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Late for Work 12/18: Ravens Are Unanimous Choice to Defeat Jaguars

TE Mark Andrews
TE Mark Andrews

Ravens Are Unanimous Choice to Defeat Jaguars

Sunday's matchup between the Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium is the very definition of a trap game.

The Ravens (8-5) are favored by 13.5 points and coming off a thrilling, come-from-behind, 47-42 victory over the Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football" in what is being called the game of the year. The Jaguars (1-12), conversely, have lost 12 consecutive games.

However, with so much at stake for the Ravens and as much adversity as they've been through this season, it's highly unlikely they'll have a letdown or overlook any of their three remaining opponents, all of whom have losing records.

Baltimore currently holds the No. 8 spot in the seven-team AFC playoff field. Winning out greatly increases the Ravens' chances of making it to postseason play for the third year in a row.

All 48 of the pundits we looked at are picking the Ravens to defeat the Jaguars. The majority who predicted the score have Baltimore winning by 14-plus points.

"Lamar Jackson and his teammates have fought hard to get back in the playoff race, and they're not going to blow their chance against a 1-12 opponent," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote.

Despite their record, the Jaguars have been competitive in several games against playoff-caliber teams. They beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. The Jags lost to the Tennessee Titans by three points, Green Bay Packers by four, and Browns by two.

Cult hero Gardner Minshew returns as Jacksonville's starting quarterback. He started the first seven games of the season before being benched.

Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Ravens will roll on the strength of their running game.

CBS Sports’ Will Brinson: "How Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards (plus Mark Ingram?) don't run for 250 yards here is beyond me. They can do whatever they want on offense, assuming they're willing to just lean on the ground game and get out of Dodge with a win."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Ravens have won two straight, while the running game is going wild lately. The Jaguars can't stop the run, which will be a major problem. Gardner Minshew is back in at quarterback for the Jaguars, but it won't matter. This will be ugly."

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "The Ravens are coming off two strong offensive performances with Lamar Jackson and the running game partying like it was 2019. … Jacksonville has zero answers for Baltimore on the ground."

It could be a good day for the Ravens' passing attack, too.

Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "Jackson will be able to attack Jacksonville's secondary, which is dealing with some struggles. Tight end Mark Andrews should be able to find space against the Jaguars' linebackers. … Jacksonville allows 273.4 yards passing per game, which is ranked 28th in the NFL."

Jaguars RB James Robinson is a significant factor in the passing game and could be a matchup problem.

Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz: "Partly in an effort to avoid throwing at Ravens All-Pro cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, some opposing offenses have tried to attack Baltimore's defense by spreading out and challenging linebackers in coverage. The Jaguars have the option of doing just that with Robinson, an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State who's been by far their most productive offensive player this season. Fourteen of Robinson's catches this year have gained first downs, which shows that he's made important plays as a receiver instead of simply amassing numbers through checkdowns. … Ravens inside linebackers Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, Chris Board and Malik Harrison might all find themselves covering Robinson at some point Sunday. It'll be a good sign if they can stick with him."

The Jaguars' underrated receiving corps also could present a challenge.

The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards should be able to gift-wrap a victory, but the defense could be tested by unheralded receivers D.J. Chark and Keelan Cole and rookie standouts Laviska Shenault Jr. and Collin Johnson, all of whom grade as above-average at their position."

Can Marquise "Hollywood" Brown build off Monday night's game-tying touchdown catch if he's active? (Brown is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as a “high-risk” close contact.)

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "I just wonder how much confidence Marquise Brown is going to carry away from the touchdown catch and run that got the game tied up late. It was the key play of the game when Lamar Jackson returned from the locker room. Will that help the connection between the two, as that passing game needs to improve if the Ravens are going to have any hope of advancing in the postseason."

Table inside Article
Source Team Selected Panelists Score Comments
10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Baltimore Sun
4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens “The Jaguars have a handful of fun pieces on offense, and Gardner Minshew has some Baker Mayfield-esque qualities. But they’ve also lost 12 games in a row. The Ravens can’t let injuries derail their push for a wild-card berth.” — Jonas Shaffer
USA Today
7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Ravens 33, Jaguars 24 “The Ravens' deteriorating defense is a problem. Their cornerbacks aren't healthy enough to leave in man coverage, which limits their blitzes, which ruins the pass rush from a banged-up defensive line. Gardner Minshew could also be a problem this week, but the Jaguars' run defense is too soft to hold up despite this being Baltimore's third straight game playing on a short week.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network
8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Sporting News
Ravens 34, Jaguars 17 “The Ravens are coming off two strong offensive performances with Lamar Jackson and the running game partying like it was 2019. Minshew will be pressured into mistakes outweighing the spark he provides. Jacksonville has zero answers for Baltimore on the ground.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports
7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens “The Ravens have won two straight, while the running game is going wild lately. The Jaguars can't stop the run, which will be a major problem. Gardner Minshew is back in at quarterback for the Jaguars, but it won't matter. This will be ugly.”— Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk
3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens “Desperation looks good on the Ravens, and it could make them ready to actually win a playoff game, if they get there.” — Mike Florio
Sports Illustrated
6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Ravens 37, Jaguars 13 “Have you seen the Jaguars lately? The Ravens know it’s must-win territory from here on out, and they act accordingly.” — Matt Verderame

Can Ravens Get Sack Attack Back on Track?

After recording 22 sacks over their first seven games, the Ravens have just six sacks over their past six games and one over the past three. That's disappointing, especially when considering they acquired Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a midseason trade. He has one sack in seven games with Baltimore after recording five sacks in six games with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens are on pace to finish the season with 34 sacks, three fewer than last season. So what's happened to the pass rush?

"As with the Ravens' passing game, there are no simple explanations for the drop-off," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "[Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink"] Martindale noted last week that quick-strike quarterbacks like the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger are tough to sack, and he explained that the Ravens had taken a more conservative approach against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13. The absence of veterans like [Calais] Campbell, [Matthew] Judon and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee in recent weeks has also limited the pass rush's versatility."

Shaffer noted that a regression may have been inevitable because 13 of those 22 early sacks came in back-to-back weeks against the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, who have two of the NFL's worst offensive lines.

"And after returning from their bye week, the Ravens have twice faced Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh, which has the league's best adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders," Shaffer wrote. "Also on their schedule: the Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 in adjusted sack rate), New England Patriots (No. 23, but a run-heavy offense), Tennessee Titans (No. 8 and run-heavy), Dallas (No. 11) and Cleveland (No. 16 and run-heavy).

"Campbell, who leads the team in sacks (four) despite last posting one in Week 6, missed three of those games and is still working his way back to full strength after a calf strain and bout with COVID-19."

Beginning Sunday, the Ravens have a golden opportunity to get their sack attack back on track in their three remaining games.

"Jacksonville's offense, at No. 25 overall, is the most efficient of the Ravens' final opponents, according to Football Outsiders," Shaffer wrote. "Quarterback Gardner Minshew has been sacked at least three times in five of eight games this season. The New York Giants, the Ravens' Week 16 opponent, rank No. 25 in adjusted sack rate, while the Joe Burrow-less Bengals are No. 27."

Raiders' Darren Waller Pays Tribute to Former Ravens Teammate Lorenzo Taliaferro

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller paid tribute to late former teammate Lorenzo Taliaferro during last night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

After Waller scored a touchdown in the first quarter, he held up three and four fingers on his hands to memorialize Taliaferro, who wore No. 34 when he played for the Ravens. Taliaferro, 28, died Wednesday from a reported heart attack.

Waller and Taliaferro played two seasons together in Baltimore, in 2015 and 2016.

"To be real, I didn't even feel like playing tonight, honestly," Waller said after the game. "I had no juice today. I thank God and the people that support me for speaking life into me today, and telling me to go out and play and represent him and to have him on my mind while I was playing. I feel like him and his presence and what his time on the earth meant to me is what's motivating me to play football with a sense of urgency."

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