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Ravens News 12/29: Lopsided Matchup and more

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Power Rankings Week 17: 1-32 poll, plus every team’s non-quarterback MVP - Jamison Hensley

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

Non-QB MVP: TE Mark Andrews

Andrews is the runaway winner for Ravens MVP at this point. He leads all league tight ends in catches (93) and receiving yards (1,187), in addition to being 15 yards away from setting the Ravens’ single-season receiving mark. But what makes him so valuable? Stepping up when Baltimore’s best player went down. Since Lamar Jackson injured his right ankle, Andrews leads the NFL with 376 yards, running over tacklers to gain extra yards. He has become the emotional leader for a team that has gone through so much adversity this season.

2021 NFL Playoff Picture: Ranking AFC teams vying for wild card spots as Chargers blow huge opportunity - Jeff Kerr

7. Ravens (8-7)

Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

At this stage of the game, the Ravens have to win out. Getting Lamar Jackson back in Week 17 will be needed against the Rams, who are fighting for the NFC West title and the top seed in the NFC — so Los Angeles has something to play for. Their AFC North chances are all but extinct with a 1-4 division record, but winning out has Baltimore at 10 wins with a shot at the wild card. The Ravens need the Dolphins or the Raiders to lose one of their last two if they win out (since both teams beat Baltimore), but their playoff chances aren’t dead yet. Unfortunately the Ravens have a brutal finish to their schedule, but both games are at home.

I’m Giving Wink Martindale a Pass - John Eisenberg

With two games left, the Ravens rank No. 32 in pass defense, No. 20 in scoring defense and No. 25 in total defense – numbers that seem like someone’s idea of a practical joke given the unit’s proud history.

As coordinator, Martindale is responsible. But factors he didn’t control have had a lot to do with those numbers.

The Ravens began training camp with one of the NFL’s highest-priced secondaries, but injuries have wiped it out. Burrow might have had less time to reflect on the gold-jacket comment while facing cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShon Elliott, all starters out for the year.

Other factors also have contributed to the unit’s downturn in 2021. The Ravens have 17 fewer sacks than their opponents, which doesn’t reflect well on the front office’s pass-rush reset. Also, the front office hoped 30-and-older D-linemen would hold up, but they haven’t so well.

Martindale has done what he can, moved personnel around, dialed his blitz rate up and down, concocted special plans. Against the Packers, he took away Davante Adams, but Rodgers still had a big day.

Ravens film study: Why the Rams’ passing attack poses a bad matchup for a depleted secondary - Jonas Shaffer

Before the season started, it looked like one of the NFL’s best matchups. Now it might be one of the league’s most lopsided.

On one end is the Los Angeles Rams’ offense, which not only leads the NFL in usage of “11″ personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers), according to Sharp Football Stats, but also ranks second in yards per pass attempt with the grouping (8.4).

On the other end is the Ravens’ defense, which, a year after leading the NFL in yards per attempt allowed against 11 personnel, now ranks last (8.4), sunken by a secondary ravaged by injuries and big plays.

It’s one thing to ask Averett, Smith or Westry to limit Rams star Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL in catches (132), receiving yards (1,734) and touchdowns (14). It’s another to expect the same if he’s matched up with recent Ravens cornerback call-ups like Daryl Worley and Robert Jackson. Especially when fellow wide receivers Van Jefferson (708 receiving yards) and Odell Beckham Jr. (41.3 yards per game with the Rams) can’t be ignored, either.

NFL Picks, Predictions Week 17: Can the Patriots, Chargers, and Dolphins increase their playoff chances? - Ben Rolfe

Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Baltimore Ravens

This is a huge matchup for both sides as they fight for playoff positioning. The Rams have really clicked in the last four weeks, and the Ravens’ depleted defense will have a hard time stopping them.

The key to this game is Lamar Jackson’s potential availability. Even then, he has had struggles this season, so there is no guarantee his availability changes it significantly.

It is tough to see how the Ravens can score enough points or stop the Rams from getting enough to win this game. It might be on the road, but this feels like another comfortable Rams win.

Rams vs. Ravens Prediction: Rams 30, Ravens 20