The 2018 quarterback class has had its ups and downs. The five players drafted in the first round (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh AllenJosh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson) have seen a whole lot of changes during their short time in the NFL, and they all find themselves in much different places toward the end of the 2019 season than they did just a year and a half ago. 

On Thursday night, we get to see two of those quarterbacks in action. Jackson, the MVP frontrunner, has the Ravens riding high atop the AFC with an 11-2 record. Darnold's Jets have a 5-8 mark, though because he missed several games earlier in the season while battling mononucleosis, they are are more respectable 5-5 in his starts. 

New York enters this game having won four of its last five following an embarrassing three-game losing streak, but it's hard to forget that they lost to the previously winless Bengals two weeks ago. Baltimore, meanwhile, has won a league-high nine consecutive games, with six of those wins coming against teams currently in playoff position. 

This should be a fascinating game, so let's break down the matchup. 

Dubin joined Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to dive deep into the Thursday night matchup. Give it a listen below, and be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform:

How to watch

Date: Thursday, Dec. 12 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)
TV: FOX, NFL Network | Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
SportsLine Odds: Ravens -16.5, O/U 45

When the Jets have the ball

The Jets have the worst offense in the NFL this season by several statistical measurements, but much of that is due to the three-week stretch they played without Darnold -- a stretch that saw them gain only 495 yards and score only 23 combined points. The Ravens have scored at least that many points in every game but one, and that one game was played against the NFL's second-best defense (the 49ers) in a driving rainstorm. 

This most consistent thing the Jets have shown this year is inconsistency. Darnold returned from his illness in Week 5 and lit up the Cowboys, only to see ghosts and have the worst game of his career against the Patriots the following week. The Jets scored 33 combined points in back-to-back losses to the Jaguars and Dolphins, then hung 34 on each of the Giants, Washington, and the Raiders in three successive wins, only to pull a no-show and score only six against the Bengals right after that. 

Darnold, in particular, has been wildly inconsistent, and there's really been no telling which version of him will show up in any given week. Until a couple weeks ago it looked like he struggled against elite pass defenses but was able to do well against bad ones, for the most part, but with subpar performances against each of the Bengals and Dolphins added to a relatively muted performance against Miami earlier in the season, that doesn't look like the case anymore. 


The Ravens have rounded into one of the very best defenses in the NFL, and they are led by a secondary that now looks to be on par with the New England unit that so frustrated Darnold back in Week 7. The NFL's best safety (Earl Thomas) patrols the back end for the Ravens, while Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Marcus Peters each repeatedly shut down receivers all over the field every week. 

Given the way the Jets often line up offensively, it's likely that Humphrey will see a lot of Jamison Crowder in the slot, and that could take away Darnold's favorite target, given how well Humphrey has played this year. If he wants to look to Robby Anderson and/or Demaryius Thomas, they won't have much easier matchups. Smith has been fantastic since returning from injury, while Peters has played at something close to an All-Pro level since being traded to Baltimore. (He's Pro Football Focus' third-highest graded cornerback since Week 7, and he has the second-highest coverage grade among 99 qualified players.) 

The Ravens will use all three of those players together, as well as Brandon Carr and Chuck Clark to go along with Thomas. It's an incredibly tough defensive backfield in which to find any holes whatsoever. They have a top-10 coverage unit by Football Outsiders' DVOA against every position except for tight end, and while Darnold has formed an unexpectedly solid connection with Ryan Griffin (filling in for the suspended and then injured Chris Herndon), it seems somewhat unlikely that that duo will be responsible for moving the ball up and down the field against this Baltimore defense. 

Of major concern for New York, the Ravens are also the blitz-heaviest team in the NFL this season, sending at least one extra rusher after the quarterback on 54 percent of snaps, per Pro-Football-Reference. (The next-closest team is the Buccaneers at 43 percent.) If you remember anything about the game against the Patriots, it's probably all the zero blitzes New England dialed up, and how unbelievably lost Darnold looked against them. Expect defensive coordinator Don Martindale to throw similarly exotic looks at Darnold earlier and often on Thursday night. 

It's tempting to say the Jets will want to base their attack around the exploits of Le'Veon Bell, but A. Bell is coming off the flu; B. they have shown no indication that they want to or are able to execute a run-heavy game-plan; and C. going into a conservative shell is just asking to be blown out by the Ravens. Undoubtedly they will look to get Bell his touches, assuming he actually suits up, but playing against a team as explosive as the Ravens demands aggression, not playing possum. 

When the Ravens have the ball

The Jets have actually been surprisingly effective on defense this season. Despite their opponents having the best average starting field position in the NFL, the Jets rank 12th in opponent points per drive. They've also allowed only 4.9 yards per play, the fifth-best mark in the league. The strength of their defense has been an ability to stop the run, where they rank second in DVOA despite playing nearly all of the season without inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and despite having traded away Leonard Williams before the deadline. 

New York ranks first in the NFL in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards allowed per carry, as well as first in the percentage of opponent runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage (32 percent). That means their strength matches up almost perfectly against Baltimore's greatest strength. The Ravens rank fourth in Adjusted Line Yards, and first in the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage (12 percent). 

The Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram-led run game is the most dangerous in the league, with Baltimore confusing defenses with exotic formations combined with a ton of pre-snap and at-snap motion, which they use to get into a power-based scheme that also involves the occasional zone-read. And while the Jets have indeed been strong against the run, Sports Info Solutions tracking has them facing only five designed quarterback rush attempts all year. It's safe to say they have not gone up against and/or stopped anybody like Jackson just yet. Worse yet for the Jets, they have allowed the NFL's fourth-most scrambles and the seventh-most rushing yards to scrambling quarterbacks, another indication they may not be equipped to deal with Jackson. 

And that's before we get to the secondary, which has pretty much been a disaster all year. The Jets rank 22nd in pass defense DVOA this season, with a bottom-third ranking on throws to No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers, tight ends, and running backs. The only place they have been an above-average unit against is No. 3 and No. 4 receivers, but the Ravens use their third and fourth receivers less often than any team in the league. Their whole pass offense runs through Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, with a side dish of Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst, and occasionally Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, or Miles Boykin. The New York pass defense has also been prone to springing leaks deep downfield, and Jackson is one of the most prodigious deep ball throwers in the league. He has seven touchdown passes on throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, sixth-most in the NFL despite his having thrown only the 19th-most deep passes overall. 

He is a fantastically bad matchup for just about every team in the NFL, but it's also difficult to think of a team less equipped to deal with Jackson right at this particular moment than the Jets, who are already without their middle linebacker and will likely also be without their best defensive back (safety Jamal Adams is listed as doubtful), one of their best run defenders on the defensive line (rookie Quinnen Williams is also doubtful), their slot corner (Brian Poole is listed as out), and potentially one or more other important defensive lineman (Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon are both listed as questionable). 

Jackson and Andrews were each listed as questionable with injuries of their own, but Jackson has told reporters that he will play and Andrews seems to be trending in the same direction. If they're able to suit up, the Ravens seem likely to roll. 

Prediction: Ravens 33, Jets 14

Correction: This article previously stated that only four quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, mistakenly excluding Josh Allen.