With the Ravens hoping to get back on track and move closer to clinching a playoff spot against Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Lamar Jackson missing the last two games was expected, but the star quarterback not even practicing this week despite optimistic reports makes one wonder about gamesmanship and the reality of his status. Regardless of the current offensive problems, rushing Jackson back remains a losing proposition for all.
2. The Ravens need to run the ball and then do it some more until the Falcons defense ranking 26th in run defense efficiency overwhelmingly shows it’s stopping this ground game. The allure of throwing against a bad pass defense will only get Baltimore in trouble. Run the ball.
3. That said, Greg Roman acknowledged the Ravens haven’t run the ball particularly well inside the red zone, which is true. But they also haven’t passed the ball well in the red zone since the early weeks of the season. Again, run the ball.
4. Though he looked fine throwing during Thursday’s practice, Tyler Huntley showing up on the injury report with a shoulder issue is something to watch. Anthony Brown will again serve as the backup, but a sore shoulder for Huntley is more reason to — wait for it — run the football.
5. Remember the good vibes entering the bye after wins at Tampa Bay and New Orleans? Per Sharp Football, the Ravens rank last in the NFL in points per drive (1.30) and have scored a touchdown on a league-worst 9.4% of possessions since then. Thank goodness for playing the NFC South.
6. With third-round rookie Desmond Ridder making his second NFL start, Atlanta would love nothing more than to lean heavily into its robust running game in the same way Cleveland did with a lead. The Ravens have to start fast and force the Falcons to put the ball in Ridder’s hands.
7. Like the Ravens, run-heavy Atlanta uses bigger personnel sets than your typical NFL offense consistently relying on formations with three wide receivers. Mike Macdonald’s defense should be prepared after routinely seeing that in practice and motivated after giving up 143 rushing yards in Cleveland last week.
8. It’ll be interesting to see whether Macdonald elects to have Marlon Humphrey travel with Falcons rookie wide receiver Drake London, who mostly lines up out wide. You’d certainly like to avoid having London match up against Brandon Stephens, who will be filling in for the injured Marcus Peters.
9. Frustration with a broken passing game is justified, but you’re not going to do better than Sammy Watkins — assuming Odell Beckham still isn’t healthy — at this late stage of the season. Like DeSean Jackson, Watkins might make a play or two, but durability concerns stunt any upside. This is desperation.
10. I’d say the Pro Bowl did pretty well with Baltimore’s six selections with five of those players being repeat honorees. It’s really cool for Roquan Smith to make his first Pro Bowl after being traded to the Ravens less than two months ago. He continues to impress.
11. We really overuse the term “snub” when reflecting on Pro Bowl selections, but I was hoping Kevin Zeitler would finally get the nod after a decade of performance on the Pro Bowl fringe. He’d tell you he’s more interested in playing in the postseason for the first time since 2015.
12. Asking fans to attend a game on Christmas Eve is challenging enough before considering a bitterly cold forecast, the absence of the team’s best player, and an opponent lacking any semblance of entertainment appeal. I’m guessing the potential of clinching a playoff berth isn’t enticing many to brave the elements.