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Ravens News 11/25: Underdog Status and more

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

What’s Behind the Ravens’ Regression? - Nora Princiotti

Last year’s league-leading offense applied a valuable lesson learned in the 2018 playoffs when the Chargers eliminated the Ravens by playing seven defensive backs on nearly every defensive snap of their Wild Card game. Baltimore countered in the offseason by prioritizing blockers on the offensive line and at tight end, and by signing Ingram, who made a Pro Bowl and averaged 5 yards per attempt last season.

So far this season, the Ravens offense has seen six or more defensive backs on 102 snaps compared to 76 snaps in all of last season. Those defensive packages help take away the Ravens’ speed to the edges—important because of how often they use motion—and means teams can use a defender to spy Jackson while playing man-to-man to force him into tight-window throws.

Attacking those light defenses on the ground hasn’t worked for the Ravens like it has in the past. One reason for that is the Ravens offensive line, which isn’t the same unit PFF rated as the second-best in the NFL last year.

The greater issue than health, though, is that the Ravens have been able to run the ball well—it just hasn’t mattered as much because defenses are more inclined to keep their focus on preventing big gains in the passing game. The Ravens still have the top rushing offense in the league by total yards, but that combined with the 31st passing offense works out to just 24th overall.

Ravens continue to drop the ball in decades long search for star receiver - Mike Preston

The passing offense has become stagnant. The Ravens are limited because of Jackson’s struggles to throw accurate passes deep and outside the numbers. Brown and Jackson also lack opportunities because of the Ravens’ vanilla passing game, which only uses the middle of the field.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has spent most of his career developing running games, not passing attacks, even going back to his days in San Francisco from 2011 to 2014.

If the Ravens had a No. 1 receiver, that wouldn’t make Jackson more accurate, but it would at least give the Ravens another weapon for defenses to account for. That receiver could become a factor inside the red zone or make clutch catches despite being bracketed or double teamed. He could keep some defensive coordinators up at night while opening areas in the middle of the field for tight end Mark Andrews.

The Ravens have had similar bad luck with quarterbacks and running backs in their history, but that changed with Jamal Lewis and Joe Flacco. They need a similar fate with receivers.

This Is Just How the Ravens Like It - John Eisenberg

The Ravens will have a lot going against them when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night at Heinz Field.

They’re reeling from having lost three of their past four games, an ill-timed stumble that has pretty much erased their hopes of winning a third straight AFC North title.

They’ve added more key players to the Reseve/COVID-19 list.

The test results forced them to briefly close the Under Armour Performance Center in what is already a rushed week of preparation due to playing on the road on Thursday night.

Any one of those issues would be a cause for concern heading into a matchup with the Steelers, who have reeled off 10 straight wins to open the 2020 season. Put together, the issues definitely relegate the Ravens to solid underdog status.

But I’d be careful with taking all that into consideration and concluding that Thursday night’s contest is a lost cause.

The Ravens have a long history of thriving when the odds are stacked against them.

The current Ravens are comfortable having the odds stacked against them and perhaps even better off as underdogs, being on the road, doubted, etc., as opposed to being favored, at home, etc.

Week 12: Ravens-Steelers, Preview, Analysis, Prediction - Todd Karpovich

Defense

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers effective spreading the Ravens out. Roethlisberger completed 21 of 32 pass attempts for 182 yards with two touchdowns (101.3 rating). He was sacked twice. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team with seven receptions for 67 yards, followed by rookie Chase Claypool who caught five passes for 42 yards. Baltimore’s secondary needs to do a better job tackling after a poor performance last week against Tennessee. The Ravens held Pittsburgh to just 48 yards rushing on 16 carries. However, that performance will also be difficult to repeat with nose tackle Brandon Williams out of the lineup and defensive end Calais Campbell likely sidelined.

Prediction

The Ravens are short-handed because of injuries and have lost three of their past four games. The Steelers are riding high and playing with a lot of confidence, which is reflected in their 10-0 record. Baltimore simply cannot make any critical mistakes to win this game, but that still is likely not enough to overcome this challenge.

Final score: Steelers 30, Ravens 24

NFL Week 12 picks: Ravens stun undefeated Steelers on Thanksgiving, Chiefs get in shootout with Buccaneers - John Breech

Baltimore (6-4) at Pittsburgh (10-0)

As for this game, if there’s one week this year where the Ravens offense actually looked pretty unstoppable, it was against the Steelers. Although they lost 28-24 back in Week 8, the Ravens doubled the Steelers in total yardage (457 to 221) and mostly outplayed Pittsburgh except for four glaring mistakes, which were all turnovers from Lamar Jackson (two lost fumbles, two interceptions). If Jackson had just been slightly smarter with the football, I think Baltimore would have won that game and I think he’ll be slightly smarter with the football on Thursday night.

No, the Ravens won’t have Dobbins or Ingram, but they will have Gus Edwards, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the first meeting. I hate picking against a team that’s undefeated at home when they’re playing at home, but that’s what I’m going to do here.

The pick: Ravens 23-20 over Steelers