With the Ravens aiming to win for the seventh time in eight games hosting the surprising Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. The potential for heavy rain and wind adds intrigue to a matchup that didn’t look as formidable before Los Angeles won its last three games by a combined 41 points to climb back into the thick of the NFC playoff race. Baltimore better be awake coming off the bye.
2. You never want your quarterback to miss practice time, but Lamar Jackson practiced fully Friday and is good to go for Sunday. The Rams are solid but unspectacular in pass defense while Jackson is coming off a season-low 5.5 yards per pass attempt against the Chargers.
3. For those pondering whether Jackson will run more down the stretch, Sunday should be a decent indicator considering the forecast and the Rams’ vulnerability against mobile quarterbacks. Jalen Hurts, Anthony Richardson, and Joshua Dobbs all had strong rushing days against Raheem Morris’ defense earlier this season.
4. With Marlon Humphrey returning, the Ravens will have him and Marcus Williams — their two highest-paid players in the secondary — on the field together for just the fourth game all season. Those two have started and finished a contest together just once all year — the Week 5 loss at Pittsburgh.
5. One of the veterans you’d have expected to embrace the bye instead wished Baltimore could have kept playing. Jadeveon Clowney said, “I was just in the groove, and we had to stop and start back up. But I feel pretty good.” Most players appreciated the rest, of course.
6. We’ll be looking for new wrinkles, but Todd Monken warned against overreacting during the bye and dwelling too much on weaknesses at the expense of augmenting your strengths. “Remember some of the things you’re really good at and try to build on that.” Baltimore has the league’s best ground attack.
7. Justin Madubuike has trained with Aaron Donald in past offseasons, so he’s undoubtedly excited to cross paths with the nine-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, especially in a season in which the former has more sacks. Premier interior rushers are unicorns, which is why Madubuike is going to get paid lucratively.
8. As you’d expect after winning a Super Bowl together, Odell Beckham Jr. has “a special bond” with the Rams and regularly keeps in touch with the likes of Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Getting Beckham healthy and managing his snap count have made a major difference in recent weeks.
9. John Harbaugh said Puka Nacua was “one of my highest-rated guys” before the draft, but no one anticipated the fifth-round rookie out of BYU already having 1,000 receiving yards. According to PFF, Nacua’s success against man coverage has been more modest than facing zone, which bodes well for Baltimore’s defense.
10. Stafford has been excellent on third down, but a key to the Rams having a serious chance is Kyren Williams keeping them ahead of the sticks against an elite defense that isn’t as dominant against the run. Friend and former Notre Dame teammate Kyle Hamilton knows how good Williams is.
11. Per Sharp Football, the Ravens defense is producing a league-high 5.5 sacks plus turnovers per game while the Rams offense is second in the NFL allowing 2.8 sacks plus turnovers per game. Spooking Stafford is probably the difference between a potential blowout and a tight game in the fourth quarter.
12. The Los Angeles offensive line was excellent against Cleveland with no sacks allowed and PFF crediting the group with just nine pressures surrendered in 37 dropbacks. Meanwhile, Donald’s propensity to move around could pose problems for a Ravens offensive line that had its protection issues against the Chargers.
Prediction: Rain and wind can change any matchup, but even with a solid ground game, the Rams don’t strike you as a team built for such conditions playing half their games indoors. Baltimore is 12-3 immediately following the regular-season bye in the Harbaugh era, but last year’s team mostly sleepwalked through a 13-3 home win over an unimpressive Carolina team after the off-week. The Rams have a terrific head coach in Sean McVay and the talent on both sides of the ball to keep this game close and even pull off an upset if the Ravens come out lethargic or don’t take care of the football in potentially sloppy conditions. That said, Baltimore does just about everything Los Angeles does well at least a little bit better. And we’re also talking about an NFC team coming to town, which didn’t exactly go well for Detroit and Seattle earlier this season. The weather will tamp down the scoring, but the Ravens will improve to 10-3 with a 23-12 victory on Sunday.