By: Ashley Anderson
As the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens prepare to host the 6-5 Browns, there are facing a number of pressing questions. Here’s a look at Baltimore’s top concerns heading into Sunday night.
3.) Can Baltimore Ravens contain Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt?
Despite a leaky secondary, the Ravens have been stout against the run. They are second in the league with 88.6 rush yards allowed per game. This week, they face their toughest challenge yet in the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb leads the NFL with 6-yards per carry, and Hunt is fresh after missing the last five games due to a thigh injury.
The Ravens have been missing nose tackle Brandon Williams due to a shoulder injury, but he may return this week. Unfortunately, things are a bit less certain about defensive end Calais Campbell. If one or both big men miss this matchup, it will leave Baltimore painfully thin upfront. Justin Ellis has done a fine job filling in for Williams, but this is a bigger stage than he has been on before.
With Baker Mayfield dealing with various injuries, there is no doubt the Browns plan to rely on their run game. The weather is also expected to turn frigid Sunday night, which favors the ground and pound approach. Baltimore must key in on Chubb and Hunt, especially on screen passes, if they expect to walk away victorious.
2.) Will Lamar Jackson deal with rustiness?
Somewhat surprisingly, Lamar Jackson missed last week’s game with an illness. He has also missed a great deal of practice time for various reasons this season. Although he practiced throughout this week, his last game action was all the way back on November 11th in Miami.
As previously noted, the weather conditions will be significantly different than the last time Jackson played. In Miami, the Ravens were dealing with extreme heat and humidity, and they were on a short week of rest. Tomorrow night, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-to-low ’30s.
Due to the time off, Jackson could be dealing with a bit of rust. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins said Jackson looked good in practice, but having your defense “pressure” you is nowhere near what Myles Garrett brings to the table. For the Ravens to be successful, Jackson must take good care of the ball and avoid turnovers. He needs to be on his A-game, so hopefully, he can get momentum early and stay hot.
1.) How will the Baltimore Ravens deal with their myriad of injuries?
Injuries are nothing new for the 2021 Baltimore Ravens. Before the season even began, starters were dropping like flies. To date, things have not improved.
This week, ten players are considered questionable, including several starters. Against the Bears, Baltimore only had three healthy corners, and they may be shorthanded again. Jimmy Smith is likely out, and Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, and Chris Westry all missed time this week. Although he played sparingly, safety Ar’Darius Washington was lost for the season when he broke his foot Wednesday.
On the defensive line, Pernell McPhee is out for at least three weeks after landing on IR. Without him, rookie Odafe Oweh has added responsibility with setting the edge. He will take on even more duties if Campbell cannot play. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale usually likes to rotate guys to keep them fresh, but these injuries simply do not allow for that.
If there is any consolation for Baltimore, it is that Cleveland has struggled to score of late. They cannot be overlooked, however, as Mayfield is smart enough to take advantage of broken plays. Chuck Clark and Marlon Humphrey have to get on the same page this week to overcome other absences and prevent the back-breaking plays Baltimore has been known to surrender this season.