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Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Rams Preview

Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Rams Preview

FLYING WITH THE FLOCK: RAVENS VS. RAMS PREVIEW – Over their bye week, the Ravens managed to win without even playing. Since Baltimore beat the Chargers 14 days ago, the Steelers have lost twice, and the Browns have lost once. The Chiefs’ loss in Green Bay means Baltimore can claim the No. 1 seed by winning out.

Birds’ Bye Week 

The psychological effects of a bye week vary by team. Leaguewide, teams have a record of 15-9 coming off a bye week. The Ravens are 4-1 in the regular season following a bye in the Lamar Jackson era, but the 2019 divisional meltdown complicates that narrative.

Whether the Ravens look rested or rusty on Sunday, the players will appreciate getting some time off after their grueling start to the year. Hopefully, OBJ, Ronnie Stanley, Marcus Williams, and all the other players who have been nicked up all year seized the opportunity to get fully healthy.

Isaiah Likely is another player to watch for coming off the break. Thrust into the spotlight following Andrews’ injury, Likely is coming off his first week ever taking exclusively first-team reps as “the guy” at tight end.

Rebuild Rams

Nobody but Puka Nacua’s parents knew who he was entering this season. And even Mr. and Mrs. Nacua would’ve scoffed had you told them in August that their son would eclipse the thousand-yard mark in 13 weeks.

He and Cooper Kupp form one of the league’s best receiver duos. It helps to have one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks serving them passes.

Matthew Stafford never got credit for his elite effort on the perennial loser Lions.

That all seemed to change after he led L.A. to a Super Bowl run in 2021, but a combination of injuries and poor supporting talent has made him undervalued once again. Stafford has uplifted the unproven players around him and powered the Rams to their 6-6 start. 

Don’t Forget About Donald

Ageless Wonder Aaron Donald continues to warrant double-teams on every play.

His 90.2 PFF grade is an All-Pro-worthy mark. Tyler Linderbaum sports a respectable 75.9 grade, but Donald is a different beast. Linderbaum will need to have a phenomenal performance to keep Donald from wrecking the game. I’m hoping a week of rest will have the O-line ready to repel the Rams’ strong pass rush. 

Keeping a Good Thing Going

On paper, the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defense appears up to the task of controlling the Rams’ 13th-ranked offense.

The potential return of Pepe Williams could bolster a Ravens secondary that already ranks first in yards per pass allowed.

Regardless of whether Pepe makes his season debut, Arthur Maulett has proven to be a more than capable slot corner. The Rams’ run game will likely struggle to move the ball against the likes of Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen.

There isn’t a better linebacker duo in the league than those two, as shown in their Week 12 takeover vs. the Chargers. 

Lamarvelous Season

Todd Monken’s insistence on feeding Gus Edwards on the goal line has hurt Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign. Despite robbing Lamar of some cheap touchdowns, Monken’s attack has been a breath of fresh air for those who suffered through Greg Roman’s claustrophobic offenses.

Jackson has looked like a completely different player compared to earlier in the year when his indecision in the pocket was infuriating.

He’s playing well in rhythm and excelling when the play breaks down. Although he lacks the all-time great quickness of 2019, he is far and away a better processor and complete quarterback. 

Final Thoughts

With three division winners left on Baltimore’s schedule, L.A. is a must-win for the No.1 seed to be in play. The Ravens have dealt with their share of injuries this year, but compared to the rest of the AFC, they’re in good shape.

And with Burrow, Lawrence, and Pickett getting hurt and the Chiefs looking mortal, now is the time for the Ravens to make a serious run at a championship.

Whether it’s fair or not, 2019 will continue to be the measuring stick of the Lamar era. Baltimore, may not be as high-octane as they were four years ago, but they’re grizzled, battle-tested, and positioned to close this season out in impressive fashion. 

Ravens 24, Rams 17

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