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Twelve Ravens Thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 7 clash with Detroit

With the Ravens returning home after three straight road games to face the 5-1 Detroit Lions on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens face arguably the season’s toughest test to date with Detroit winning 13 of its last 16 games. Though complimentary, Roquan Smith said, “I’m from the ‘show me’ business, so you have to show me.” I’d say the same for Baltimore, who hasn’t exactly run a gauntlet of contenders. 

2. Jared Goff is off to a superb start with several Ravens praising his command of the Detroit offense. For what it’s worth, Goff has graded No. 1 among qualified quarterbacks — Lamar Jackson is second — by Pro Football Focus and ranks fourth in ESPN’s QBR. He’s been impressive throwing deep too

3. Goff and the Lions haven’t played a defense as strong as Baltimore’s, but the Ravens defense has faced the third-easiest schedule of opponents thus far, according to DVOA. If successful, this is a matchup that could elevate the perception of this defense from good to great. 

4. Odafe Oweh is aiming to return, but there’s more intrigue on the Lions’ side with rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Brian Branch potentially returning from two-game absences. Detroit is hurting at running back, so Gibbs, the 12th overall pick, would certainly help. Branch looked the part at the nickel early on.

5. Jackson said it’s taken the Ravens some time to catch up to halftime adjustments made by opposing defenses while Odell Beckham Jr. said they can’t “let off the gas.” However you want to distribute blame between execution and coaching, the second-half and particularly the fourth-quarter offense must improve.

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6. Detroit’s offensive line has been excellent, but the Ravens enter Week 7 tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 11 players having at least one and only one defender — Justin Madubuike — on pace to exceed double digits. Like Smith said, “You’re guaranteed to get your one shot a game.” 

7. Mike Macdonald deserves much credit for such an impressive scheme to help create those sacks, but Baltimore ranks 26th in pressure rate, according to Pro Football Reference. In other words, will the sacks continue at this rate in the long run, especially when facing better offenses like this one Sunday? 

8. When healthy, Marcus Williams has looked the part of what the Ravens envisioned when signing him with four interceptions in 13 games, but the strong play of Geno Stone is starting to remind a little of Chuck Clark stepping in for Tony Jefferson several years ago. Availability is paramount.  

9. Baltimore is 15-1 against the NFC with Jackson starting, reflecting the challenge of facing a unique quarterback you rarely see. However, this marks the second time in three years Aaron Glenn’s defense has faced the Ravens after holding them to 19 points in 2021. Many variables have changed, of course.

10. Some of the inconsistency within the Ravens offense needs some context and perspective, which Warren Sharp laid out nicely with a deep dive on offense being down around the NFL in 2023. Apparently no one told the Miami Dolphins though. 

11. Detroit hasn’t defeated the Ravens since the infamous 2005 game in which Baltimore committed 21 penalties and Terrell Suggs was ejected for bumping referee Mike Carey “with malice in his heart.” It’s only a coincidence that Suggs will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. 

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12. The Lions are 3-0 on the road and have seen their fans travel impressively. Meanwhile the Ravens have gone 11-8 at home since the start of the 2021 season, which is arguably their worst multiyear stretch in their own stadium since the late 1990s. Will home-field advantage show up?

Prediction: In some ways, the pregame hype for this one reminds me of two years ago when the 4-1 Los Angeles Chargers came to town to take on the 4-1 Ravens, which resulted in a blowout win for the home team and a reality check for the unproven visitors. However, the difference this time is that Detroit has a better coach in Dan Campbell and a much better defense that doesn’t figure to be bullied like the Chargers were that afternoon. The Lions have playmakers on both sides of the ball with edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson headlining the defense and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown — who poses a matchup problem in the slot — on his way to having another Pro Bowl season. Though the Ravens have downplayed there being any lingering effects from nearly a full week in London and the long flight home, that’s another factor to keep in mind as an upstart opponent looks to start fast and run its road record to 4-0. I’d be more inclined to pick a Baltimore victory if this Ravens offense had put together four quarters of good football against lesser opponents the last couple weeks, but that inconsistency will be a deciding factor and Goff will make just enough plays through the air in a close 24-20 victory for the Lions.  

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