Late in the first half with the Ravens leading the Dolphins ... Christ, I can't remember but it felt like about "infinity sign to nothing," CBS play-by-play voice Andrew Catalon set up the next few days of dialogue in the Baltimore region. His question to Hall of Fame color analyst James Lofton was the one on all of our minds and the one that we'll be talking about until whenever Antonio Brown makes a prank call to "The Howard Stern Show" or whatever.
"How much of this is about the Ravens and how much of this is about the Dolphins?"
It's an impossible question to answer today, of course. It might never be a question that can be answered. Even if the Ravens end up being pretty good this season, the Dolphins are likely to be ... this. So if the Ravens are good and the Dolphins are bad, will we ever know how much this was about the Ravens and how much this was about the Dolphins?
My guess? It was somewhere around 50-50. I'll even say 60-40 Ravens. What's the science behind that? I wouldn't know. I'm not a scientist.
The most pressing Lamar Jackson question I had coming into the season was whether A) he had improved in terms of throwing the ball outside of the numbers or B) the Ravens had concocted an offense that wouldn't require Jackson to be particularly strong at throwing the ball outside of the numbers.
Despite the fact that Jackson looked like the best former Louisville quarterback turned Baltimore quarterback of all time in Week 1, we didn't get an answer to Part A. The Ravens moved the ball with such ease they never really had to try to throw outside the numbers. Jackson's only shaky throw in the first half happened to be outside of the numbers (an uncatchable ball intended for Marquise Brown on a rollout), but the sample size was smaller than the number of quality offensive players on Miami's roster.
Again, the question with Jackson has never been about whether he could throw the ball ... or even throw a deep ball. If you've watched him play (and I'm aware that a number of the folks who have spoken the loudest actually haven't), you know those were never issues. In the middle of the field, Jackson has been a capable to excellent thrower of the ball. For one week, the Ravens were able to make it work without having to even think about the weaker part of his passing game.
Honestly, it might not matter if Jackson has taken a step forward in throwing to the outside. Tom Brady barely does it, and the Patriots are likely to go 16-0 and waltz backward to a 17th Super Bowl title this year. You can build an offense that acknowledges a weakness. It would certainly be more ideal if we find out next week that Jackson has ALSO improved in that department, but it might not be imperative.
The "how much of this is about the Ravens and how much is about the Dolphins" question is a fascinating one, particularly because there can be no real answer. And also because the question can sort of go on forever. For example, when Maryland squashed Howard, 79-0, in its own season opener Aug. 31, we were quick to suggest the score was probably a little more indicative of where the Bison are than the Terrapins. Yet as I sat in College Park, Md., watching the Terps throttle then-No. 21 Syracuse, 63-20, Sept. 7, somehow the questions didn't go away even though the competition was FAR greater.
"How much of this is about Maryland and how much of it is about Syracuse being a bit overrated?" I was asked on Twitter. The answer? But of course, "Who knows?" Who could possibly know? Is the Orange likely to bounce back and take down No. 1 Clemson next week? Absolutely not. Will Maryland suddenly run straight through the Big Ten Legends (I know that's not it anymore but rest well, sweet princes) en route to a Rose Bowl appearance? Yes, obviously. Book your hotel rooms now.
I'm sorry. Apparently our "fact checkers" think that saying "Maryland is obviously going to the Rose Bowl, so make sure you spend all of your money on non-refundable travel" is "a bridge too far." OK, fine. But when it happens, remember where you (totally didn't) read it.
This of course is a wildly long-winded way of me saying the answer to the original question is "it doesn't matter." That's not even true; it actually matters significantly. It just doesn't matter today (although trust me, I'm going to keep talking about it). For now, we're allowed to enjoy an amazing Sunday and an unbelievably great football weekend. I think the (I'm so sorry, I keep forgetting to say FIRST-PLACE) Ravens are pretty good. How good? We're going to have to stay patient. I think the Terps might have a chance to outperform expectations and threaten to get bowl eligible.
Yet I don't think the two teams will continue to average a combined 67 points per game for the entire season. Because I do think their results so far have probably had at least a little to do with their opponents so far.
But right now, it's a $407 round trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles for New Year's Day if you wanna pull the trigger. We can drive to Miami in February if the Patriots all get the bird flu between now and the AFC championship game.
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