Posted in Pregame Content

Ravens miracle? Here’s a look at what the Ravens need to happen Sunday

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are in a position where they need help getting into the postseason. They need to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (though it’s Pittsburgh winning is a big deal regardless of record.  Then the Ravens need to start rooting for other teams. Yes, the scoreboard watching will be a definite thing.

The Ravens need three other games to go their way. They need the Patriots to beat the Dolphins. They need to hope the Jacksonville Jaguars can shock the world with a win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Las Vegas Raiders need to beat the Los Angeles Chargers. All three are possible in different degrees. Let’s take a look at the four things the Ravens must-have for postseason play.

A Win over Pittsburgh: A coin flip

Let’s be honest, with Ravens vs. Steelers anything is possible. The Ravens lost a heartbreaker to the Steelers earlier this season. To be honest, heartbreaker may be underselling that, quick give me an adjective that’s worse than that,,,

Anyway, the Ravens could very well win this. They could very well lose. Baltimore has been in every single game down the stretch outside of their trip to the Cincinnati Bengals. Tyler Huntley beat the Chicago Bears and keeps coming close against good teams like the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams.

There’s no reason to expect a blowout from either party. This game will go down to the wire. Truthfully, neither team is all that put together. The Ravens are hobbled to the point that elimination would almost be as merciful as it is painful. The Steelers have T.J. Watt going for a sack record and the Ben Roethlisberger tour, but they’ve been a middling 8-7-1 team.

The Steelers need the Colts to lose to the Jaguars as well. All they need is a win over the Ravens and that pesky Jaguars team to play spoiler for the Colts. Both teams need a win to make anything matter on Sunday. Expect a good game. If this game goes down to a two-point conversion attempt, I can safely say that the entire Ravens Flock is going to go crazy either way. It’s going to be a Ravens vs. Steelers game, so don’t forget your blood pressure medicine if you take it.

Jaguars vs. Colts: So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

The Jaguars actually have a track record of beating the Colts in Jacksonville. The last several trips down to Florida have gone very poorly for the Colts. That’s it. That’s about the only thing you can hang your hat on if you’re a Ravens fan. Trevor Lawrence has had a brutal rookie season with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on the year. Last week, the Patriots held him to 193 yards and picked him off three times. The Colts have been red hot. They’ve spent the last three weeks beating the Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, and Raiders. This is by far the least likely outcome to go the Ravens’ way.

Patriots over the Dolphins: Oh this is so doable

The Patriots need a win because they are currently tied with the Buffalo Bills for the division lead. The Bills have the edge at the moment, but there’s plenty to play for as far as the Patriots are concerned. That division title feels better than a wild card spot which means no resting players despite already being in the dance. That’s good for Baltimore.

The Dolphins are the only team to ever lose seven straight games and then win seven straight to get back into the hunt. The Dolphins are a better team than we thought they were, and they started showing it on Thursday Night Football against the Dolphins. This will be an interesting chess match between Bill Belichick and his former assistant Brian Flores. The Dolphins just got spanked by the Tennessee Titans. The pressure is on the Dolphins because the Patriots ultimately have a wild card spot to fall back on. The momentum of the Patriots plus the advantage of Belichick wanting this one bad and being a master game planner make this very doable. If the Ravens survive the first slate of games on Sunday with a fighter’s chance, they have a very interesting evening of rooting to do. It’s okay to root for the Patriots (this once).

Raiders over the Chargers: Which Raiders team shows up? Which Chargers team shows up?

The Chargers are a different team all the time. They were able to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and crush the AFC North crowned Cincinnati Bengals and they also were able to get steamrolled by the Ravens and crushed by the Denver Broncos.

The Raiders started the season as world-beaters. They beat the Ravens and Steelers with Derek Carr being hot and their pass rush being lethal. The Raiders are also 9-7 and have lost to the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. I seriously don’t know what to expect here, which makes this a very interesting nightcap. If the Ravens need this to get in it could happen. The last time the Chargers won 28-14 in a weird night game that was delayed due to lightning. It all depends on which teams show up. The Ravens are hoping for the Good Raiders and the Bad Chargers.

Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

Time to see what happens.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

By Ashley Anderson

I would say good morning, Baltimore Ravens fans, but I am quite sure you are all still reeling from last night’s loss. Of course, the defining moment of the game was Head Coach John Harbaugh’s decision to try for a two-point conversion to win in regulation after Baltimore drove down to score. Conventional wisdom tells you to kick the extra point, go for the tie, and let things play out in overtime. Harbaugh decided against that.

Insider Information

The Ravens, of course, knew something that fans at home did not. Marlon Humphrey had suffered a potentially serious injury on Pittsburgh’s previous drive, and he would not be returning to the game. Pittsburgh had already been running roughshod over Baltimore’s defense, and now they were even more short-handed.

Pundits’ Reactions to the Baltimore Ravens choice:

Some pundits were jumping for joy, excited to see an aggressive approach in line with Harbaugh’s typical strategy. Others felt the Ravens should take the near sure thing and have Justin Tucker kick the extra point. After the touchdown, Harbaugh immediately held up two fingers, and those watching the CBS broadcast could hear how enthused Tony Romo was.

Pittsburgh took a timeout to get their defense situated. Baltimore then seemed to hesitate, as Tucker was on the field. That was just a decoy, however, as Harbaugh fully intended to go for the two-point conversion from the get-go.

The Play Itself

By now, everyone has seen the play. The Ravens went with a misdirection, trying to fake like the ball was going to Devonta Freeman. T.J. Watt did not bite on the fake, and he was in Lamar Jackson’s face untouched nearly instantaneously.

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was caught out of position, though. His eyes were in the backfield, as he believed Freeman had the ball. That left tight end Mark Andrews wide open in the flat.

Andrews appeared to slow up on the route and square his hips to the line of scrimmage. With Watt in his face, Jackson threw an off-target pass that went wider than he intended. Although Andrews stuck out one hand and tipped the ball, he was not able to tip it back to himself to secure it. The pass fell harmlessly to the turf, and the Steelers escaped with the one-point win.

Football has always been a game of inches. Early in the day, Pittsburgh missed on a sure touchdown when Dionte Johnson had a ball bounce off his fingertips in the end zone. The Ravens missed a near pick earlier as well on a ball that bounced off a couple of players and through the hands of Marlon Humphrey. On the last play, a couple of inches made all the difference.

Questions Abound for the Baltimore Ravens

It is fair to question Baltimore’s strategy in this situation. Their offense had just executed a solid touchdown drive, and there was nothing saying they would not get the ball back in overtime. Harbaugh, however, felt the best chance at a win came from finding a way to get those two key points in regulation.

In four straight games, the Ravens have now failed to score 20 points. Their offense has sputtered, even when they are in a position to score like they were early in yesterday’s game. The offensive line was dealt another blow with the loss of right tackle Patrick Mekari to a hand injury. Pittsburgh had an eye-popping seven sacks on the day, partly due to poor play by the line, and partly due to Jackson holding the ball too long. With all that going against them, Harbaugh did not trust them to execute another scoring drive.

He also did not trust his defense to make a stop. After holding Pittsburgh to three points through the first 45-minutes, the defense came unglued in the fourth quarter. Poor tackling again reared its ugly head. Anthony Averett was getting burned on every other play.

A miscommunication between Averett and Humphrey allowed Johnson to take a 29-yard pass untouched for a score. Humphrey’s injury occurred while trying to defend Johnson as he scored his second touchdown of the day to put Pittsburgh on top. 17 unanswered points certainly does not inspire confidence.

My Opinion

Personally, I still wish the Ravens had kicked the extra point. Sure, it is the most conservative approach, and it may have extended the misery. Perhaps, Harbaugh was trying to avoid further injuries and get our of Pittsburgh with at least a handful of healthy corners. However, with a kicker who was good from 66-yards earlier this season, one has to wonder what could have been if the coin flip went Baltimore’s way.

If the Ravens won the toss, there was nothing saying Devin Duvernay wouldn’t take the kickoff to the house. He leads the league in kick return yards, so it is entirely possible he would have ripped off a big gain and put Baltimore in excellent field position. On the previous kickoff, Chris Boswell actually kicked the ball out of bounds and gave the Ravens the ball on the 40-yard line. If either of those things happened, Jackson would have only needed to move the ball between 25-30 yards to kick a field goal.

The flip side is that Baltimore may have lost the toss. Even in that scenario, the special teams unit had pinned Pittsburgh deep all day. A proud defensive unit, even sans its top corner, would have been eager to make a stop. Wink Martindale may have found a way to pressure Ben Roethlisberger into a mistake, or bounce or two may have gone Baltimore’s way.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens 2021 1st round is looking like a smash hit right now

Now, we will never know what might have been. As he did all day, Watt disrupted Jackson’s timing, and poor execution on both ends of the play caused the two-point try to fail. It never should have come down to that, but the Ravens made too many mistakes throughout the game. At 8-4, Baltimore still leads the AFC North, but their season is very much in jeopardy.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Lamar Jackson and his rut is hurting the Baltimore Ravens

By Chris Schisler 

Lamar Jackson has been off his game for several weeks. It’s getting to the point where this rut has almost become the standard operating procedure for the MVP quarterback. So what’s wrong?

It leads to sacks and interceptions, bad passes. By holding on to the football too long, Jackson is ignoring his responsibility in pass protection and creating the need for improvisation in the first place. 

This offensive line isn’t good. It shouldn’t be let off the hook entirely. At one point in this season, the offensive line was the main culprit behind the problems. Jackson is playing bad football right now and it’s become the biggest problem in Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson is having too many negative plays

Jackson’s biggest strength has always been his efficiency. He’s always been on top of things. In his MVP season pressure didn’t affect him the way it is this season. The 2021 version of Lamar Jackson is getting beat with blitzes. Teams figured out that blitzing the Ravens from out wide causes a lot of problems.

Quite simply, Jackson hasn’t responded or adapted. Against the Steelers, the times he could beat them with a quick strike specifically because of the blitz, he pats the ball and then bailed out of the pocket. Jackson isn’t hitting the open receivers. Hot routes are often ignored and check-down passes almost seem forbidden from Jackson’s point of view. 

Jackson went 23-37 passing. He had an interception and was sacked seven times. The Browns picked off Jackson four times and sacked him twice. Against the Dolphins, Jackson was 26-43 and had an interception. Things have been going in a bad direction. It’s not a Ravens vs. Steelers problem. It’s a Lamar Jackson problem. 

Lamar Jackson is in his head: 

The Ravens came into this game with a clear plan and they knew what they wanted to accomplish. The proof of that is the opening march down the field. The Ravens had it put together until Jackson had what could only be described as a boneheaded interception. The best possesion of the game was a 99.5-yard touchdown drive. When the Ravens put it together it was good. 

The Ravens dominated the Browns in just about every statistical category outside of turnovers. The Ravens controlled the game in Pittsburgh until they didn’t. It’s hard to blame anybody more than Jackson right now. For two games in a row, Jackson played more than bad enough to lose. The difference is that Pittsburgh didn’t let him get away with it. 

It’s good that Jackson gets upset when things don’t go well. At a certain point patting your chest and taking the blame gets annoying. The only thing people like less than hearing sorry is hearing it constantly. Jackson needs to get out of his head. He needs to stop trying so hard and remember to have fun playing football.

He needs to know that the big play doesn’t always have to happen immediately. Checkdowns are like vegetables, you don’t like them but they’re healthy for you if used appropriately. Jackson needs to stop putting it all on himself and play with some rhythm. 

The Baltimore Ravens offense has to be better, bottom line: 

You can’t blame the defense. If your opponent only scores 20 points and you lose, it’s on the offense. The Steelers scored 20 points and 17 of them were in the fourth quarter. The Ravens spent a whole game forcing punts to have the dam break. We’ve seen the movie before. This is what happens when you possess the ball but don’t score. The offense didn’t hold its end of the bargain. 

You can say that Mark Andrews should have caught the two-point conversion. Fine. You can say the Ravens shouldn’t have even gone for the two-point conversion. Fine. You can’t blame the defense for the offense leaving points on the board, and for so many drives to give the team so little. 

The Baltimore Ravens will be in trouble until they start putting some points on the board. The loss of Marlon Humphrey for the season means that the dam is going to break sooner and more easily. The Ravens scored 10 points against the Lions. They scored 16 points against the bears. Baltimore had 16 points against the Browns and 19 in the loss to Pittsburgh. Points more specifically points left on the field are the problem. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

Lamar Jackson is in a rut. He needs to play himself out of it. The MVP quarterback is in his head. He’s trying to force it as a pocket passer. He’s not taking what’s given to him, he wants to beat defenses down the field, with his arm. Until Jackson starts throwing the ball on schedule and playing reeled in football the offense is going to sputter. Believing in Jackson isn’t ignoring the fact that he’s playing poorly. The negative plays (sacks, interceptions, missed chances) are killing the team. 

 

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens: Top concerns against Pittsburgh Steelers

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a battle on their hands and it’s in familiar territory. It’s an unfriendly bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens have at least one trip into their top rival’s den every season and they know exactly what to expect.

That’s the first thing you have to consider with this matchup. Games in Pittsburgh are never easy. The crowd is going to be relentlessly loud and present. The officials tend to give the Steelers some home cooking, whether they’re aware of it or not (see Bears vs. Steelers).

If you had to rank the toughest places to play in football, Pittsburgh may be at the top of the list. The Ravens have to pack their toughness and their mental resolve more than anything. Pittsburgh is a place where momentum is as important as oxygen. It seems to weigh heavily in that stadium.

Baltimore Ravens must buck turnover trend in these games:

The second concern for the Ravens has to be protecting the football. Lamar Jackson has a short history of turning the ball over to the Steelers. Jackson had two picks and two fumbles the last time he went against the Steelers. The Ravens lost 28-24 in a game the purple and black were mostly forcing the issue.

In 2019, Jackson had three interceptions against the Steelers in Baltimore’s 26-23 overtime win. His performance wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but in two games against the Steelers, Jackson has an uncomfortable amount of turnovers. It’s an especially present thought going into this game as Jackson is trying to rebound from a four-interception game against the Cleveland Browns.

Jackson has 12 interceptions in eight games. As great as he has been, Jackson’s also at times too careless with the football. Should the Ravens trust Jackson? Absolutely. He’s their field general and he’s proven himself beyond measure. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a show-me game for the Heisman-winning quarterback. He has to show that he can control the game in Pittsburgh. Being concerned about Jackson’s turnovers is fair.

The Ravens have a lot to worry about offensively. Can the Ravens withstand the Pittsburgh pass rush? Whether or not T.J. Watt plays the Steelers have Alex Highsmith and a strong defensive front for the offensive line to deal with. It’s possible that neither Watt nor Cam Heyward will play in this game. That would be a huge boon for the Ravens’ in the trenches, it doesn’t mean things will be a cakewalk.

Concerns for the defense start with the injury report:

The Ravens’ injuries are racking up and it could cost them defensively. Chase Claypool and Pat Friermuth give Pittsburgh some big-play potential in the passing game. The injury report has Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and, Chris Westry as questionable. Should most of them be able to go? Sure, but having almost all of your cornerbacks on the injury report is a bit unsettling if you’re Don Martindale getting ready for this one.

The Ravens have had plenty of problems with tight ends this season. David Njoku was even able to score without actually catching the football so Friermuth is on notice, I guess. All jokes aside, the Steelers have a rookie tight end that may present Baltimore a bit of a challenge. He’s a 6-5 target with a very thick frame and obvious chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. If the Steelers try to beat the Ravens with quick completions in the passing game, the Penn State tight end could be their pipeline for that.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Big Ben round 1,000

The Ravens will want to make the Steelers one-dimensional. Taking Najee Harris will take the same kind of commitment to run defense that neutralizing Nick Chubb took last Sunday. Harris is always capable of the big play, even if the Pittsburgh offensive line isn’t great and his average on the year is 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Ravens can’t let him get loose in the open field.

If the Ravens make the Steelers one-dimensional it all comes down to beating the man they call Big Ben. Roethlisberger hasn’t looked close to his prime, but he’s shown flashes of the brilliance that will make him a future Hall of Fame passer. If Roethlisberger is hot and his receivers are on point against a  banged-up Ravens secondary, it will change the dynamic of this game.

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

Do I think the Ravens should win this game? Yes. I think they’re the better overall team. Don’t think it’s going to be easy though. This is a coin flip of a game. Whenever the Steelers and Ravens meet it could go either way and it’s going to be a serious fight.

 

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. Lamar Jackson reels it back in and has a solid performance for the Baltimore Ravens: 

The biggest concern for the Baltimore Ravens has to be whether their MVP quarterback is right. Can he get back into a groove? Was the four-interception game indicative of a larger problem? Was it just a bad day at the office, coming back after missing the Chicago game?

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have always found a way to frustrate Lamar Jackson, it’s hard to stay worried about him. He’s very self-demanding, hardworking and he’s going to be very focused on making up for it. Look for Jackson to play more tightly as a passer. He’s probably going to run it a little more. He may hold on to the ball a bit too long on a play or two- there will be side effects of his four-pick game.

This game is a chance to get his groove back. I’m not going to say that he’s going to have his best game or that he’s going to go crazy. I’m saying that we get a vintage Lamar Jackson game. 220 yards passing, 60-100 yards rushing. He’s going to look more like himself. In the Browns game, he didn’t seem like him. This week he’s going to be the player we know and love.

2. Ben Roethlisberger takes a beating:

The Pittsburgh Steelers just got manhandled by the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger looked awful last week. He was sacked three times and he was intercepted twice.

If the Ravens stop the run the way they did against Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Steelers will be in their danger zone of one-dimensionality. Odafe Oweh will have two sacks and force a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. Tyus Bowser and Justin Houston will have a sack each. This will stifle the Pittsburgh offense.

Prediction 3: Marquise Brown goes off for the Baltimore Ravens

This seems like a matchup made for Marquise Brown. The Steelers’ secondary is beatable. Whether or not Joe Haden plays, he hasn’t been the Joe Haden we’re used to. Brown’s speed is going to be a problem for anyone they put on him.

In the game without Jackson last year, Brown had four catches and a touchdown. On his first trip to Heinz field in 2019, he also had a touchdown. Let’s make it three for three with Brown getting a touchdown in Pittsburgh but this will be his best game against the Steelers by far.

4. The Baltimore Ravens run game eats

I’ve already predicted a bit more rushing from Lamar Jackson and a standard 60-100 yards on the ground out of him. I don’t think he’s going to be alone in success on the ground. Joe Mixon just tore up this Steelers defense. The rushing yards are there for the taking.

The way the Ravens run the ball is starting to form a decent pattern. Devonta Freeman will be able to get 50-60 yards. Latavius Murray is good for 15-30 yards. With Jackson they’re going to healthily over 100 yards rushing. The Baltimore front is picking up confidence while the Steelers face their biggest moment of doubt.

And now a score: Ravens win 24-17

The Steelers will be competitive. You have to remember that this is a game in Pittsburgh and the Ravens have lost to worse teams (cough, cough Miami Dolphins). It’s a Ravens- Steelers game. It’s not going to be easy, especially not in a year where everything is hard.

NEXT POST: Why Ravens fans should actually feel more confident after their ugly win

I think the Ravens defense is coming together. The Ravens just need their quarterback to play true to his talent. If Jackson plays like himself I have much more confidence in the Ravens, even if that means winning in dramatic fashion.