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Ravens News 12/10: Cutting Losses and more

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Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Greg Roman Addresses Blitz Plan, Spacing, and More Issues - Ryan Mink

On handling opponents’ heavy blitzes:

“It’s like anything else. What’s preventing you from having more success against zone? Against man? Against an under front? Against an over front? … [With] pressure, there’s definitely a plan. There are times where the plan involved an audible, or the plan involves a check, [or] a signal, that kind of thing. There are times when you just have to make the play work, and there are built in things. So, we just have to keep working at it. We just have to keep working at it. The guys are working hard at it. We’re seeing a decent level of it the last three [or] four weeks, and again, we’ve had some success, and we haven’t had some success. We’re constantly trying to push that envelope to a higher percentage for us.”

On spacing issues in routes:

“When that happens, it’s generally somebody did something that they shouldn’t have done. Sometimes, it can happen where you’re really trying to clear a guy out and bring a guy underneath as a form of a shield. So, sometimes, that may be the case. Sometimes, guys are in the wrong spot. So, it’s either one of those, really.”

Lamar Jackson Says Holding Onto Ball Too Long Sometimes A Necessity - Todd Karpovich

“Yes, and like I said before when too many guys are surrounding you, you don’t want to just try to throw it away, [because] then it can be a strip-sack, now it’s a fumble, now we’ve got to deal with that,” Jackson said. “So, sometimes you’ve got to take a sack for your own … You can cut your losses.”

“I’ve got guys like Mark Andrews. I’ve got guys like Marquise Brown. I’ve got ‘Bate’ [Rashod Bateman]. I’ve got Sammy [Watkins]. I’ve got all these guys who are with me: Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray. We’ve got all these great guys – Patrick Ricard – who are out there trying to win, as well. It’s not just me. So, that’s why I’ve got all the confidence – my teammates.”

AFC North Whiparound, Week 14: Each team’s path to the playoffs, the QB you trust most, John Harbaugh’s decision - Jeff Zrebiec

Ideally for the Ravens, they’d win three out of their final five games and that would put them at 11-6 for the season, which would almost certainly be enough to get a wild-card spot and perhaps even the AFC North title. Two wins and a 10-7 record might get them in the postseason, but that would create some anxious moments along the way. The pertinent question is whether they are good enough to win two or three of their remaining games. They are 2.5-point underdogs Sunday against the Browns and they probably won’t be favored in the three games that follow (home against Green Bay, at Cincinnati, home against the Rams) either. Then, you have a Week 18 home game against the Steelers. The Ravens offense is playing as poorly as it has since Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback midway through the 2018 season. An already vulnerable defense just lost its best player (Marlon Humphrey). The Ravens are well coached and Jackson should give them a chance every week, but it’s been a month and a half since the Ravens last played a complete football game. At some point, you are what the tape says you are. It’s going to be a struggle for the Ravens to get to 10 or 11 wins.

Ravens roundtable: Breaking down the team’s playoff hopes, the offense’s struggles and more - Jonas Shaffer

Jadeveon Clowney and Garrett have to be on cloud nine this week. Despite his physical limitations, Mekari has been one of the NFL’s better right tackles this season. Phillips, despite his physical gifts, has not. If the Ravens struggle on early downs Sunday, the Browns won’t hesitate to drop seven defenders into coverage and let their edge rushers get after Jackson on third-and-long.

Humphrey, meanwhile, is perhaps the most talented cornerback on the Ravens’ roster, but even he struggled against Cleveland. According to Pro Football Reference, he gave up seven completions on 11 targets for 98 yards in their Week 12 matchup. These Browns wide receivers aren’t as scary as they used to be, and the potential absence of tight end David Njoku (reserve/COVID-19 list) could help ease the burden on the Ravens’ secondary.

If Averett, Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young can all play meaningful snaps, Don “Wink” Martindale might rest a little easier. But if the injury bug strikes again, leaving the Ravens with practice squad call-ups against receiving corps as talented as, say, the Bengals’, it could get ugly.

Up front, this is a critical juncture for the team’s foundational young players. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen can’t afford to back-slide. Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh can’t afford to hit a rookie wall. Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike can’t afford to be a limited-impact pass rusher. The Ravens need consistency at every spot on the field, or else they’ll see more big plays put on highlight reels.

NFL picks against the spread - Sheil Kapadia

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-2.5) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

There’s really not a lot separating these two teams. The Ravens are 8-4, and the Browns are 6-6. But if you look at the advanced stats like DVOA from Football Outsiders, the Browns have actually performed like the better team.

The Ravens have persevered through injuries since the start of training camp, but it’s fair to wonder whether the latest blow — losing cornerback Marlon Humphrey — proves to be one too many.

As for the Browns, it feels like there’s so much riding on the final five games. Maybe the late bye will serve them well, and they’ll be healthy and fresh and go on a run. On the other hand, they have just a 25.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they miss out, are they a potential sleeper team to take a big swing on a veteran quarterback this offseason?

Part of me thinks the Browns bounce back here, but with Lamar Jackson as their starter, the Ravens are 8-2 against the spread as underdogs. I’m taking Baltimore.

The pick: Ravens (+2.5)

Week 14 NFL game picks: Vikings top Steelers on Thursday Night Football; Cardinals sweep Rams - Gregg Rosenthal

Baltimore Ravens 20, Cleveland Browns 19

The Ravens are reeling after losing star cornerback Marlon Humphrey for the season and surprise standout right tackle Patrick Mekari for a few weeks. There’s reason to believe they have reached the point of no return on the injury front, and Lamar Jackson hasn’t played his best in two months, struggling badly against the blitz lately. The Browns, coming off a bye week following their last loss to the Ravens, are as healthy as they’ve been all season outside of their tight ends. All those factors will make it tougher for Cleveland to swallow when Lamar makes some crazy play late to win this game.