The Ravens hosting Denver was supposed to be one of the better games on the 2022 schedule with two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks squaring off for only the second time.
Lamar Jackson has lived up to his end of those expectations, but Russell Wilson’s first season with the Broncos has been nothing short of disastrous with the nine-time Pro Bowl selection ranking among the worst quarterbacks in the league and looking nothing like the man in which 3-8 Denver invested a $245 million contract extension. The 34-year-old’s decline is a reminder of just how quickly things can change in the NFL and how nothing should be taken for granted.
The Broncos’ struggles certainly keep Baltimore’s latest loss in perspective as the 7-4 Ravens remain in good shape in the AFC playoff race even after another fourth-quarter collapse in Jacksonville.
It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the 14th time in the regular season with the Ravens holding a slight 7-6 edge and a 5-1 record at home. Baltimore has won the last two meetings, including a 23-7 final in Denver last season.
Below are five predictions for Sunday:
1. Denver native Calais Campbell will register his 100th career sack. The 36-year-old was a “diehard” Broncos fan growing up and has plenty of family and friends attending Sunday’s game, but Campbell is also one sack shy of reaching triple digits for his career, something only 41 other men have accomplished since quarterback takedowns became an official NFL statistic in 1982. He’s also trying to extend a streak of recording at least a half-sack in his sixth straight game, speaking to how well he’s played in his 15th year. Campbell’s 5 1/2 sacks have already matched his total over his first two seasons in Baltimore, and he’ll give Denver’s interior line plenty of problems.
2. Courtland Sutton will catch the Broncos’ lone touchdown of the day. Denver has been ravaged by injuries at wide receiver this season, but the 6-foot-4 Sutton has registered at least five catches and 66 receiving yards in each of the last three games as Wilson’s only reliable target with Jerry Jeudy missing time due to injury. With rookie Kyle Hamilton expected to return to man the nickel spot, Marlon Humphrey should be able to play more on the outside, but Sutton figures to have some chances to make plays when lining up against Marcus Peters.
3. A long Devin Duvernay return will set up a Baltimore score. The 2021 Pro Bowl return specialist made some puzzling decisions last week, including the very short kick return in the fourth quarter in which special teams coordinator Chris Horton said Duvernay needed to “go vertical” instead of trying to run so wide. While Denver’s 32nd-ranked scoring offense receives much more attention, the Broncos rank last in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ overall special teams efficiency and in the bottom 11 in both kickoff and punt coverage, which has hurt them in so many close games.
4. Gus Edwards will eclipse 100 rushing yards for the first time in nearly two full years. The Denver defense has been excellent against the pass, but the Broncos have shown more vulnerability against the run, ranking 19th in yards per carry allowed and 17th in run defense efficiency and allowing Carolina to run for 185 yards last week. Meanwhile, the Ravens didn’t really hold back getting Edwards touches in his first action since Week 8 as he carried a game-high 16 times in Jacksonville. The running back picture will continue evolving as J.K. Dobbins nears his return, but Edwards has received the biggest workload whenever he’s been on the field this season.
5. Despite continuing red-zone issues, the Ravens will prevail in a 19-10 final. The Broncos have lost seven of their last eight games, are playing a second straight road game on the East Coast, and are showing more signs of frustration, elements ripe for a blowout defeat. But the Ravens continue to look like they’re in quicksand when entering the red zone, scoring a touchdown on just 42.4% of their trips inside the 20 going back to Week 4. The Broncos have allowed a touchdown inside the red zone an NFL-best 30.8% of the time this season, making a breakout performance by the Baltimore offense unlikely. The Ravens will move the ball better than they did against Carolina two weeks ago and Denver will really struggle to sustain drives, but the Broncos experienced only their first double-digit loss last week and Baltimore hasn’t beaten a team by more than 15 all season. Those trends will continue as the Ravens take care of business in a performance that isn’t going to wow anyone, but it sure beats what happened to them against the Jaguars in Week 12.