Previewing Week 13: Ravens vs Lions
After a Monday Night Football victory, the Ravens sit at 6-5 and still remain in position to win the final AFC Wild Card. The Ravens lethargic offense did not show many signs of life, but two critical 4th down conversions helped the Ravens build a first half lead that they would not relinquish. The secondary showed some signs of weakness as star WR DeAndre Hopkins torched Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr all night. If not for the front 7’s ability to pressure QB Tom Savage into some 3 turnovers, the game could have gone the other way. Now the Ravens face a very tough challenge facing a solid Detroit Lions team with an actual Franchise QB in Matthew Stafford. While not a must win game, it should give Ravens fans an idea about how real this team’s chances are of not only making the playoffs, but also competing against quality opponents.
Unlike the Ravens, the Lions have fairly consistent throughout the season, playing in a lot of close games where they have managed to barely beat some bad teams and also lose close ones to better opponents. QB Matthew Stafford is probably the sole reason they are not in the bottom tier of NFL teams as their offense has virtually no running game and completely depends on Stafford’s ability to make big plays to fuel their offense. Even then, they have a fairly mediocre offense that is completely one dimensional. The Ravens should be able to completely take away the Lions meager rushing attack and focus on limiting Stafford and his talented receiving corps led by WRs Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate, with TE Eric Ebron and RB Theo Riddick also posing as potential match-up problems for the Ravens in the short and intermediate passing game.
The Lions have not done a good job at protecting their QB this season as Stafford has taken 36 sacks on the season, tied for 3rd most in the NFL. They have recently upgraded at LT however, activating second year player Taylor Decker from the IR and releasing Cam Robinson, one of the main culprits along their offensive line. The Lions right side of their line is much stronger as it is anchored by former Raven Ricky Wagner and OG T.J. Lang, two free agent acquisitions that has worked out well for the Lions. While Stafford has done a good job of limiting interceptions he is among the league leaders in fumbles, so if the Ravens can get to him with their pass-rush, they will have a good chance to limit the Lions offense.
Ravens CBs Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr were exposed by an elite WR on Monday night, and while Jones and Tate are not at Hopkins’ level, they still pose significant threats both as down the field targets in the short area where they can make plays after the catch. Tate is shifty and explosive, playing mostly out of the slot which may give the Ravens some problems as the secondary’s strength is in the outside CBs. Jones should see a lot of Jimmy Smith and it is a match-up that Smith should be familiar with as Jones spent the first 4 years of his career in Cincinatti. Hopefully for the Ravens, rookie CB Marlon Humphrey will be healthy for this game as he has proven to be a strong asset when on the field.
The Lions defense has been similarly mediocre as their offense, with the strength of their unit being their pass defense led by shut-down CB Darius Slay and playmaking safety Glover Quin. Joe Flacco will have to be very careful when passing downfield as both Slay and Quin are dangerous veterans that will take advantage of any mistake. It would be wise for Flacco to target former Raiders first round draft choice D.J. Hayden as he has been much more prone to making mistakes in the secondary. While it may not make Flacco very happy, this is another game where attacking the underneath coverage of the Lions defense makes more sense than attacking vertically. The Lions have not been very successful at pressuring the QB this season, but Ezekiel Ansah and Anthony Zettel are both talented edge rushers that must be accounted for.
The Lions run defense has been surprisingly poor this season, and may provide an opportunity for the Ravens to find some offensive success as the Ravens rushing attack has been far more effective than the passing offense. The Lions are rated 23rd against the run by DVOA and are allowing 4.2 YPC. The Ravens have a formidable stable of RBs led by breakout player Alex Collins, but Buck Allen and Danny Woodhead have also proven to be reliable options out of the backfield. Collins showed up on the injury report this week, so it is possible that Terrance West also makes an appearance this week if Collins can’t go, although he was back practicing on Thursday. Collins has been the Ravens best playmaker on offense and if he is healthy should be the focus of the Ravens offensive attack on Sunday.
This is a game that the Ravens should win at home if they fancy themselves as playoff contenders. They match-up well with the Lions, and every home game is important to win at this stage of the season. I don’t see a lot of points scored in this one, but I think the Ravens manage to pull out the victory 20 – 16.