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