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Flying with the Flock: Falcons at Ravens Preview and Prediction

Falcons at Ravens Preview and Prediction

FALCONS AT RAVENS PREVIEW AND PREDICTION – This game is a battle of the biggest chokers in the league versus the Atlanta Falcons.

At least last week the Ravens had the courtesy to save us the heart attack by losing by multiple possessions.

Unfortunately, no week as a Ravens fan is without turmoil. On Wednesday the team lost Devin Duvernay to what is likely a season-ending foot injury.

Lamar appears to be behind schedule in his recovery from the PCL strain. We’re yet to see him practice since he went down with the injury. Despite a 97% chance to make the playoffs, it certainly feels like the Ravens’ season is falling apart.

An Offense Worse than Ours?!

I realize if any fans of the 5-9 Falcons are reading this, I sound like a spoiled fan who’s whining about his playoff team.

And they’d have a fair point because the Falcons have been a tough watch this season. Between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, Falcons fans have been forced to suffer through some really poor quarterback play.

The Falcons are in no way better than their record suggests, but they aren’t totally lacking in talent. Cordarrelle Patterson continues to play a new position every season, somehow improving with every career transition.

This season, he’s the Falcons’ bell-cow running back, averaging over 5 yards per carry. If you’re looking for a reason to hate this Falcons team, look no further than Arthur Smith. Atlanta’s offensive coordinator was the orchestrator of the Titans’ outside zone scheme that laid waste to the magical 2019 Ravens season.

Patterson isn’t quite King Henry, but he’s no slouch. He could present some problems if Baltimore’s defense doesn’t respect him and commit to stopping the run.

The Ravens will have to play aggressive on the back end. Even though Marcus Peters won’t play, Marlon Humphrey and the rest of the secondary are up to the task.

Desmond Ridder

It will also help that they’re facing third-round rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder. His performance against the Saints last week was what you’d expect of a rookie quarterback making his debut on a semi-untalented roster.

He completed only 50% of his passes and looked generally overwhelmed. His arm is nothing special and he poses no threat with his legs.

While it’s reasonable to expect his play to take a step forward on Saturday, he’ll still be the worst starting quarterback Baltimore’s defense has faced this season. 

Red Zone Woes on Red Alert

How much worse could this Ravens offense get?

They’re a below-average unit in the first eighty yards of the field, but once they reach the red zone, a switch flips and they become an unwatchable operation that scalds the eyes of every viewer.

In their last three games, they’ve scored red zone touchdowns at the 28th-worst rate in the league (28.57%). I was surprised to find they weren’t dead last in that metric this season because after being forced to watch every one of their red zone snaps, I could not imagine a less efficient offense.

Porous Atlanta Defense

Fortunately, they face an Atlanta defense that’s ranked 22nd in red zone defense, allowing their opponents to come away with a touchdown nearly 60% of the time.

Falcons’ defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, was involved in a collision last week before the Saints game that sent him to the hospital. Atlanta used their linebackers coach, Frank Bush, as the interim coordinator for the game.

Bush knew he was coaching a group lacking in talent, opting for a “bend but don’t break” approach last week by dropping into zones rather than challenging his opponents in man coverage.

Zone coverage has the potential to be just as suffocating and effective as man, but it requires elite communication.

Atlanta’s linebackers looked absolutely frozen against the Saints, letting Andy Dalton dice them up for a pair of touchdowns and a 132.2 quarterback rating.

With the loss of Duvernay, Pees will likely alter his conservative approach to force the Ravens’ junior varsity receivers to beat the Falcons’ corners in one-on-one situations. Sammy Watkins is a decent signing, but putting Lamar Jackson out there with these weapons would be bordering on malpractice.

Final Thoughts

The Ravens’ offense is broken.

I don’t care who they’re playing against, they will find a way to struggle and shoot themselves in the foot. I severely doubt Ridder will be able to move the ball on a Ravens’ defense that has held its opponents to a league-leading 12 points per game over the last three games.

If Lamar ends up missing this one, Baltimore shouldn’t put the ball in the air a single time. Run it 60 times, take the field goal every time they can get it, and win this football game 9 – 0. The game might not end up being that ugly, but don’t anticipate a get-right game.

Final Score

Ravens 17, Falcons 9

Click here to read more of Peter’s Ravens coverage. 


The Odds

Spread: Ravens -6.5

Points Total: o/u 35

Moneyline: Falcons +235/Ravens -280

Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of 12/23

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