Baltimore Ravens: 10-5
Atlanta Falcons: 7-8
Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Spread: Ravens -2.5
Moneyline: Ravens -140, Steelers +120
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Last 5 Games In Regular Season Series
Steelers lead 32-25
Injury Report & Game Status
Primetime? Are You Sure?
The NFL flexed this contest with good intentions. After all, it’s Ravens-Steelers. The Ravens have AFC North crown ambitions and the Steelers are trying to make a playoff bid, keep Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s above .500 streak alive and also, sabotage the Ravens’ divisional chances. What’s not to love? However, the Steelers could be out of the playoff race by the 8:20 p.m. start time. Add on quarterback Lamar Jackson has been ruled out and you’re left with an unseasoned steak. Yeah, it’s still a nice cut, but where’s the S&P?
That’s not to say this game won’t add a flair of the dramatic. I’m fully expecting a chaotic, defensive war between these two squads that ends in a two-point point differential, but there’s a lacking element with Jackson out.
The Ravens enter Sunday with the second-lowest three-and-out rate, at 13.4-percent. The Steelers are at the other end of the spectrum, going three-and-out on 25.8-percent of drives. I asked Head Coach John Harbaugh on Friday what is allowing them to be successful in getting that first first down.
“The ability to get the first first-down is something that we really emphasize. We like to get the first first-down on first- or second-down; it’s another point we think is important,” Harbaugh said. “Then, obviously, third-down success really matters because you want to stay on the field, you want to keep the chains moving. With that, you’d like to get some big plays in there, some big chunk plays and also some scoring plays. So, those are things I think we’re working really hard for.”
Sacks and Escalators
Two Ravens outside linebackers are nearing incentives in their contract. Justin Houston, who sits at nine sacks, is one from hitting his third and final $500k incentive bonus. He has already earned $1 million after hitting on the first two incentives of five sacks and 7.5 sacks.
Jason Pierre-Paul needs three sacks in the next two games to earn $500k. He sits at two on the season with the Ravens.
Coordinator Gives Credit
I asked Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald on Thursday about if he feels he’s settled in as a first-year NFL defensive coordinator. Macdonald shrugged off the credit and gave it to the acquisition and play of linebacker Roquan Smith and, interestingly, rookie Kyle Hamilton.
“But I think you’re getting a good feel for what our team can and can’t do over the course of the year,” Macdonald said. “And then as pieces change, and you add a guy like Roquan Smith, and Kyle [Hamilton] comes into his own a little bit, it starts to put things into focus for you.”
Macdonald was then asked about Hamilton’s progression this season, where he shared how they’ve found a role for him and how he handled adversity from earlier in the season.
“So, when Kyle [Hamilton] got here, we just put him at safety and tried to get him to get his feet wet there and just try to master one position. And then as the season went, and our roster came into focus, where he would be … [He] started out at safety, [and] he was doing some good things, but we decided to leave Chuck [Clark] there for the majority of the time,” Macdonald said. “...I can see he’s kind of finding a place there at nickel and sometimes at dime [and] a little bit of safety. So, I think [it was] just finding a home for him where he’s comfortable and fits his skillset. And then to his credit, like I’ve mentioned before, just being able to handle the adversity at the beginning of the season and just keep attacking every day and having the humility to realize there are things he needed to learn, and he did those things. So, I think he’s on a great track. He’s going to have a great career.”
Morgan Moses Dominance
Hefty amounts of praise have washed Moses’ way this week after arguably his best game as a blocker. According to PFF, Moses whupped the Falcons’ defensive line, earning a 90.9 run block grade and an 81.0 pass block grade after allowing zero pressures. According to Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, part of it’s due to progression over the second half of the season and getting more comfortable.
“We have a pretty extensive system. For a guy coming in, it’s a little bit like, ‘Woah,’ not that he did that, but there’s a natural evolution in getting comfortable with everything and being able to make the adjustments on the fly, that type of thing,” Roman said.