Preview: Ravens set to battle Stafford and visiting Lions

BALTIMORE, MD – After yet another inept game offensively against the Houston Texans, albeit a win, the Baltimore Ravens turn their sights toward the second most dangerous team they have to play in this rear end of the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions.

The Ravens have seemed to regain their early season dominance defensively with Brandon Williams back at the helm. The safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson has finally gotten comfortable working with each other and have tightened up the back end.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect for the unit, considering they are going up against an inconsistent, although immensely talented, quarterback in Matthew Stafford who can’t seem to orchestrate scoring drives when in the redzone. The Ravens have excelled at redzone defense this year. The division rival Pittsburgh Steelers managed to keep the Lions out of the end zone after consistent long marches down the field.

Things to Look For:

  1. Ravens Defensive Backs – This will be one of the toughest, if not the toughest test the Ravens back end will have this season. Teams like the Steelers like to have some sort of pass/run balance, but the Lions and Stafford just sling it. The safeties and corners will have to run harder virtually all game.
  2. Lions Wide Receivers – On the flip side, the receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate have been one of the more dynamic receiving duos this season, combining for 164 catches and 1,429 yards. Both men have played extremely well against tough competition, making acrobatic plays to keep the Lions in games.
  3. Alex Collins – After being on the injury report this week, Collins looks to continue his strong production this week against a porous Lions run defense that has been gashed by many backs this season. Collins could top 100 yards against this drab unit, especially if Joe Flacco has less pass attempts.
  4. Ravens Offensive Line – It’s bad that I’m putting this here, REALLY BAD. The line will be going up against speed rusher Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah and veteran Dwight Freeney, who still has one of the nastiest spin moves I’ve ever seen. Ronnie Stanley needs to handle both of these guys better than he handled Jadeveon Clowney last week.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, Maryland

When: 1:00 pm EST

Radio: WBAL-1090, 98 Rock, Ravens’ website

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Justin Forsett

TV: Fox

Commentators: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens 

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PREVIEW: Ravens Travel North to Lambeau to face Packers

BALTIMORE, MD – For only the fourth time since their inception, the Ravens will trek north to where the cheeseheads roam, Green Bay, Wisconsin. With how their last game ended, a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore looks to bounce back against a Packers squad that has been playing a far cry from the quality of NFL fans are used to seeing.

Baltimore is coming off a bye week, which is excellent for the team as they seem to finally be as healthy as can be. Running back Danny Woodhead is returning to the 53-man roster after his stint on the IR-Designated-to-Return list. Head Coach John Harbaugh gleefully told the media how excited he was to have the team in shape coming out of the bye. We all know that a happy “Harbs” means a good week, right? It also figures that the Ravens are historically competitive and good coming out of their bye week as shown by the graphic below.

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Graphic Credit: Cheat Sheet War Room

The last time the Ravens took on the Packers was in 2013, yes the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover season that no one should ever speak of. They lost in pure Ravens fashion 19-17. It is also worth noting that the game was at M&T Bank Stadium and Aaron Rodgers was doing what he does best. This time around the game is at Lambeau and Rodgers will be on the sidelines, still recovering from his broken collarbone suffered in week 6 against the Vikings. It seems the Birds have the advantage here.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR:

  1. Brett Hundley – He hasn’t played THAT badly, okay? He has shown some serious talent by orchestrating good drives against good defenses which is no small task for a backup quarterback. If the Ravens are to stop him Sunday, they have to get pressure up the middle, if they are unable to do it, Hundley can make a defense pay with his mobility.
  2. Ravens Wide Receivers – There is no defensive backfield that has been more prone to getting burned in the NFL over the last five years than the much maligned Green Bay secondary. If the comments by Dennis Pitta ticked the coaching staff off to the point where they want Joe Flacco to prove he CAN be competent, this is the EXACT team to do it against. Look for Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace to combine for at least 250 yards. Yep, 250.
  3. Ravens Pass Rush – So its painfully obvious now, Rodgers’ ability to extend plays and get rid of the ball quickly made his offensive line look much better than it really is. There is still an adjustment period between the Hundley and his O-Line.    Terrell Suggs, Brandon Williams, and Matthew Judon HAVE to take advantage.
  4. Ravens Running Backs – With the expected heavy emphasis on the passing game, this could be a rare case in which the running backs benefit from the spreading out of the defense. Look for the team to have 125 total rushing yards.

Prediction: Ravens win this matchup 28-17 for their first ever win at Lambeau Field (currently 0-3 at Green Bay).

Details:

When: Sunday, Nov. 19, 1:00 pm

Where: Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI

Radio: WBAL 1090, 98 Rock, Baltimore Ravens website

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Justin Forsett, Stan White

TV: CBS

Commentators: Kevin Harland, Rich Gannon, Melanie Collins

Image Credit: Bleacher Report 

 

 

Preview: Flacco returns in time for tilt in Music City

NASHVILLE, TN — At the Ravens practice facility, there was a reason to be happy this week. No, it’s not because of the shellacking the birds handed to the offensively-challenged Miami Dolphins, or the fact that Alex Collins just ran for the first 100-yard game in his career. No, it was the return of formerly concussed quarterback Joe Flacco.

After six days of fans and media alike preparing for a start by backup gunslinger Ryan Mallett, the entirety of Ravens faithful can give a healthy sigh of relief. Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh both emphasized that Flacco was quick to get over the concussion symptoms, and he had always been in this week’s game plan.

On another note, the defense seems to have jump-started, accumulating two pick-six’s in last Thursday’s game. Linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Jimmy Smith were the heros on defense, each scoring a touchdown after catching an interception.

Things To Look For: 

  1. Flacco: Seeing as he just came back from a brutal hit that had him looking like he was heavily inebriated, it’ll be interesting to watch if he is afraid to take hits this time around. Although, my gut tells me that he will pick up from last week’s impressive start.
  2. Marcus MariotaAfter eight weeks, Mariota doesn’t look like his usual self. After coming off of a back injury which will undoubtedly hinder his speed during play action and bootlegs, he will most certainly fall back on the pair of bruising RBs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
  3. Titans RBs: As I alluded to in the above paragraph, the two backs will see at least 40 combined carries in this game. If not solely for the sake of the sluggish Mariota, the Ravens 30th-ranked run defense will definitely play a role in how many totes the backs get in this tilt.
  4. Collins: After recording his first 100-yard performance of his young career, Collins looks to put up more big numbers against a Titans defense that has been largely susceptible to all kinds of offense. Look for Collins to get at least 20 touches in this matchup.
  5. Smith: Pro Football Focus ranked Jimmy Smith as the best corner in week 8, lets see if he can finally live up to his 1st round pedigree and recapture his shutdown form from 2013.

Details:

TV: CBS/WJZ (Channel 13)

Commentators:

Kevin Harlan (play-by-play)
Rich Gannon (analyst)
Melanie Collins (sideline)

Radio:

WBAL (1090 AM)
98 Rock (97.9 FM)

Commentators:

Gerry Sandusky (play-by-play)
Stan White (analyst)
Justin Forsett (analyst)

Weather:

High: 78 degrees
Low: 64 degrees
Precipitation: 20 percent
Humidity: 74 percent
Wind: 15 miles per hour

Photo Credit: Ravens’ Website

Follow Vasilios on Twitter @VtheNFLGuy for more commentary on the latest sports headlines!

Preview: Ravens Battle Vikings in battle of the purple

MINNEAPOLIS — The Ravens leave the familiar confines of M&T Bank Stadium yet again to venture north to take on the other team in purple, the Minnesota Vikings. After a dreadful overtime loss last week to the much maligned Chicago Bears squad, the Ravens limp into week 7 falling apart at every juncture. G/T Tony Bergstrom was cut and replaced with a familiar face, WR Grif Whalen, who spent the preseason with Baltimore.

In a losing effort last week, the WRs once again could not catch the ball for the life of them, one of those tipped passes ended up becoming a 90-yard pick-six by Baltimore native and Calvert Hall Alum Adrian Amos. That play was a back-breaker for a team that had clawed its way to find anything even slightly resembling an offense. Although the Ravens had two special teams touchdowns, the miscues made by their offense and their inability to stop Jordan Howard (who carried the ball 36 times for 164 yards), made overtime a nightmare in M&T. By the end, the stadium was occupied by what looked to be about 30,000 fans.

Things To Look For:

  1. Brandon WilliamsHe has practiced two days consecutively this week and is striving to make his return this week. How effective can he be after missing a month of football? Chances are he still isn’t 100% and probably won’t be for the rest of the year.
  2. Ravens WRs: If anything comes out of this group there should be cause for celebration. Hey, if Eli Manning can do it, why can’t Joe Flacco? Am I right? *Crickets*
  3. Case Keenum: The more-than-solid backup will be likely be without his top target in Stefon Diggs. But that won’t stop Keenum from playing lights-out in front of the home crowd. The QB looks to make his mark and who better to do it against than the Baltimore Ravens?
  4. Vikings Defense: The Vikings defense is lauded by many folks, who praise it for being one of the most suffocating defenses in recent history. They have their flaws, but as a heavy zone scheme squad, they know how to make up for small miscues. Look for the Vikings to abuse the Ravens in this matchup, its looking dim for the Birds.

Details: 

Date: Sunday, Oct. 22

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

Location: US Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, Minnesota

Channel: CBS (check local listings)

Stream: CBS All Access

Broadcasters: Trent Green, Greg Gumbel, Jamie Erdahl

Radio: WBAL News Radio 1090 , BaltimoreRavens.com

PREVIEW: Ravens Duke It Out With Da Bears

BALTIMORE – The recently jump-started Baltimore offense hits the field to see if they can find consistency for the second straight week when they take on the Chicago Bears (1-4) this Sunday. The Ravens (3-2) look to be without DT Brandon Williams again and, although they are at a semi-respectable 3-2 record, they could very well be .500 by 4:30 on Sunday.

The Bears have a very solid running game with stud running back Jordan Howard and jitterbug Tarik Cohen. This season, Howard and Cohen combine for 118 touches and 522 yards (4.4 YPC) on the ground with four touchdowns. Howard has seen an increase in action over the last few weeks while Cohen seems to be an afterthought in the Bears offense. With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under center, both running backs will see plenty of carries to start the contest at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens came alive last week on the first play of the game against Oakland when Joe Flacco uncorked a beautiful rainbow throw to Mike Wallace for the longest offensive play of the year thus far for Baltimore. Wallace continued to add big plays to the game script with another 50+ YD catch later in the game to set up a Buck Allen TD run. There was a Breshad Perriman sighting as well, as he finally managed to catch a ball. Jeremy Maclin excelled as the main possession receiver, consistently bailing out Flacco in pressure situations. Even in the play where Flacco danced around the pocket, fell, and delivered a floater, Maclin was right there and made the play.

The Ravens offensive line played consistently and stand-ins Matt Skura and Jermaine Eluemenor were very serviceable. According to Pro Football Focus, center Ryan Jensen had the highest rating of any NFL center during week 5. The Ravens only committed one penalty against the Raiders, an amazing feat considering they haven’t had that few of penalties since the winter of 2011. John Harbaugh was visibly pleased at the line’s performance.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

  1. Bears RBs: Howard and Cohen, if not held in check, have the ability to trample the Williams-less Ravens defensive unit. In week 4, Le’veon Bell had over 150 all-purpose yards and we could very well see more of the same against this front.
  2. Ravens WRs: With the unit seemingly catching fire at the most opportune time, the Bears shaky secondary could fall victim to the pure speed that is possessed by Baltimore. Calvert Hall Alum Adrian Amos is the best player in the secondary for this young Bears squad. Wallace will look to continue his ridiculous production after setting the record for yards-per-catch in a game by a Raven, previously held by Qadry Ismail. Perriman looks to become more of a factor and shake the premature title of bust.
  3. Bears Defense: Surprisingly, this unit is sixth in the league in total defense, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the offensively-challenged Baltimore Ravens.
  4. Trubisky: After a mixed bag start for the rookie, Trubisky looks to yet again step into the crucible and take on one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. He could have a very good game if the offensive line holds up, but chances are he will struggle mightily, as Baltimore’s secondary is far more talented than Minnesota’s.

Details:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears

What: Week 6 NFL regular season

When: 1:00 p.m.. ET, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: NFL Game PassFOX Sports Go

Radio: WBAL News Radio 1090 , BaltimoreRavens.com

Point Spread: Baltimore, -6.5

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 84 degrees, partly cloudy

Image Credit: NFL

Preview: Ravens and Steelers #47

BALTIMORE – Yes, you read the title right. Sunday, Oct. 1st marks the 47th time the Black & Purple have taken on the Black & Yellow. Its been back and forth for so many years, but recently (starting back in 2010) the Ravens have been running the show with a 10-6 record against their biggest rival. The Ravens look to bounce back from last week’s stinker in London and take firm control of the rugged AFC North.

After a confidence-shattering loss on Christmas Day last year, Baltimore has faith in its squad to get adequate revenge on the opponent that effectively removed them from playoff contention. Pittsburgh has gotten off to a rather sluggish start this season. The Steelers lost in overtime last week to the Chicago Bears, who used their patented “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to trample Pittsburgh and make their defense look like a wet paper towel, a far cry from the Steel Curtain of old. The Bears RBs last week combined for 218 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

Things To Look For:

  1. Steelers’ Front Seven: After getting gashed by the Bears last week, Pittsburgh is going to want to tighten up ship if they will be able to shut down second-year upstart Alex Collins. The Ravens’ offense may be ranked 32nd right now, but the way the Steelers defense has played recently, Baltimore faithful should have something to hope for.
  2. Ravens Front Seven: After an abysmal performance last week where the absent Brandon Williams was sorely missed, the Ravens allowed 410 total yards (ironic, isn’t it?). With Williams still not a slam dunk to play, and young star Brent Urban on IR now with a Lisfranc injury, young bucks Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley will be heavily relied on to stop Le’Veon Bell.
  3. Ravens Offensive Line: Joe Flacco was pummeled last week (5 QB hits, 2 sacks). The Marshal Yanda – sized hole is not going to be filled until he returns next season, which means more of the same for the stagnant Baltimore offense. Look for Collins to be Baltimore’s biggest playmaker behind this scattershot unit.
  4. Flacco: Coming off the worst statistical game of his career last week (8-for-18, 28 yards, 44% COMP, 2 INTs), fans will see what Flacco and the staff have done in the last week to adjust.

Expect this game to be close as all recent games in this rivalry have been.

My Prediction: 24-21 Ravens. Defense wins the day after last week’s debacle.

Catch the game on local television this Sunday on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. You can also catch the radio broadcast on the home of the Baltimore Ravens, WBAL-AM 1090 and FM 98 Rock with Gerry Sandusky,  Stan White and Dennis Pitta on the call. Gameday audio will also stream on the Ravens’ website.

Enjoy Everyone!

Follow Vasilios on Twitter at @VtheNFLGuy for more commentary and behind the scenes!

Photo Credit: ESPN

The Ravens’ British Meltdown

LONDON – For all of the fans that made the trek to Wembley stadium, this may have been the worst game they could have possibly seen. As for the fans already established in the United Kingdom, things were much worse for them:

 

The Ravens lost 44-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday morning, their game ending at approximately 12:35pm. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that I regret waking up for the utter pile of dung that was left on the pitch. Not only did the Ravens get beat, they got trounced, looking extremely sluggish and underestimating their opponent. The Jaguars were the better team in London on Sunday, that much was clear.

Baltimore may have hurt their fans with their performance today, but nothing stung more than the players taking a knee for the National Anthem, as evidenced by the hundreds of fans that declared their hatred for their (former) team by burning memorabilia and selling season tickets. Based on what you believe or what your political stance is, you may see this situation differently, but either way this route will definitely harm NFL viewership.

The only bright spot for the Ravens in this awful showing was the play of 2nd year back Alex Collins. 9 carries for 82 yards, the largest total he’s had in his career, led all Baltimore RBs . Although its not the statistics that make it most impressive, its the way he found lanes the other backs could not find and made defenders miss. Look for Collins’ workload to increase next week vs. Pittsburgh. The missing puzzle pieces Marshal Yanda & Brandon Williams, the anchors of each unit, were sorely missed, as evidenced by the poor performances of the O-line & D-line. Joe Flacco threw 2 interceptions, one of which was to the fault of Jeremy Maclin.

The Ravens look to rebound against their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday October 1st at M&T Bank Stadium.