a moron. Maybe stick to covering the dumpster-fire Giants and leave analysis of functioning franchises to the intelligent people.
Matt decided today was a good day to post an article titled, “Has NFL figured out how to beat Lamar Jackson and the Ravens?” — and that was his first mistake. The article in question just proves that a blue checkmark doesn’t mean anything. It is the same tired and overplayed narrative that has existed since the end of 2018. It’s essentially punting on admitting you were wrong about Lamar.
The article shapes up as you’d expect: Lamar is the reigning MVP; they won a closer-than-expected game against the Eagles after a bad second half; they lost to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football at home; Lamar isn’t putting up the video game numbers he did last year… really, just playing the classics.
Matt then goes on to say the Steelers are better than they were last year, and that the Ravens’ next five games are make-or-break. He even throws in some “anonymous scout sources” who say the Ravens are in trouble.
Matt embodies why I despise the hot take business; lazy, clickbait articles with little-to-no substance but maximum reaction. I realize, by responding, I am part of the problem, but I can only read the same dumb and incorrect narrative being spewed out into the world before I feel the need to respond.
So, Matt, here is the attention you ordered — and you will not like the outcome.
The 2019 Ravens will be remembered as one of the best offenses in league history. Lamar was named the unanimous league MVP; the team broke all kinds of offensive records; and after a 2-2 start, they went on a 12 game winning streak and ended up 14-2. The problem with the Matt Lombardos of the world is that they look at the end result, and not the journey to get there.
Before the Week 8 bye last season, there were a lot of rumblings about the Ravens that you’re hearing now: “Has Lamar been figured out? Can the Ravens compete with Lamar under center?”
Lamar came out of the gates hot against Miami and Arizona last year, then sputtered in the next five games. The Ravens went into the bye after a defensive beatdown of the Seahawks, where Lamar was just 9-of-20 for 143 yards passing, then faced a tough stretch coming out of the bye with the Patriots, Texans, Rams, 49ers, and Bills in five of the next six games.
Here are Lamar’s stats for 2019 leading into the bye:
The remainder of the season is where the Ravens and Lamar really hit their stride, coming out of the bye and dominating their opponents.
Lamar finished the season on an absolute tear, and it was his last eight starts where he solidified his place as MVP, becoming the superstar player for which everyone had high expectations.
For reference, here are how his last eight starts went:
The rest of the season is history. The Ravens finished 14-2, got bounced in the Divisional round, and then came into 2020 with lofty expectations due to the success they had in closing out the 2019 regular season.
The Ravens made a ton of moves this offseason. They lost future Hall-of-Fame RG Marshall Yanda; they dealt TE Hayden Hurst to the Falcons; and they replaced veteran WRs like Seth Roberts with unproven rookies like Devin Duvernay.
All that said, the Ravens are going into their Week 7 bye at 5-1 with many people asking the same questions they did at this point last year about Lamar’s sustainability.
The Ravens are currently leading the league in points scored, but are coming off a pretty bad performance in Philly where they needed to hold off a late comeback to get the win.
Lamar is facing questions about why he isn’t playing at his MVP level, and people are panicking or firing off moronic takes. Here are Lamar’s stats up to this point in the season:
I am, by no means, a box score watcher, and I realize the stats don’t always tell the full story. But, there are some pretty big similarities that are worth pointing out in the weeks prior to the bye, both last year and this year — primarily, the times Lamar Jackson has been sacked.
In Matt Lombardo’s article — and in every article declaring the Ravens’ demise — they tend to key in on the sack numbers. They like to point out that Lamar has been sacked 15 times in six games this year, after having been sacked only 23 times all of last year.
But, what they fail to mention is that protection was an issue early last season, as well.
Offensive lines tend to take time to gel and play as a unit. They need film to breakdown and see where they are failing on blocking assignments and what they need to adjust. The adjustment was clear as day last season, and it was a key part of Lamar setting the league on fire in the last eight games.
Additionally, two other takeaways include the reduction in INTs and the reduced amount of carries.
WHY MATT LOMBARDO AND ANYONE WITH HIS OPINION IS WRONG
I have clearly painted a picture here, not only of Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens as a whole being a second-half team.
Again, it’s easy to look at last year as a finished product and assume the Ravens offense was dominant wire-to-wire, but that just isn’t the case. The Ravens, as a team, are still averaging 160+ yards per game on the ground and well over 5.0 yards per carry. Lamar doesn’t run the ball as often as I think he should, but it is still worth noting that, when he does run, he has been incredibly effective.
The point of this entire rant is that judging the Ravens on a small sample size of games and proclaiming them dead is an absolutely foolish approach to analysis. Expecting a John Harbaugh-coached team to not come out of the bye adjusted and ready to dominate is absolutely insane.
The Matt Lombardos of the world want you to think Lamar Jackson is a fad. They want to isolate a handful of games where a guy who has gone 24-6 as a starter, struggles and will say, “Oh look, he’s been figured out.”
The truth of the matter is, you can splice data, look at a small cluster of games, and see a small trend, but it will never paint the overall picture.
Are the 2020 Ravens on the same pace at they closed out 2019? Absolutely not, and anyone who expected them to replicate exactly what they did at the end of last season is a fool.
Do the 2020 Ravens have adjustments to make? Of course — as does every other team in the NFL.
COVID-19 presented unique challenges to all NFL teams with the lack of preseason games to really evaluate their roster and adjust prior to Week 1. The bye week is what gives the Ravens an opportunity to review what they’ve done well, what needs improvement, and to attack.
Am I expecting the Ravens to come out of the bye and light the world on fire like they did last year? No; but at the end of the day, the Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this.
If you disagree, feel free to take it up with me on Twitter. I will be more than happy to dismantle your half-assed attempts at disproving facts, and make you look dumb. I would love nothing more than to dedicate a chunk of my day to let you know why you have the football IQ of a rock.
If you agree, let Matt Lombardo know that he should find a new job.
(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Hubbard / BaltimoreRavens.com)