Twelve Ravens thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 13 meeting with Dallas

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With the Ravens continuing to welcome back players from the reserve-COVID-19 list and aiming to halt their three-game losing streak against Dallas on Tuesday night, below are a dozen thoughts and a prediction, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday’s outcomes certainly didn’t help the Ravens with each of the four teams ahead of them in the wild-card race winning. I’m not quite ready to say they must win out, but their Football Outsiders playoff odds fell from 65.3 percent to 49.2 percent. A 4-5 conference record isn’t helping.

2. Greg Roman shouldn’t overthink the plan against the NFL’s worst run defense, but it’s worth noting Lamar Jackson had some struggles against Cincinnati after he didn’t have much practice time in Week 5. You just want him to show he’s healthy and to limit mistakes after the layoff.

3. Young Ravens wide receivers making plays against the top three Dallas cornerbacks grading 74th or worse among 124 qualified cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus would really help Jackson in his return. How this group performs down the stretch will help define the rest of 2020 as well as the offseason.

4. Ezekiel Elliott’s contract is the only part of the Cowboys’ ground game that stands out at this point, but the potential returns of Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell would ease any concern about Elliott and his 3.9 yards per carry average going off. The Ravens really need those two.

5. The Dez Bryant story resonates more in Dallas, but the 32-year-old surely had this game circled from the time he first worked out for the Ravens. If a Bryant breakout is coming, this feels like the week with Mark Andrews and Willie Snead not expected to play.

6. It’s tough to get a read on where Andy Dalton is after he missed nearly a month with a concussion and a bout with COVID-19, but he’s played OK since returning in Week 11. Of course, there’s plenty of familiarity with the former Cincinnati Bengal.

7. Just when it felt like Eric DeCosta had rebuilt Baltimore’s cornerback depth with the veteran additions of Tramon Williams and Davontae Harris, both Jimmy Smith and Williams appear unlikely to play against the talented receiver trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. You never have enough corners.

8. How the right tackle position shakes out should be interesting with the Ravens acknowledging returning rookie Tyre Phillips rotating with D.J. Fluker being part of the plan against Pittsburgh. Both will have their hands full against two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.  

9. Dallas entered Monday leading the league with 13 fumbles lost with Elliott having a team-high five. That’s bad news against a Ravens defense with a calling card of stripping the ball away after forcing 18 fumbles in 11 games.

10. The Cowboys have allowed an NFL-worst 359 points through 11 games. The Ravens have surrendered that many in a full season just three times: 1996, 2007, and 2015. Even without some key players, this Ravens offense has no excuse not to move the ball.

11. Sam Koch entered Monday tied for sixth in the NFL with 20 punts inside the 20 while registering just one touchback all season. We often joked how the Ravens no longer needed him in the midst of their record-breaking 2019 campaign, but he’s been quite valuable this season.

12. At the risk of being called a “conspiracy theorist” by John Harbaugh, I’m sure the Ravens wouldn’t manipulate the COVID-19 protocol on the heels of a major outbreak just to stop reporters from getting a look at Jackson during Sunday’s practice. That 10-15 mph wind must have been something else.

Prediction: This one shouldn’t be close on paper with the Cowboys owning the second-worst point differential in the league, but how do you begin to account for the disruptions of the last two weeks? Jackson will throw a touchdown pass to Bryant as the Ravens win 23-13 to snap their three-game skid.