Packers Are Near Unanimous Pick to Beat Ravens
The Ravens have been the most resilient team in the NFL this season, and that resilience will be tested again on Sunday.
Lamar Jackson (ankle) did not practice again yesterday and it appears to be "an uphill battle" for him to play. Meanwhile, safety Chuck Clark, the defensive signal caller and lone Week 1 starter remaining in the secondary, was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and there are more injury concerns on the offensive line.
Oh, and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (10-3), the top seed in the NFC, are coming to town.
Neither the oddsmakers nor the pundits like the Ravens' chances. The AFC North-leading Ravens (8-5) are 5.5 underdogs. Forty-six of the 47 pundits we looked at picked the Packers to win. The only pundit to pick the Ravens is ESPN's Dan Graziano.
There is some cause for optimism. The last time the Ravens were this big of an underdog at home, they won.
Plus, the Ravens have won 13 straight games against NFC teams. That's the longest active streak by one team against an opposing conference and the second-longest interconference streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens are overmatched.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport: "This is two teams heading in opposite directions. "The Packers are rolling and just took over the top seed in the NFC. The Ravens are reeling and could be without Jackson. Even if their star quarterback does play, his mobility will be affected, and it's not like the Ravens were playing well offensively before Jackson hurt his ankle. Throw in Baltimore's difficulties defending the pass, and you have the makings of a double-digit win for the Pack."
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "This is one of the better games of the week, but Lamar Jackson's health is the big concern for the Ravens. If he can't go, it will be Tyler Huntley. If Jackson does go, how healthy will he be with the ankle injury? The Packers will throw a good defense at whoever starts and we know Aaron Rodgers can light up the banged-up Baltimore secondary. Packers big."
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "The Packers are the better team right now from a talent standpoint when you factor in all the injuries. Kudos to John Harbaugh for holding that team together through all the injuries. My gut feeling is we're not going to see Lamar Jackson in that game. Not that there's a gigantic dropoff from Jackson to Huntley, but obviously they're better off with Jackson. I like the Packers in this game. I like the Packers to cover."
Don't count out the Ravens if Jackson plays.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: "As recently as a month ago, Baltimore would have been favored by at least a field goal in this game. I like the Ravens to cover and possibly win this home game if Lamar Jackson plays. I have seen too many faulty Baltimore teams play their best just when all hope looks lost, often late in the season. The matchups on the outside are problematic for this Ravens secondary, but if Lamar plays, I think Joe [Buck] and Troy [Aikman] are going to have a fun one."
The Ravens' huge advantage in special teams could be an X-factor.
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Ravens still rank first in Football Outsiders' special teams DVOA. Justin Tucker made field-goal attempts of 50, 42 and 55 yards in Cleveland and has made 28 of 30 overall in another remarkable season. Devin Duvernay is one of the league's most dangerous returners, with a 14.4-yard average on punts and a 24.2-yard average on kickoffs. That's bad news for the Packers, who gave up 259 return yards in their Week 14 victory over the Chicago Bears and rank last in special teams DVOA. Kicker Mason Crosby has made just 19 of 28 field-goal attempts, with eight misses between 30 and 49 yards."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "Beyond Justin Tucker's brilliance, a big return or a blocked kick would go a long way in trying to overcome Jackson's potential absence."
The Ravens' runninggamehas the edge over the Packers' run defense.
Walker: "The Packers rank ninth in run defense but have allowed opponents to average 4.5 yards per carry and rank 24th in rush defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. [Linebacker] De'Vondre Campbell leads the Packers in tackles, and safety Adrian Amos (Calvert Hall) is an outstanding run defender from the back end. Green Bay lacks a dominant interior run defender, however."
To blitz or not to blitz, that is the question for the Ravens defense.
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "The Ravens like to blitz, but know they will be cooked trying that vs. Rodgers and creating a lot of favorable one-on-ones."
Next Gen Stats: "As stellar as he is when he's not pressured, Rodgers is one of the worst passers in the league when the heat is on. His completion percentage drops by over 40 points, yards per attempt falls by over 4.5 and his TD-to-INT ratio is vastly different when pressured (25-2 vs. 2-2). And the whopping 77.5-point gap between his passer rating without pressure is the largest in the NFL. Both risk and reward are high for the blitz-heavy Ravens this week. Baltimore's pass rush execution with or without using extra defenders will be the key to slowing down the future Hall of Famer."
|ESPN||10 of 11 panelists pick Packers||NA|
|Baltimore Sun||Packers 28, Ravens 23||“[The Ravens will] use their advantages in the run game and on special teams to keep this close, but Rodgers will do what he needs to do in the end.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Packers||NA|
|NFL.com||Packers 29, Ravens 28||“I have seen too many faulty Baltimore teams play their best just when all hope looks lost, often late in the season. The matchups on the outside are problematic for this Ravens secondary, but if Lamar plays, I think Joe [Buck] and Troy [Aikman] are going to have a fun one.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||10 of 10 panelists pick Packers||NA|
|Sporting News||Packers 27, Ravens 20||“The Packers get a break here against a depleted pass defense for Aaron Rodgers to attack and Aaron Jones can also have good versatile success out of the backfield. The Ravens like to blitz, but know they will be cooked trying that.vs. Rodgers and creating a lot of favorable one-on-ones.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Packers||“This is one of the better games of the week, but Lamar Jackson's health is the big concern for the Ravens. If he can't go, it will be Tyler Huntley. If Jackson does go, how healthy will he be with the ankle injury? The Packers will throw a good defense at whoever starts and we know Aaron Rodgers can light up the banged-up Baltimore secondary. Packers big.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Packers||“The Packers are the better team. The Ravens have overachieved, and injuries are catching up to them.” — Mike Florio|
|Sports Illustrated||5 of 5 panelists pick Packers||NA|
Could Tyler Huntley Be Hot Commodity in Trade Talks in Offseason?
After leading the Ravens to a comeback win over the Bears in Week 11 and nearly bringing the Ravens all the way back from a 21-point deficit in Cleveland last week, Huntley has caught the attention of fans and pundits.
Could he be a hot commodity in trade talks in the offseason? Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer tackled the question.
"I don't think Tyler Huntley will be a starting quarterback in 2022. And so I don't think the Ravens are going to move him, because I don't think you'll see another team ready to offload a bunch of picks to get him — which means his destiny is likely to sign the deal he's tendered by Baltimore as an exclusive-rights free agent in the spring and play another year as the backup to Lamar Jackson before getting to test restricted free agency in '23," Breer wrote.
"That said, what Huntley has done in showing he can play the position at a competent, professional level is set himself up to be in the league for years to come. And there's a chance that as more athletic quarterbacks come into the league, his ability to mirror their skill sets, and fit into systems built for them, will juice his value as a backup. Which is to say that I think Huntley's made himself some money this year."
Pundit Refers to Rashod Bateman As 'Struggling Rookie"
Rashod Bateman made Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox’s list of rookies who can have a breakout season next year.
I think most would agree with Bateman having breakout potential. What I wouldn't agree with is Bateman being on Knox's list of "struggling rookies who can break out in 2022."
Bateman is struggling? The timing of the article is odd to say the least, as Bateman is coming off a game in which he had seven catches for 103 yards.
"In Jackson's first three seasons, he lacked a true No. 1 wide receiver on the perimeter. The selection of Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman at No. 27 overall was supposed to change this. The early return on investment has been disappointing," Knox wrote. "To be fair, Bateman did open the season on injured reserve following groin surgery. However, he's been in the lineup since Week 6, and his production has been very inconsistent. Bateman has three games of 80 receiving yards and four with fewer than 32."
Inconsistent? Perhaps. But to say Bateman is struggling is quite a stretch.[period]