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Ravens News 12/31: Key Matchups and more

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NFL: NOV 25 Ravens at Rams Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ravens Sign Versatile Offensive Lineman Patrick Mekari to Contract Extension - Ryan Mink

According to Pro Football Focus, Mekari is one of the Ravens offense’s highest-graded players and the 51st-ranked offensive tackle (left or right) in the NFL.

Bozeman raved this season about Mekari’s intelligence, which helps the 6-foot-4, 308-pound blocker thrive wherever he lines up.

“Pat’s a great player, he’s always been a great player,” Bozeman said. “Guy knows the gameplan, he knows the playbook. He’s one of those computer chips out there, kind of knows everything. Great to have that guy out there. When I’m not for sure, I know he has my back to help me out, get things fixed on the field.”

‘He’s going to be one of the best to ever do it’: Mark Andrews carrying Ravens offense and threatening team records - Jeff Zrebiec

“I love his physicality,” Heap said. “He just finds a way to make plays. I don’t know what you call it: It’s internal fortitude, it’s inner confidence, it’s the ability to focus when the ball is in the air. It’s hard to come by to have guys that do that and do that consistently. Watching him make plays and making the tough ones over and over, that’s the most impressive thing.”

“The role of the tight end has evolved so much that you see Kelce, Kittle, those are the main weapons, those are the main options. The tight end now is a featured position,” Pitta said. “That started to evolve when I was playing with Rob Gronkowski and guys like that. Now, it’s coming into fruition where they are the leading receivers, they are the leading guys. But you can’t be a slouch, you can’t be an average dude and put up those kinds of numbers. You have to be healthy, you have to be durable. You have to be a guy who can make plays and catch the ball when it comes your way. You have to be a guy who the quarterback trusts in any situation, whether you’re covered or not, to throw the ball up to you. Mark is that guy for the Ravens.”

Rams DT Aaron Donald calls rematch vs. Ravens ‘a little payback game’ after 2019 blowout in Los Angeles - C.J. Doon

The last time the Ravens and Los Angeles Rams met, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald watched quarterback Lamar Jackson torch his defense in a 45-6 rout on “Monday Night Football.”

Two years later, Donald hasn’t forgotten that beatdown at the L.A. Coliseum. Entering Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium, he’s using it as motivation.

“They beat us pretty bad in a prime-time game. For me personally, that’s in the back of my head. That’s a little motivation. It’s a little payback game,” Donald told reporters Thursday. “That’s a little fire lit under me personally. We’re definitely going to come out ready.”

“You have two of the top players on the field,” Harbaugh said in reference to Donald and Ramsey. “You have one on the first level, and you have one on the second level who are considered right at the top or the best at their position in the game. Then you have two [more] on the second level — Von Miller and [Leonard] Floyd. Those two guys are pretty darn good, too, and they’re considered top players on the edges. So, they have four really great players and a lot of other good players that a lot of people may not want to talk about. But they’re playing good defense for a reason — good scheme, well-coached.”

5 key matchups to watch in Rams at Ravens on Sunday - Cameron DaSilva

Darious Williams vs. Marquise Brown

Brown has all the speed in the world and has made a bunch of big plays down the field, becoming a dangerous player for the Ravens in his third season. Jalen Ramsey will probably be lining up in the slot often against Baltimore in an attempt to contain the ground game, which could leave Williams to cover Brown on the outside.

Williams has given up his share of deep passes and the Ravens will test him down the field on Sunday, so he’ll need to keep pace with Brown when he does run deep. And with the attention the Rams will have to pay Andrews, it could be tough to provide help over the top constantly with a safety.

NFL picks against the spread - Sheil Kapadia

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX

Lamar Jackson returned to practice Wednesday but was a limited participant and had an “obvious limp” according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. If Jackson can’t play Sunday, the Ravens hope that they’ll at least have Tyler Huntley back.

The Ravens’ defense doesn’t have to be great in this game. They just need to force Matthew Stafford into a few mistakes. He made plenty in last week’s win against the Minnesota Vikings. Stafford is a high-variance player. Some weeks, he looks like an All-Pro. Other weeks, he looks like a rookie.

It’s possible that Baltimore has hit the point of no return with injuries. But last week’s blowout notwithstanding, this is still a competitive group. I’ll take the points.

The pick: Ravens (+3.5)

Week 17 NFL game picks: Chiefs best Bengals for 9th straight win; Cowboys hand Cards 4th straight loss - Gregg Rosenthal

Los Angeles Rams 30, Baltimore Ravens 24

The return of many Ravens from the COVID-19 list will help, but it won’t fix their secondary. Baltimore’s defensive collapse started early in the season, with Lamar Jackson’s struggles and subsequent injury taking attention away from the Ravens’ biggest problem. They are now 30th in pass defense efficiency. Good offense will expose them, forcing a compromised Jackson (if he plays) to keep up in a shootout. The Ravens remain dangerous in this spot because they are the Ravens, but there is just too much going against them.