Can the Ravens extend their winning streak to three games and strengthen their hold on the AFC’s final wild card spot when they visit Atlanta in Week 13? RSR staff predict what we’ll see here…
The Ravens head to Atlanta in a near must-win situation. Conventional wisdom suggests that if the Ravens want to maintain control of their own destiny, they will need to take two of three games on the road against formidable quarterbacks in the forms of Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers.
Most would agree that such control starts with a win over the Falcons because realistically, road victories against both KC and LAC are highly unlikely.
Joe Flacco returned to practice in a limited way this week and that suggests one of two things:
· Joe has been medically cleared or;
· John Harbaugh’s gamesmanship with the announcement of a starting quarterback is in full bloom.
Maybe he just propped Joe up a couple of times during practice and made sure the media took his picture, to serve as a red herring for the dirty birds. Either way, it won’t matter.
· At home this season Ryan has averaged 348 yards passing 2 ½ TDs and 1/3 INTs which equates to a passer rating of 125.0. He’ll eclipse all of those totals against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, delivering 3 scores without a pick, 360 yards and a passer rating of 133.0.
· Mohamed Sanu’s best game in 2018 came at the expense of the Bengals when he hauled in 6 balls for 111 yards. On Sunday he’ll pile up 120 yards receiving and he’ll add a scoring toss to TE Austin Hooper.
· Willie Snead, who wasn’t targeted at all v. Oakland, will lead the Ravens with 8 catches for 70 yards and a score.
· In the end, a defense that can’t force turnovers and fails to rattle Ryan is exposed as the frauds they are.
The Ravens drop to (6-6), Joe Flacco announces that he’s ready to go against the Chiefs, and then let the Joe v. Lamar drama to rage on.
Falcons 31 Ravens 23
— Joe Flacco practiced this week for the first time since injuring his hip on Nov. 4. However, Lamar Jackson will likely start Sunday in Atlanta.
— The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards over the last two weeks. That running game will be pivotal again this week against the Atlanta Falcons and their high-powered offense. Baltimore needs to keep the Falcons off the field to avoid getting into a shootout. Atlanta is ranked just 25th against the run, allowing 123.7 yards per game, so that is a feasible plan.
— Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards. He also thrown 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Julio Jones is the league’s top receiver with 1,305 yards with three touchdowns. They are going to look to strike quick and often against a Ravens secondary that has not managed an interception since Week 5 in Cleveland.
— Prediction: This is not a good matchup for the Ravens against a high-octane offense in a dome. In addition, Jackson will be making his first start on the road.
Falcons 27, Ravens 20
With Joe Flacco back at practice, the plot has thickened just a little. However, the guess here is that he’ll remain inactive for at least one more week, and allow the Lamar Jackson Experience to roll on. The turf in Atlanta is ripe for LJ (and The Gus Bus) to burn up, and I think they will to an extent. Unfortunately, I’m afraid Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley (ugh), Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper (why bother covering tight ends?!) & company will jump out early, thanks in large part to a lack of pressure from the pass rush, and force Jackson and the Ravens to play catch-up.
The rookie isn’t quite ready for that just yet. Not on the road, and not with Marty at the controls.
A 10-0 Falcons lead after a quarter inches to 17-6 by halftime. LJ mounts a bit of a comeback in the second half as the Ravens outscore the Falcons 17-10 over the final 30 on the back of touchdowns by Edwards and Hayden Hurst. Alas, it’s not enough. The Falcons convert enough third downs (oh hey, Hooper is open again) to keep TOP mostly even for the game and hold off the good guys.
Falcons 27 Ravens 23
If the Ravens want to leave Atlanta with a win on Sunday, then they need to contain Julio Jones, bottom line. The best way to do that is limit his time on the field and control the clock with the run game. Marty and Harbs cannot afford to be cute this week as they tried last week in the first half and try to prove a point and show everyone LJ is a QB and can throw.
They need to go back to the game plan against Cincy where they ran the ball and controlled the clock.
The match-up to watch this week is not LJ vs. the Falcons defense, but the Atlanta receivers (Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper) vs. the Baltimore secondary. Tony Jefferson is out this week and Chuck Clark will start, which I think is an upgrade. I will be curious to see who covers Jones, Jimmy Smith or Marlon Humphrey. Personally, I would go with Marlon. Austin Hooper is the forgotten one of the bunch, but he is seeing a ton of volume and the Ravens for some reason cannot figure out how to cover TEs and keep them out of the end zone. He is the wild card this week.
— Jones is relatively held in check going 5/60/1.
— Hooper, as mentioned above, will find the end zone and have 8 catches for 50 yards.
— LJ and Gus both go over 100 yards on the ground as they take advantage of a bad Falcons rush defense.
— The defense will play relatively well, sacking Matt Ryan three times and holding him to 225 yards passing.
— In the end, this is a big test for Jackson going on the road for the first time. But as I have said over the past couple of weeks, I trust the Ravens defense to make one more play then the Falcons and they walk out with a win on a late Justin Tucker FG.
Ravens 27 Falcons 24
It seems like every remining game for the Ravens is a “must win.” Since they are coming up on difficult games versus the Chiefs and Chargers, Atlanta is a game that if they win that will give them confidence as they plan for KC the following week.
– With a still banged-up ATL defense, Lamar should have more success passing the ball when he scrambles, picking up close to 300 yards and 2 scores through the air. With Deion Jones questionable, Lamar has a chance to tear apart a relatively slow defense with his legs, racking up 75 yards and a score.
– Gus Edwards will continue his hot streak, racking up 120 yards off of 25 carries.
– The Ravens defense will have matchup problems with the amount of weapons Atlanta has. C.J Mosley will struggle in the slot and against Austin Hooper, I will take Julio versus Jimmy Smith any day, and Brandon Carr doesn’t have the speed to match up with rookie Calvin Ridley. Matt Ryan will hover around 300 yards and 3 scores.
Even with the Ravens are playing with a different level of energy and confidence with Lamar at QB, the magic will stop this week. The Falcons are better than their record suggests, and the Ravens will underestimate that. I think this is where the Ravens season ends, but it’s a game of development and growth for Lamar Jackson, and with his play improving every week, it won’t be enough to beat Atlanta.
Atlanta 28 Baltimore 24
For the third week in a row, the talk is yet again all about the quarterback. The old saying “if you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one” comes to mind but, ask the Eagles if they subscribed to that motto last year. I think that if Joe Flacco was healthy we might see both quarterbacks taking turns rather than the gadget plays that we had been seeing.
However, this Sunday I expect to see only Lamar Jackson.
Lamar has lit a spark for not only the offense but the entire team. How far that fire goes is anyone’s guess. Since Jackson’s first start I have considered the run game and controlling the clock to the biggest strength of the team. The defense might be ranked #1 but, they are not the same looking defense that started the season. They are tired and worn down and if they are going to last, Jackson is going to be a major factor in keeping them off the field as much.
Unlike last week I think we see a heavy dose of the run-game early which ends up opening up some big play-action passes down the field. The defense will have their hands full with the weapons the Falcons possess. Ultimately the Ravens rushing attack breaks down Atlanta’s fight in the game as they end up having no answer for the dual runners of Jackson and Gus Edwards.
Ravens 24 Falcons 17
The Ravens will muscle up on defense to hold the Falcons under 24 points at home including:
— The Ravens finally collect an interception on a tipped pass.
— Tim Williams returns and adds the additional critical mass to the Ravens pass rush that helps them pressure Ryan effectively.
— Ryan is not able to duplicate his previous success at home and has a pedestrian 2 TD, 1 INT game.
— The Ravens maintain effectiveness against the run while playing nickel.
— The Ravens continue to play well on the back end and hold the falcons to 43% or less on 3rd down, under their 49% season average.
On offense, the Ravens will do everything they can to shorten the game, but:
— Lamar Jackson will struggle with confusion caused by the noisy environment, which will be the root of at least 4 crowd-related events including wasted timeouts, false starts, and delay of game.
— However, the Ravens will compensate with scripted plays and simplified, 1-word play calls to make it easier for Jackson.
— The Ravens running game will keep them in the game by again gashing Atlanta, but ultimately falling short of 200 yards.
— Ty Montgomery will have 6+ catches, and the combination of John Brown, Mark Andrews, Willie Snead, and Chris Moore will combine for 3 big plays of 20+ yards.
— Jackson will have 2 interceptions, but he’ll also extend the pocket several times with his 3rd straight inverted ATS game (better average yards per pass without ATS than with a clean pocket).
— The Ravens frustrate the Falcons by reducing their total number of possessions and don’t let them get back on the field for a tying/go-ahead score in the last 4 minutes.
Ravens 26 Falcons 23