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Ravens News 12/14: Panic Meter and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Five Thoughts on Loss in Cleveland - John Eisenberg

After Rashod Bateman didn’t catch a pass and was targeted just once in the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers a week earlier, it seemed the rookie wide receiver was struggling to develop chemistry with Jackson. I don’t know if that’s a fair conclusion, but after Sunday’s game, it seems eminently fair to conclude that he and Huntley ARE on the same page. Bateman had zero catches again when Jackson went out. In the final 37 minutes, he caught seven passes for 103 yards on eight targets. And he didn’t just get open and reel in nice tosses. He made several contested catches, fought for the ball, and gained yardage after the catch. I’ll go ahead say it: He looked like Anquan Boldin at times, and that’s quite a compliment. Huntley’s connection with Mark Andrews was the same as Jackson’s, as Andrews caught 11 passes for 115 yards, in the process establishing a new franchise record for most receiving yardage in a season by a tight end. Marquise Brown was also in the mix with five receptions. But Bateman was a revelation. It’s safe to say that, going forward, he should never have days of zero receptions on one target.

Week 14 observations: Why it makes sense to be patient with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ other big issue - Jeff Zrebiec

I really try to avoid speculating on injuries and the cause of them, but I don’t think it’s out of bounds to wonder whether the heavy usage of fullback Patrick Ricard and defensive end Calais Campbell earlier in the season are at last contributing to some of the physical issues they’re now dealing with. Ricard, who has been on the injury report in recent weeks with hip, back, knee and foot issues, didn’t play against the Browns. Needed more than ever with blocking tight end Nick Boyle out, Ricard’s already played 527 offensive snaps this year, which is 125 more than he’s ever played in his career. Campbell, who sustained a hamstring injury Sunday and was on the field for just six defensive snaps, was leaned on hard earlier in the season with so many interior defensive line injuries. He played more than 45 snaps in six games this year. He did that only four times in the entire 2020 regular season and playoffs last year. That’s a heavy burden for a 35-year-old in his 14th NFL season.

Defensive Notes Week 14 Ravens @ Browns 2021 - Ken McKusick

Chris Westry was in position for a PD, if not an interception, but somehow was flagged for pass interference when Jarvis Landry twisted him away from the football with his right arm. He surrendered a toe-tap, 27-yard reception to WR DPJ along the left sideline after he was flagged for illegal contact. On that play, he had step-for-step coverage of DPJ, and was funneling the WR to the sideline, but failed to find the football in the air. He came back to knock down a pass intended for DPJ 20 yards down the left sideline (Q4, 11:44). He will be a player central to the Ravens secondary plans for 2022 and beyond, but the finger injury is a concern for the remainder of this season.

Brandon Stephens led the team with 8 tackles and allowed 3 receptions as I scored it. The 8-yard reception to RB Kareen Hunt denied conversion of 3rd and 11 (Q1, 14:09). He surrendered a 9-yard pass to Hooper that converted 2nd and 8 (Q1, 9:32), and a 12-yard play to DPJ (Q2, 6:13) immediately preceding the interception by Averett. The twice-bobbled interception opportunity (Q2, 2:00) was a missed opportunity, but I like the fact Stephens was in position for the play. If he is to be successful as the next Ravens free safety, he’ll need to both be in position and find a way to secure a higher percentage than he has to date.

NFL playoff picture 2021: Week 14 standings, bracket, clinching scenarios and outlook for the postseason - Kevin Seifert

4. Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

FPI chances to make playoffs: 73.1%

FPI chances to win division: 52.0%

That’s two consecutive AFC North losses for the Ravens, who have fallen from the AFC’s top seed to its fourth over the past two weeks. Even before losing Sunday to the Browns, the Ravens were a sleeper candidate to drop out of the playoff picture entirely by the end of the campaign. Baltimore’s remaining schedule — against the Packers, Bengals, Rams and Steelers — is among the league’s toughest. And now quarterback Lamar Jackson (foot) has been added to the Ravens’ long injury list.

Their lead in the AFC North is down to one game, and while the FPI is still bullish on their playoff chances, it sure doesn’t feel like the Ravens are definitely a playoff team at the moment.

Next up: vs. Packers

NFL panic season: Ravens and Bills at risk of missing playoffs? Giants and Bears to initiate major changes? - Adam Schein

1. Baltimore Ravens

This team has been snakebit by injuries all season long. Shoot, J.K. Dobbins, Marcus Peters and Gus Edwards each tore an ACL before the season even kicked off! But Sunday in Cleveland, Baltimore was hit where it hurts most, as Lamar Jackson was carted to the locker room with a sprained ankle early in the second quarter.

Yes, the Ravens still stormed back from a 24-3 deficit, falling just short of stealing the game in a 24-22 final. John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta have established a special and unique culture, so that kind of fight — with backup QB Tyler Huntley admirably amassing 315 total yards in relief — shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yes, the Ravens remain alone atop the division, thanks to the 49ers barely thwarting the Bengals’ comeback bid. But if Jackson misses any time — or just isn’t his extraordinary self — Baltimore could be buried by this remaining schedule:

Week 15: vs. Green Bay Packers

Week 16: at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 17: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 18: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Just a brutally challenging stretch to close out the regular season. That Week 18 bout could be Ben Roethlisberger’s last game in a Steelers uniform. Think he’d be slightly motivated to go out with a win over the archrival Ravens?

Harbaugh said Monday that he ”plans” to start Jackson against the Packers on Sunday. Baltimore NEEDS Lamar to be active and dynamic in the coming weeks. If not, a season that started at 5-1 could end with a thud. It’s panic time in Charm City.