Week 13 Preview: Why Would You Wish This on Jalen Hurts? - Gary Gramling
It’s fair to debate whether, this offseason, the Ravens should go after a receiver or a tight end among skill position needs. In 2020, more teams have chosen to play extra defensive backs (more speed) against the Ravens; when they traded Hayden Hurst to Atlanta last offseason, it took away the opportunity for those three-tight end alignments that forced opponents into more base looks (which means less speed and less overall talent, since everyone builds their roster with a nickel base in mind). For that reason, tight end as a first priority is reasonable.
But I’d like to show you Jackson’s last two interceptions. The first is a 9-route to Hollywood Brown, working one-on-one against J.C. Jackson in Foxboro, and the second is a late-in-the-down deep ball intended for Devin Duvernay against the Titans.
Neither of those receivers even challenged for the ball on those plays. Now, close your eyes and imagine the outcome if the intended receiver on that play was DK Metcalf or DeAndre Hopkins or Chase Claypool or any one of the many size/speed threats who were available for a reasonable price the past two offseasons.
Miles Boykin was presumably the guy they brought in to fill that outside role, but he hasn’t panned out. So while Lamar Jackson has struggled throwing outside the numbers, he also doesn’t really have anyone to make life easy out there.
A third tight end (assuming Nick Boyle returns) might allow Baltimore to recapture some of that 2019 magic, but if the Ravens believe Jackson can still expand his skillset as a passer (and they should believe that), his help needs to be in the form of a big receiver who can make those 50/50 balls into 70/30, instead of 30/70.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Bryant said Friday. “A lot of those guys on the team I know; I’m real good friends with. [They’re] helluva [good] football players. Whenever we line up across from one another, I think it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an exciting moment.”
“For the most part, it’s water under the bridge,” Bryant said. “That’s two years ago. I had time to get myself together. You have to move forward with life, because life ain’t going to wait on you. Time waits on no one. So, I had to get myself together and move forward.”
“Dez has been great,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He works hard, great attitude, real passionate guy for the game, very determined guy. I enjoy being around Dez every single day.”
“Dez has just brought a great energy and great attitude to the team. Since he got here, really, it’s like the competition kind of turned up once he stepped in the building,” quarterback Trace McSorley added.
“The standard he holds himself to, and he just kind of bought in, and it seems like he brings guys along with him. How competitive he is, his positive attitude and everything he does, I think it’s been a great effect on the rest of our team. Definitely excited to have him with us and looking forward to being able to get him a little bit more involved where we can.”
Bold prediction: Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant will catch a touchdown pass against his former team. He set the Cowboys’ franchise record with 73 touchdown receptions from 2010 through 2017, but his most recent touchdown came on Dec. 10, 2017. There will be nothing better for Bryant than to “throw up the X” against the Cowboys. — Todd Archer
Stat to know: The Cowboys are scoring on just 50% (17 of 34) of their drives that reach the red zone, the fourth-worst mark in the league this season. And they have scored just three touchdowns on 12 red zone drives since Week 7 (that 25% mark is the worst over that span), with all three coming in the victory over the Vikings.
Archer’s pick: Ravens 30, Cowboys 17
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 30, Cowboys 10
FPI prediction: BAL, 81.6% (by an average of 12.0 points)
Your NFL Week 13 Matchup Guide: Can the Browns—or Any Team, Really—Contain Derrick Henry? - Danny Heifetz
Tuesday Night Football
Time: 8:05 p.m. ET
Opening point spread: Ravens -7
Baltimore’s odyssey in the past week has led to the team playing two of the league’s most popular franchises—Pittsburgh and Dallas—on a Wednesday afternoon and Tuesday night, respectively.
It’s unclear which Ravens will even be eligible to suit up after half of their starters tested positive for the coronavirus. Lamar Jackson will likely play if he continues to test negative, but that is assuming he is in physical shape to do so. Robert Griffin III pulled his hamstring against Pittsburgh last week, and if Jackson can’t go, the Ravens will have to choose between Griffin and third-stringer Trace McSorley, the former Penn State quarterback who tossed his first career touchdown last week.
Amazingly, this is a crucial game for each team’s playoff chances. Baltimore’s odds to win the division are long gone, and their chances at a wild-card spot are slipping away fast. Meanwhile, Dallas needs a win to stay in the abominable NFC East race. These teams had so much promise entering this year and now they’re fighting for their seasons on a Tuesday.