clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ravens News 11/18: At a Crossroads and more

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Debrief: NFL teams that should be frustrated after Week 10 - Gregg Rosenthal

Baltimore Ravens

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle, perhaps the best blockers at their positions in the entire NFL, are not coming back. The soft middle of the Baltimore offensive line was attacked by the Patriots, the latest team to limit Ravens runners not named Lamar. Injuries to run-stuffers Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and L.J. Fort limit some of the creative ways defensive coordinator Don Martindale likes to call plays. It’s hard to blitz with impunity if the opposition avoids long-yardage situations or simply refuses to pass.

The Titans-Ravens playoff rematch this week is fascinating for so many reasons, including the Titans being well-suited to adopt New England’s run-heavy approach from Week 10. When Baltimore and Tennessee last met, a spot in the AFC Championship Game was on the line. This year, it feels like survival is at stake. The Ravens still have enough strengths — starting with Lamar Jackson and their pass defense — to believe they can weather this storm. But their team is catching the injury bug later and harder than most, just as the games get more meaningful.

With injuries piling up, Ravens season reaches a crossroads - Mike Preston

As much as the NFL has evolved through the years, there has been one constant: Control the line of scrimmage, or lose.

The Ravens have reached that point, and possibly the crossroads of their season. It is mid-November, the time of the year when serious title contenders separate themselves from the middle of the pack.

“Whoever is in the game needs to play to a standard,” Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon said after the loss to New England. “When we let up that many rushing yards from a team, that’s unacceptable. We’re going to get on film and get it fixed, because if they have a rushing attack … If a team runs the ball like that, you usually lose. So, there’s no excuses.”

“A lot of guys have to step up, and we’re going to find out about ourselves,” Ravens receiver Willie Snead IV said. “We’re going to find out about the mold of this team — offense and defense. I think a lot of guys that are going to have to step up, they will step up, and they will show they can make an impact on this team — whoever that may be. We’re 6-3; we’re still in a good spot.”

Winning Battles Up Front Is Top Priority - John Eisenberg

Not every team can count on prevailing physically against the Ravens, one of the NFL’s toughest teams. But Baltimore’s offensive line has been a work in progress all season. And on a night when the defensive front was shorthanded, the Patriots’ powerful offensive line was the wrong matchup.

The Ravens have other issues. Their passing game is among the league’s least productive. Other than Willie Snead IV, their wide receivers aren’t making many plays. A run of injuries to cornerbacks has them scrambling at that position. Their penalty habit refuses to ebb.

But in my mind, getting back to winning battles up front is the top priority, especially with the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers up next on the schedule.

Defensively, the returns of Campbell, Williams and Fort would help, but it’s unclear when that’ll happen. Meanwhile, Baltimore has dropped to No. 22 in the league in average yards allowed per rush.

NFL Week 11 picks and odds: Rams stun Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, Colts pull off wild win over Packers - John Breech

Tennessee (6-3) at Baltimore (6-3)

The biggest problem for the Ravens is that they’ve gotten worse since that game was played. The offense has regressed and the defense still can’t stop the run, which you may or may not have noticed if you watched the Ravens play the Patriots on Sunday night. The Ravens are surrendering 4.5 yards per carry on the ground this year and I think we can all agree that that’s not ideal when you’re about to face a guy like Derrick Henry.

Although the Ravens aren’t as good as they were last year, that statement also applies to the Titans. Tennessee’s defense has been like a Rubik’s Cube this year, except the cube only has four squares and everyone can solve it. The Titans are surrendering 398.1 yards per game this year, which is the ninth-most in the NFL. The Titans defense is so bad that I want to predict a shootout, but the Ravens offense has been struggling so much that I’m not even sure they know what a shootout is anymore.

The pick: Titans 30-23 over Ravens

NFL picks, predictions against spread Week 11: Seahawks stop Cardinals; Chiefs edge Raiders; Bucs dump Rams - Vinnie Iyer

Lock of the Week: Ravens (-6.5, 49 o/u) over Titans

The Ravens realize their chances of winning the AFC North again are fading, so they’ll focus on making sure they at least lock up the wild card with Lamar Jackson. Their memories of being upset by the Titans at home in last season’s playoffs should prompt them to play better in the rematch. The Titans’ defense is wilting while the Ravens can still count on theirs as a backbone, despite key injuries. Jackson is more comfortable at home than Ryan Tannehill is on the road.

Pick: Ravens win 27-17 and cover the spread.