CINCINNATI — Von Miller swears he has seen the future of football in Lamar Jackson, who is revolutionizing the quarterback position in the NFL’s 100th season.
“He’s so dynamic,” the Broncos' outstanding linebacker said. “He’s showing you can win in this league with a running quarterback.”
If he keeps running like this, Jackson is going to juke his way into the record books - and possibly the Super Bowl.
The Ravens' second-year quarterback leads the league with an average of 6.4 yards per carry. With 637 yards rushing through eight games, Jackson is on pace to break Michael Vick’s single-season quarterback record of 1,039 yards set in 2006.
Not only are the Ravens leading the league in rushing with 204.9 yards per game, they are on pace to become the first team to average at least 200 yards rushing since 1977 when Walter Payton and the Bears did it.
Maybe the Bengals' best hope for not getting blown out by Jackson & Co. Sunday is if the Ravens come in full of themselves after beating the Patriots and being showered with Super Bowl talk by the national media.
The 6-2 Ravens are 10-point favorites against the 0-8 Bengals, who have by far the league’s worst run defense and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start.
“Everyone is feeling good right now, and everyone is happy, and everyone’s emotions are high,” Ravens tight end Nick Boyle said after handing the Patriots their first loss last Sunday night.
But Jackson expected the Ravens to keep an even keel.
“I feel like our team already knew what we were capable of. We just had to show it, and we did that,” the quarterback said. “We have to build off that. We just can’t get on our high horse and feel like we just won the Super Bowl, because we didn’t.”
Jackson ripped apart the Patriots' league-leading defense with his arm and legs, accounting for three touchdowns and directing a dominant running game in a 37-20 victory. Jackson ran for 61 yards and two touchdowns and completed 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and a score. Mark Ingram rushed for 115 yards and the Ravens amassed 210 yards on the ground.
How will the Bengals ever stop that? They won't, if their first meeting this season is any indication.
The Ravens piled up a season-high 269 yards rushing against the Bengals in a 23-17 victory on Oct. 13. Jackson led the way with a career-high 152.
That was one of Jackson's three 100-yard rushing games this season. By comparison, three of the league's most notable running backs - Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy - have combined for none.
Jackson is on pace to run for 1,274 yards this season. Vick is the only NFL QB to top 1,000.
The Ravens' blitzing defense has been just as imposing as its offense, picking off Brady, sacking him twice and hitting him 10 times. It blanked the Patriots over the final 22 minutes.
There's no reason to think Ryan Finley, a fourth-round draft choice, can do any better than Brady did.
It will be interesting to see how Bengals head coach Zac Taylor tries to attack the Ravens' defense. Taylor doesn't have much choice but to let Finley air it out because he can't rely on the league’s worst running attack.
Nor would just handing off the ball help the Bengals decide if Finley has the makings of a starting QB or if they need to draft one next year.
With star receiver A.J. Green still sidelined, the answer might be dink passes to running back Joe Mixon, who has three touchdown catches. Mixon, who led the AFC in rushing last year, has repeatedly been hit in the backfield and has only 320 yards on 101 carries.
Mixon said Friday he'd like to get the ball more to take some of the pressure off Finley.
“It definitely is frustrating I don’t get the ball, but I’m sure, at the end of the day - at least I hope - they’ll understand you’ve got to get the rock to me,” Mixon said. “That’s just what it is.”
Baltimore has won four in a row overall to take control of the division, leading Pittsburgh by two games. A victory at Paul Brown Stadium would give the Ravens their first series sweep of Cincinnati since 2011 and their longest winning streak since 2010, when they took the last four in the regular season and beat Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Pittsburgh.