The Baltimore Ravens are back home in Week 7 from being on the road and overseas where they will take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday. They are heading into the matchup as minor favorites come out on top in this interconference heavyweight bout.
In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing the momentum back into a team’s favor or extend their lead to put an opponent away for good. There are a handful of select players who aren’t being talked about as much ahead of this game that could be pivotal in determining the outcome of the contest.
Below are some of those individual players that could prove to be deciding factors.
K Justin Tucker
There’s something about playing the Motor City franchise that brings the best out of the future Hall of Fame specialist. The two longest kicks of Tucker’s career came in victories over the Lions including an NFL-record 66-yarder in a 19-17 Week 3 victory during the 2021 regular season. In his second year in the league back in 2013 he made six field goals in an 18-16 Week 15 win in Monday Night Football including his previous career-long of 61 yards to win the game.
“It’s probably coincidence that we’ve had some long kicks against this particular opponent,” Tucker said Friday. “But you could definitely say I love playing in Detroit.”
The five-time All-Pro is the most accurate kicker in NFL history and is coming off a game in which was responsible for 75 percent of the Ravens’ total points in their Week 6 win over the Tennessee Titans in London, England.
“It’s nice in a single game to get a good handful of opportunities to dial into technique and get comfortable,” Tucker said. “There’s such a thing as getting into a zone. Trying to find it is always a challenge. When you get a lot of opportunities and you have success, it’s easier to keep the momentum going.”
Hopefully, the Ravens don’t require the use of his services as excessively as they did last week this Sunday unless it is on extra point attempts following multiple touchdowns because it will likely mean that their recent red zone woes on offense will have come to an end.
Nevertheless, this game is expected to be one of the best of the week and provide the toughest test the Ravens have faced all season which means in the end, it could come down to the wire and be decided by a field and there’s none better to have than Mr. AuTuckmatic himself.
“I think anytime you put Justin out there, he’s going to try to dominate the football game,” Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said Thursday. “If you let him line up and [you] say, ‘Hey, you go out there. It’s field goal time,’ he’s fired up, and he’s going to be ready. Hopefully, that will stay at our house as well.”
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The three-time Pro Bowl wideout hasn’t gotten off to the hot start that he or the team envisioned when they inked him to a sizable one-year deal worth up to $18 million in April mostly due to a minor injury. However, he is coming off his best and most productive game since the season opener when he recorded 37 receiving yards on two catches and drew a pair of clutch defensive pass interference penalties as well. Even though he only caught two passes for 34 receiving yards against the Titans last week, his 32-yard catch and run on a quick slant after a Lamar Jackson audible was proof of the explosive playmaking that the 10th-year veteran still possesses.
Going against a Lions’ pass defense that has given up the 12th most passing yards (1,327) and the seventh-most passing touchdowns (eight), there will definitely be plays to be made through the air which could allow Beckham Jr. the opportunity to finally start hitting his stride.
OLB Odafe Oweh
The third-year edge defender will be making his long-awaited return to the lineup on Sunday after missing the last four games with an ankle injury. He couldn’t have asked for a tougher test for his first time back out on the field going up against an elite Lions’ offensive line that has given up the fourth-fewest sacks this season through the first six games with just 10. Prior to his injury, Oweh led the Ravens in pressures (eight) and pressure rate (12.2 percent) through their first two games according to Pro Football Focus.
Baltimore Ravens pressure leaders this season:— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) September 20, 2023
Odafe Oweh - 8 pressures (12.2% win rate)
Jadeveon Clowney - 7 pressures (9.7%)
Justin Madubuike - 5 pressures (9.1%)
Michael Pierce - 3 pressures (8.9%)
Broderick Washington - 2 pressures (10.5%)
In his absence, the Ravens pass rush has still thrived and is currently tied for the league lead in sacks with 24. Against such a vaunted pass-blocking unit and veteran quarterback in Jared Goff who is playing at an elite level himself, they’ll need all horses they got to generate consistent or at least timely pressure on the traditional pocket-passing signal caller in this matchup.
TE Isaiah Likely
The second-year pro hasn’t caught a pass in the last three games and hasn’t played more than 19 offensive snaps since Week 2. However, with the Lions likely to devote a lot of attention to limiting three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews who has been heating up the past three weeks, Likely could have some opportunities in two-tight sets when the Ravens deploy their 12-personnel packages to have more of an impact this week. Last year as a rookie, he showed tremendous promise in both the exhibition and regular season and while he hasn’t been very involved in the team’s new-look offense, he still has the playmaking ability to be a difference-maker when called upon.
CB Arthur Maulet
The seven-year veteran nickelback will be playing a key role in the Ravens’ defense this week both in coverage and as a pass rusher most likely as well. He’ll be a part of the joint effort to limit Lions’ Pro Bowl wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown who can play inside and out but does most of his damage from the slot over the middle of the field. The Ravens will likely dial up a nickel blitz or two to try to generate some unblocked pressure on Goff in his game which is an aspect of the game that Maulet has shown he is capable of making plays in when called upon.
Terrell Suggs’ presence
The Ravens’ all-time sack leader and franchise icon will be in the building on Sunday to be inducted into their Ring of Honor. While this matchup didn’t originally seem like the ideal game for T-Sizzle to be enshrined alongside his fellow Charm City legends, it actually might be just the extra moral boast this team needs going up against the most complete team they’ve faced this season to date.
The Lions are playing highly efficient and complementary football on both sides of the ball, ranking in the top 10 of several key statistical categories that support Head Coach John Harbaugh’s Monday presser statement when he said they’re “arguably the best team in the NFC right now.” Even though this is a nonconference matchup, snapping Detroit’s four-game winning streak in which they’ve beaten their opponents by 14 or more points with a complete performance of their own would be quite the statement win for the home team.