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Ravens News 12/30: Strong Front and more

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NFL: New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

NFL overreactions, Week 16: Ravens’ offense not built to win Super Bowl - Brandon Mendoza

Ravens’ offense not built to win the Super Bowl

The Ravens rushed 40 times for 249 yards in their 27-13 win over the Giants in Week 16. It was the Ravens’ fifth game of at least 200 rush yards this season (most in the NFL) and their 38th consecutive game of at least 100 rush yards, which is tied with the 1935-39 Lions for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only the 1974-77 Steelers had a longer streak (43 games).

In a league that has shifted from run-first to pass-heavy, it is impressive Baltimore has found so much regular-season success despite being the only team in the NFL to rush on more than 50 percent of its offensive plays in each of the last two campaigns.

Baltimore is running the ball on 54.5 percent of their offensive plays this season, a mark that 14 Super Bowl winners also hit during their roads to the Lombardi Trophy. However, 13 of those 14 teams won their titles in 1991 or earlier. The only outlier — the 2005 Steelers led by second-year QB Ben Roethlisberger. While the Ravens boast an NFL-best 177.8 rush yards per game, you have to go all the way back to the 1975 Steelers to find a team that rushed for at least 175 yards per game in the regular season and then won the Super Bowl.

Ravens’ defensive front returning to full strength at just the right time - Mike Preston

Buried under the Ravens’ avalanche of offensive production in recent weeks are the returns of Williams and Campbell to the starting lineup. Replacements Justin Madubuike, Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington performed well when the two veterans were out with injuries, but the Ravens need their top linemen if they want to get into the postseason and make a run.

“It’s a plus,” coach John Harbaugh said about the return of Campbell and Williams. “I thought Calais played well. It’s good to see him getting healthy again, and I think he’ll be even better as we go forward. Brandon is playing at a high level. [Starting defensive end] Derek Wolfe is playing at a high level. Madubuike had another really good game; he keeps getting better every single week.

“Justin Ellis is playing really well. Those guys all did a great job in the game. So, we have some depth in there. Certainly Calais, he’s one of the best ever. It’s great to have him back, and it makes a difference.”

Campbell can also collapse the pocket, which stops quarterbacks from stepping up to throw. Without any lanes in the middle, Jones became a much easier target for outside linebackers Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee and Yannick Ngakoue.

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Justin Fields to Atlanta, Jaylen Waddle to Philadelphia, first-round WR to Green Bay - Austin Gayle


Baltimore’s 2019 draft picks Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin haven’t lived up to expectations. Rookies James Proche and Devin Duvernay have been gadget players at best in 2020. Willie Snead IV is an afterthought in the offense and is expected to test free agent this offseason. Dez Bryant is 32 years old and nearly quit the team after testing positive for COVID-19. If Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore or even Kadarius Toney is still on the board late in the first round, Baltimore might have to prioritize need and sprint the card in.

Why Ravens Will Take Care of Business This Time - John Eisenberg

The Bengals would love to play spoiler again, and no doubt, they’re capable. Although they’re only 4-10-1 this season, they’ve won two straight games and solidly thumped the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

“They’re playing their best football of the season, really, by far,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Nonetheless, I’d be extremely surprised if the Ravens didn’t take care of their business Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Although the Bengals are feisty, the Ravens are favored by 11 points and have a long, long history of winning such games. Since they moved to Baltimore in 1996, they’re 41-0 in regular season games in which they’re double-digit favorites – quite a stat, huh?

With their playoff aspirations gone, the Bengals surely see Sunday’s game as their postseason. But it’s hard to envision them stopping the Ravens’ powerful ground game, which has dominated several stout rushing defenses recently with multiple extra blockers helping open holes for Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards.

NFL Week 17 picks: Cowboys earn improbable postseason berth, Bears lose to Packers but still make playoffs - John Breech

Baltimore (10-5) at Cincinnati (4-10-1)

1 p.m. ET (CBS)

For the second time in three years, these two teams are meeting in Week 17 in a game the Ravens need to win to keep their playoffs hopes alive and I think we all remember what happened the last time the Ravens needed a Week 17 win against the Bengals.

The 2017 Bengals were a monstrous underdog — the Ravens were favored by eight — but they still managed to pull off the win. This week, the Bengals are also a monstrous underdog, so the planets could be aligning for another upset. The Bengals are playing their best football of the season on defense and actually look competent on offense, which could be an issue for Baltimore. Although I’m an admitted Bengals homer, I’m not going to pick them to win here, but I do think it will be a lot closer than people think.

The pick: Ravens 30-23 over Bengals