Preseason football kicks off in earnest Thursday with a slate of games, including the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Eastern at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens are about about a 4 point favorite heading into this game.
Jags add Foles at quarterback
The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a disappointing 2018 season. Many pundits picked them to challenge the Patriots in the AFC last year as they had been coming off a year in 2017 when they went to the AFC title game and nearly beat the Patriots. Then they started off the 2018 campaign strong, beating the Pats in the second game of the season. They got off to a 3-1 start and looked like a contender once again, but then the wheels came off. They lost 7 straight and finished a dismal 5-11. That disappointing campaign forced a lot of changes in 2019.
The biggest change is at the quarterback position. The Jags finally said enough and jettisoned the underperforming Blake Bortles. They went out and made an upgrade, signing the Super Bowl MVP from 2017, Nick Foles. They also brought in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was Foles’ quarterback coach in Philadelphia. Also, star running back Leonard Fournette is healthy and that’s a huge lift. Last year, Fournette missed 7 games due to injuries. They also brought in Thomas Rawls and Alfred Blue as backups to Fournette. In addition, the Jags added Chris Conley to the wide receiver corps, which includes Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole.
On defense, the Jags are still pretty good. They ranked 4th in points allowed (19.8 points per game) and 5th in yards allowed (311.4 yards per game). They added linebacker Jake Ryan from Green Bay to a defense that already includes defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, linebacker Myles Jack, and defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. They should be good once again.
I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Jags because of last year but that would be a mistake.
Jackson takes the reins in Baltimore
The Baltimore Ravens ushered in a new era last season as they replaced long-time starter Joe Flacco with the rookie Lamar Jackson. Flacco went down with an injury in week 9 and the Ravens were floundering at 4-5 at the time. But then Jackson came on and gave them a spark that lifted them to 6 wins in their last 7 games to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs as the wildcard. They lost in the wildcard game to the Chargers, 23-17.
Coming into the 2019 season, there is no quarterback controversy. Flacco was sent to the Broncos, freeing the way for Jackson to take the reins as the starter. The Ravens will remain a run-first team under coach John Harbaugh and his new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Jackson had 1,201 yards in the air and 695 on the ground last year. And he almost had as many rushing TDs (5) as passing (6). They also added Mark Ingram from the Saints at running back, in addition to last year’s breakout back Gus Edwards. The offensive line, anchored by Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr. and All-Pro Marshal Yanda remains one of the best. The passing game will be less of a focus as Michael Crabtree and John Brown are gone. But the tight ends, with Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, are excellent. And they still have Willie Snead in the slot. They also drafted wide receivers Miles Boykin and speedy Marquise Brown.
The Ravens had the NFL’s best total defense last year but they lost a lot of talent from that unit. Linebacker C.J. Mosley left for the Jets and sack leader Za’Darius Smith went to Green Bay. Linebacker Terrell Suggs went to Arizona, while safety Eric Weddle was waived. They did bring in Earl Thomas from Seattle, who will help an already good defensive backfield, led by Marlon Humphreys and Jimmy Smith. In the front 7, they’ll need some players to step up to fill the void left by Mosely, Suggs, and Smith. Matthew Judon, Michael Pierce and run stuffer Brandon Williams will be counted on heavily.
- Ravens are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 Thursday games.
- Jaguars are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 Thursday games.
- Jaguars are 2-5-2 ATS in their last 9 vs. AFC.
- Jaguars are 2-8-2 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
- Jaguars are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 road games.