Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions as Ravens Host the Packers

By Ashley Anderson

Although the Baltimore Ravens Ravens lead the AFC North with an 8-5 record, it feels like the sky is falling in Baltimore. Back-to-back divisional losses and more major injuries are threatening to derail this season. Getting on track will not be easy against the visiting Green Bay Packers. Here are the biggest questions facing Baltimore as they head into Sunday’s matchup.

3.) Is there any way the Ravens can slow down Aaron Rodgers?

On paper, the Ravens are badly overmatched against Aaron Rodgers. Already, their secondary was without Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott, and Marlon Humphrey due to injury. Then, Chuck Clark, the defensive signal caller, landed on the Covid-19 list. Clark could still play if he tests negative Saturday, but the secondary will be painfully thin if he does not.

Baltimore brought fan favorite Tony Jefferson back into the fold, signing him to the practice squad. So far, he seems to look good in practice. Unfortunately, he likely has not had enough time to get back up to speed to make the calls.

Communication issues have reared their ugly heads periodically throughout this season. Forcing a less experienced player to relay Wink Martindale’s notoriously challenging calls could prove disastrous. Martindale indicated he wants a full-time player to wear the communication helmet, so it would not be a surprise if Anthony Averett takes on that responsibility.

Averett has committed his fair share of gaffes this season. Injuries forced him into a much larger role than initially expected, but Martindale said he believes Averett could be an All-Pro player. At this point, he has enough experience to thrive, but his performance is still uneven. He will already have his hands full with Davante Adams, so the added pressure may not be a solid plan. Could rookie Brandon Stephens get the call?

Another major issue is Baltimore’s lack of a pass rush. The Ravens have only registered 26 sacks on the year, and failing to pressure Rodgers is untenable.  While players have expressed confidence in their ability to get home, the stats are not in their favor. If Baltimore has any chance of containing beating the Pack, containing Rodgers to some degree is a must.

2.) Can a ground and pound approach help Baltimore stay competitive offensively?

As the season wears on and the weather turns cold, the run game becomes more crucial. In recent weeks, Devonta Freeman has taken hold of a more lead-back role with Latavius Murray getting goal line carries. Since late November, Freeman is averaging about 15 carries per game.

Freeman put up 64-yards against the Browns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has shown the ability to pick up tough yards, and the vision to make the most of a small crease. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman would be well served to give Freeman additional touches.

One thing that has flown a bit under the radar is Freeman’s impact on the passing game. Quietly, he has amassed 28 receptions for 178-yards and a touchdown. Whoever ends up under center for Baltimore would benefit from getting Freeman more involved in the quick passing game.

Controlling the clock is going to be a huge factor against Green Bay. Their offense is too explosive and high-powered to allow them the edge in time of possession. The Baltimore Ravens need to get back to their roots and employ a complex running attack that will keep pressure off their quarterback while keeping the Packers off the field. Now, the only question is whether Roman will get the memo.

1.) Will Lamar Jackson play?

After seeing Lamar Jackson go down with a sprained ankle, many Baltimore Ravens fans felt that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tyler Huntley very nearly pulled off a miracle comeback, but his two fumbles proved to be the difference. With Jackson not practicing all week, Huntley could very well be starting on Sunday.

A decision on Jackson’s official status will be made Sunday morning, but the Baltimore Ravens likely already know which direction they are headed. Baltimore’s coaches and players have voiced their confidence and support for Huntley throughout the week, and he seems poised to take the reins. A full week of practice with the ones could be the difference from a near comeback to a massive victory.

Huntley operates much in the same way as Jackson. Although he lacks a little bit of the speed Jackson possesses, Huntley is still a dangerous runner. Against the Browns, Huntley had such an impressive run at one point that you almost had to double check his jersey number.

What Huntley does not have is big game experience. Yes, he played for a bit in Baltimore’s playoff loss to Buffalo, and he started against the Bears this season. Still, he is not a former MVP, and he is essentially a rookie based on the amount of time he has played.

One thing going in Huntley’s favor, however, is the fact that Jackson had been in a month-long slump heading into last week. When Huntley came into the game, Baltimore actually looked better on offense. That is not to say Huntley is the better long-term answer, but he may be better for now.

Baltimore’s offensive line has resembled a turnstile at Disney Land this year. Jackson is seeing ghost, and he is constantly trying to hit the home run to cover for the stale offensive game plans being employed by Greg Roman. It has not been working, and maybe a break is exactly what he needs to hit reset. Allowing him to play on a bum ankle behind that line is akin to criminal negligence.

Next post Ravens host Green Bay Packers: 4 predictions and a score

All that said, if Jackson can play, he will. Regardless of his recent performance, Jackson is Baltimore’s best hope of a deep playoff run. He is a former unanimous MVP, generational talent, and the emotional leader of the team. Now we just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers: 5 early thoughts on the game

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a battle with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Ravens have lost two straight games. They as banged up as ever and the Green Bay Packers are fighting for the number one seed in the NFC. Is there any hope to be had? What should we think about this game? Here are eight thoughts I have for Sunday.

1. The Ravens shouldn’t rush back Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens would be very much behooved by winning the game against Green Bay. Things are getting tight and the AFC North is up for grabs. As silly as it sounds, this isn’t a must-win game. The Ravens have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. They have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ideally, the Ravens beat the Packers, though the season isn’t over if they don’t.

Rushing Lamar Jackson back if he’s not 100 percent is a bad idea. Jackson has been struggling. The cure for being stuck in your head isn’t playing with limited mobility. Tyler Huntley just passed for 270 yards against the Cleveland Browns. He’s a good backup. A healthy Huntley is going to do better than a forcing it Jackson. The Ravens need Jackson for the three crucial games after this. They need him to be healthy, they need him to be back at his best. Give him a week off if he’s not ready.

2. Don Martindale is the X-Factor here

The Baltimore Ravens do not have a one-man answer for Devante Adams. The Ravens are stretched thin and when Marlon Humphrey went down it was easy to see it as the death blow. The Browns only put up 24 points and their offense only had 17 last week. The Ravens defense hasn’t had a bad game in weeks. Did it collapse when the dam broke against Pittsburgh? Yes, but the team needed more than 19 points at Heinz Field. In the last handful of games, the Ravens have given up 24, 20, 10, 13 and, 22 points. Martindale has his team unit playing well. He’s figured something out. It’s a 4:25 pm kickoff, so it will be under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium. Don’t be shocked if the Ravens defense makes this a game against Rodgers and company.

3. Ravens must win the time of possession battle:

If the Ravens are going to go with Tyler Huntley, they must think of this as a game in 2018 post-Joe Flacco. Don’t be afraid to run it with Huntley. Don’t be afraid to give 13 carries to Devonta Freeman and another 13 to Latavius Murray. Use Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews for high percentage completions and keep the offense on the field. The best way to beat Rodgers is to have long possessions that keep him off the field. It’s a 60-minute game. If the Ravens can keep it anywhere from 36-41 minutes of the game clock, they’ll have their optimal chance of winning.

4. The Ravens really need Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard to be active:

With Patrick Mekari unavailable for the game, and Alejandro Villanueva coming off a tough game, we know exactly what kinds of problems the Packers can present to the Ravens upfront. The Ravens need to win the line of scrimmage in this game with Tyre Phillips at right tackle. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary could live in the backfield if the Ravens don’t have the best blocking tight end and the best fullback available for this game.

5. A great chance for a rallying moment:

Should the Ravens win this game? Absolutely not. They’re going against a 10 win team with an MVP candidate at QB. The Packers do a lot of things right. They’re solid on defense and are a wowing +12 in the turnover ratio. When you look at the Packers you’re looking at a team with all the pieces, one that can win the Super Bowl. When you look at the Ravens you see them at their lowest point of the season. The adversity they overcame is starting to get to the team.

It’s a weird season though. It’s a really weird season. Could there be a better “Us against the world” pitch for John Harbaugh? Could there be a better chance to rally around the impossible and get the win pundits don’t see coming? Don’t go into this game expecting a win for the purple and black. That said, don’t expect Baltimore to lay down and die. It would be great to see how much fight this team has in them against a Super Bowl contender.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

Plenty more is on the way. Keep tuned in Ravens Flock.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

The Aaron Rodgers situation: And why the NFL has to do something

By Chris Schisler

Aaron Rodgers won’t be playing this week for the Green Bay Packers because he tested positive for Covid-19. That’s not the story though. The story is that an unvaccinated player that we collectively assumed was vaccinated, who hasn’t followed rules regarding masks in press conferences and talking to the media, has been facetious about his vaccine status up to this point.

The NFL gave players a choice, the vaccine was never mandated and the players union made sure of it. The good news is that Rodgers, has been considered unvaccinated all year long, so he’s been tested as an unvaccinated player and his quarantine will follow the guidelines. The bad news is that either the NFL and/or the Green Bay Packers decided to look the other way while Rodgers was disregarding rules towards masks.

Aaron Rodgers lacks the respect for others he seeks for himself

The dishonesty is the worst part of this. Rodgers has been interacting with members of his team, his organization and, the media. He misled people intentionally. The Packers quarterback got away with playing by his own rules and he kept going like nothing ever happened. The fact that it took a positive test for all of this to come to light halfway through the season, is the big problem. The coverup is always worse than the crime and this creates a trust problem for the NFL.

Rodgers has demanded respect from the media yet he hasn’t been straightforward with them. He’s been at a higher risk of carrying and spreading Covid-19 and he hasn’t been wearing masks. Forget about being selfish in regards to his team (Which is a whole different issue) he’s asking for respect from the media that he’s not willing to give back on his end. Respect is a two-way street.

Here is a link to the interview Rodgers gave today on the Pat McAfee show:

The one thing that is clear as day is that Aaron Rodgers cares only about Aaron Rodgers. He had a storm of an offseason and now he’s bringing a cloud over an otherwise amazing season for the Packers. Rodgers has done nothing to get the benefit of the doubt.

The NFL can’t ignore this:

The NFL can go about this one of two ways. They can make Rodgers follow the rules going forward and try to move on in the quietest possible way or they can take action. The Green Bay Packers should be fined. Rodgers being suspended for a game or two after his quarantine is unlikely but not necessarily uncalled for.

The NFL has to own up to the fact that a double standard has been created. What the NFL needs to be concerned about is setting a precedent and establishing trust with the media, the teams, and their fans.

The real harm is that Rodgers is spreading misinformation. Rodgers is peddling anti-vaxxer rhetoric and was given a hall pass from these conversations all season. Now he thinks he has the NFL in a corner. The NFL has to show Rodgers that this is not the case. Mina Kimes of ESPN put it better than I’ve heard it from anyone, Here’s the link to that video clip.

Kimes called a spade a spade. Rodgers is pushing information that has been debunked by the medical community. She was right to say that. Rodgers has the potential to do more harm by being a champion of bad ideas. This isn’t a contained problem even if he has to follow the rules going forward.

The Bottom Line:

This isn’t about football at this point. Like Mina Kimes says there is a human element of this and Rodgers doesn’t seem to care. Rodgers asked for an alternative to vaccination. The NFL didn’t bite. The NFL knew about this the whole time. They can’t save face but they can course correct. Hold Rodgers accountable. Hold the Green Bay Packers accountable.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Minnesota Vikings: 4 predictions and a score

The NFL has to do something. Forget the Packers’ next game against the Chiefs. This has become a much bigger problem than the Packers not having their quarterback for a game or two. This is a bad look for Rodgers and it calls a lot into question at the NFL.