Both the Ravens and the Lions need a win on Monday night in a bad way. Both teams are 7-6 and would currently be playoff teams, but will likely have to win out to maintain that position.
Before we take a look at the current rosters, let’s go back to the last two games in this series.
On October 9, 2005, the Ravens went to Detroit and were dominated, 35-17. Baltimore gave away four turnovers and committed 21 penalties for a total of 147 yards. By comparison, Detroit’s entire offense produced 266 yards.
Want some more good news? Two Ravens (Terrell Suggs and B.J. Ward) were ejected for contacting an official. Needless to say it was among the worst games in franchise history.
Fast forward four years and you have a much different story.
When the Ravens hosted the Lions on December 13, 2009, Baltimore got plenty of payback as they won handily, 48-3. They more than doubled Detroit’s offensive output (548-229), committed just five penalties and held Calvin Johnson to 37 yards on four receptions.
On Monday night these two teams will meet again. It should be a high-scoring but close game according to the odds makers. The Vegas Insider consensus sees the Lions as 6-point favorites and has set the over/under at 48 points.
I see it turning out one of two ways. One, Joe Flacco will put on an incredible performance to silence his critics. Or two, the Lions will do what they usually do at home: watch Calvin Johnson take over.
Here are five ways the Ravens can avoid the latter and win their second road game of the year.
1. Double the real CJ2K on every play
This is a no-brainer. Calvin Johnson is 2nd in the league in receiving yards (1,351) and touchdowns (12). He’s a bigger Randy Moss.
I know Jimmy Smith is playing well this year but let’s not be naïve—he, like any defensive back, should get help against Johnson.
2. Be confident against Bush
Reggie Bush is an exceptional talent, but he can be stopped. In fact, he’s stopped himself often this season as he’s lost three fumbles in 2013. His best asset is his elusiveness, but the Ravens defenders are well-schooled and athletic enough to tackle him 1-on-1. It sounds simple but Baltimore defenders must have confidence they can make the play, stay sound in their mechanics and wrap him up.
3. Limit “splash” plays
Only the Eagles (81) and the Broncos (70) have more passing plays of 20 yards or more than the Lions do (65). Between Bush and Joique Bell, Detroit’s backfield keeps defenses guessing. The Lions can beat you horizontally or vertically, on long drives or on short drives. They’ve gained the 2nd-most yards (409.6) and the 6th-most points (346) of any team in football.
Make no mistake: Detroit is a big-play offense. The best way to defend them is to make splash plays on defense.
A sack, turnover or even a defensive touchdown is something overdue for the Baltimore defense. The Ravens have one turnover (Toby Gerhart’s “fumble” last week) and zero sacks in their last two games.
4. Be aggressive through the air
There is no one on Detroit’s defense who should be able to consistently defend Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown or Jacoby Jones. Considering Dennis Pitta is back and able to occupy the middle of the field, there’s no reason for Joe Flacco and the Ravens to not attack the Lions secondary repeatedly.
5. Use Rice & Pierce often in screen & draw game
Any Ravens fan can tell you these players’ performances this year compared to last year have not been impressive.
That can change Monday night. Detroit’s defense is built on the strength of their front four. They won’t blow you away with their sack total (27) but the Lions will put pressure on your quarterback all day long. To counter that pressure, Baltimore should call some screens and draws, which would use Detroit’s aggressiveness against them.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Lions 27