Previewing Week 6: Bears at Ravens
The Ravens earned a much needed win in Oakland this past Sunday, and they are now 3-2 and tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. It was encouraging to watch the Ravens offense rebound after a couple of poor showings as the offensive line kept QB Joe Flacco clean and keyed the rushing attack as the Ravens grinded out some important 1st downs in the 4th quarter. Next up is a home game against the Chicago Bears who will be starting rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky in his second ever NFL start. The Bears offense, especially the passing offense, has been lackluster so far this season, but the Ravens will have a tough task stopping the Bears rushing attack that has been fairly potent through 5 weeks. In the NFL, every week is a new challenge and no game is a gimme win. That said, this is a game the Ravens should and really need to win at home if they hope to build off of an impressive road victory.
The Ravens did a lot of things right this past week in Oakland, and the offense in particular will look to build off their impressive performance on the road in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. The offensive line looked fantastic against the Raiders, but they will have some stiff competition playing a very solid Chicago Bears defensive front led by former Ravens OLB Pernell McPhee and DT Akiem Hicks. Hicks in particular is a disruptive force both in the run game and against the pass and will give problems to the Ravens offensive guards, especially with the position hurting for depth right now after Matt Skura’s injury. If the Ravens offensive line can handle the Bears front 4, it will bode well for the offense as the Bears LB position is thin right now due to injury.
Overall, the Bears have a very solid defense in terms of yards allowed ranking 6th in the NFL in total defense and are above average against both the pass and the run. However, they are near the bottom of the league in forcing turnovers, and poor field position due to an ineffective and turnover-prone offense has hurt their ability to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. What could make or break the Ravens offensive performance may be their ability to convert on 3rd down. The Bears defense has struggled mightily on 3rd down, allowing opposing offenses to convert 45.5% of the time while the Ravens offense has been surprisingly efficient this season, converting 39.7% of the time.
I would expect the Ravens offense to lean on the run game and short passing game to keep the chains moving and stay on schedule with RBs Buck Allen and Alex Collins both figuring heavily in the gameplan. The Bears have done a good job this season at limiting teams vertically, so I would not expect too many deep attempts by Joe Flacco this week. However, if the opportunity arises Flacco has shown he is more than capable of hitting his receivers, especially WR Mike Wallace, deep down the field.
When the Bears have the ball, they will likely heavily lean on their running game as they have all season. Jordan Howard is an impressive young RB and the Bears have a very good run-blocking offensive line. Tarik Cohen has also proven to be a versatile change of pace RB who can also flex out as a WR. We do not yet know the status of Ravens run stuffing DT Brandon Williams, but his absence has led to issues for the Ravens run defense that has not played up to their typical standards this season. Dean Pees may look to stack the box in an effort to stop the run and really force Trubisky into some tough situations.
The Bears rookie signal-caller had an up and down first game in front of his home crowd on Monday night making some impressive throws both from the pocket and on the move, but he also had some rookie mistakes including a costly late interception trying to force the ball to his TE Zach Miller. The Ravens will have to gameplan for Trubisky’s mobility and ability to thrown on the run. Broken plays can turn into big gains if downfield coverage breaks down as we saw last week in Oakland. With the status of CB Jimmy Smith uncertain, the Ravens first round rookie CB Marlon Humphrey will look to start his second straight game, and his ability to shutdown opposing WRs will go a long way towards containing the Bears passing attack. It will be important to keep Trubisky contained, and I would expect this to be a game where Pees carefully chooses when and how to send blitz pressure, although I also think he will show Trubisky a number of different pre-snap pressure looks before dropping into coverage post-snap.
The Ravens have a distinct advantage of being the home team playing against a rookie QB making his first ever road start. The Bears do have a solid defense and I don’t expect too many points to be scored by either team in this game, but the Ravens just have too many advantages to not earn the win here barring extreme circumstances. Ravens take this one at home 26 – 13.