An Upset for the Ravens or a Blowout Loss? Media Undecided in Ravens-Rams
In the home stretch of the season, the Ravens look to get back in the win column on Sunday. It won't come easy though as their opponent, the Los Angeles Rams, are vying for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and on the cusp of securing a division title.
As if that wasn't enough on the line for the Rams, defensive tackle Aaron Donald sees Sunday as "a little payback game" after the Ravens thrashed them in prime time, 45-6, in 2019.
Unlike the matchup in 2019, Lamar Jackson's status for the game is in question after going from limited participation on Wednesday to not practicing on Thursday.
Only seven of 39 pundits are picking the Ravens to beat the Rams at M&T Bank Stadium.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:
Don't expect Jackson to play…
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Jackson hasn't played since injuring his ankle Dec. 22, when Baltimore lost at Cleveland 24-22. After sitting out for 17 days, Jackson practiced Wednesday but had a pronounced limp. He had trouble jogging while moving from drill to drill."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "Limited in his first on-field work in 2 1/2 weeks on Wednesday, Jackson was unable to practice for a second straight day, which doesn't bode well for his chances of playing in Sunday's must-win tilt with the Los Angeles Rams. In the portion of Wednesday's practice open to reporters, Jackson didn't move around as much as usual and showed an obvious limp when walking and jogging lightly, which led to plenty of outside speculation about his status for Week 17."
The Athletic's Dr. Anand Lalaji: "Jackson had a pronounced limp even when he wasn't doing any strenuous movements. He then missed practice on Thursday. If he can't jog in a straight line without a limp, I don't see any way he can play in a game and be effective. At this point, I'm not expecting Jackson to play in Week 17, and his Week 18 availability is also in danger. If he does play, he won't be very mobile, and there's a High Risk of re-injury."
… But if Jackson's on the field, the Ravens are pulling off the upset.
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Ravens have been crippled by injuries and COVID and hardly look like the same team we saw seven weeks ago. But they will be getting guys back this week, and one should be Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Rams are playing consecutive road games and Matt Stafford has struggled some lately. Look for the Ravens to fight for their playoff lives here and pull off a mild upset."
Sporting News’ Bill Bender: "Will Lamar Jackson return and help the Ravens avoid a potentially devastating loss? That's Baltimore's best hope. The Ravens have allowed 29 points per game through a four-game losing streak, and the Rams are rolling in a four-game win streak. If Jackson comes back, however, we'll say he saves the day in a classic."
A mistake-prone Matthew Stafford gives the Ravens' defense a chance.
The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia: "The Ravens' defense doesn't have to be great in this game. They just need to force Matthew Stafford into a few mistakes. He made plenty in last week's win against the Minnesota Vikings. Stafford is a high-variance player. Some weeks, he looks like an All-Pro. Other weeks, he looks like a rookie. It's possible that Baltimore has hit the point of no return with injuries. But last week's blowout notwithstanding, this is still a competitive group. I'll take the points."
Rams want 'it' just as much and have health on their side.
Bleacher Report’s Wes O’Donnell: "The Ravens are as on the ropes as any team in the league. Losers of four straight, currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, and still unsure of the status of quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has clinched at least a playoff berth already but still has plenty to play for in the final two weeks. Even if one or both of Baltimore's QBs are fit to play, it's not enough to push me away from a Rams squad that is rolling right now, even with the hook."
Donald will be an X-factor.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "I don't know how the Ravens will block Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd or defend Cooper Kupp with the secondary they have. The Rams will win by two scores."
Los Angeles Times Sam Farmer: "The Ravens are banged up, and Lamar Jackson is still limping on that bum ankle. Not good for outrunning Aaron Donald. Matthew Stafford looking to bounce back after a three-interception game."
FOX Sports Jason McIntyre: "Baltimore's problems on the offensive line will be magnified against Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald. The Rams will own the trenches."
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "Two years after the Ravens dismantled the Rams in L.A., the road team gets a little taste of revenge."
Don't rule out the Ravens on account of Tyler Huntley.
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "If Jackson cannot play, Huntley has shown he can run the offense. In two career starts, Huntley has thrown for 434 yards and produced four total touchdowns (two passing and two rushing). His 434 yards and four total touchdowns are the most by a Ravens' homegrown quarterback in the first two starts of a career."
|ESPN||10 of 11 panelists pick Rams||NA|
|Baltimore Sun||Rams 31, Ravens 23||“Can a decimated defense hold up better against Matthew Stafford than it did against Joe Burrow? Can Lamar Jackson return to save the day? The Ravens have too many big questions to answer as they cling to fading playoff hopes.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||4 of 7 panelists pick Rams||NA|
|NFL.com||Rams 30, Ravens 24||“The return of many Ravens from the COVID-19 list will help, but it won’t fix their secondary. Baltimore's defensive collapse started early in the season, with Lamar Jackson’s struggles and subsequent injury taking attention away from the Ravens' biggest problem. They are now 30th in pass defense efficiency. Good offense will expose them, forcing a compromised Jackson (if he plays) to keep up in a shootout. The Ravens remain dangerous in this spot because they are the Ravens, but there is just too much going against them.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||10 of 10 panelists pick Rams||NA|
|Sporting News||Rams 27, Ravens 20||“The Rams should have seen what Joe Burrow and the Bengals' offense did under former Offensive Coordinator Zac Taylor and follow suit for Sean McVay, because getting Matthew Stafford to aggressively throw downfield to his wide receivers is second nature. … The Ravens' offense doesn't have much working beyond Mark Andrews at the moment and that won't cut it in a must-win game.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||4 of 5 panelists pick Rams||“The Rams are playing consecutive road games and Matt Stafford has struggled some lately. Look for the Ravens to fight for their playoff lives here and pull off a mild upset.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||Talk 3 of 3 panelists pick Rams||“This Ravens season that once looked so promising is now coming to a highly disappointing end.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||4 of 5 panelists pick Rams||NA|
|FanSided||Rams 34, Ravens 19||“Can the Ravens keep Matthew Stafford from throwing for 600 yards? Tough to say. Baltimore’s only hope is Lamar Jackson going off.” — Matt Vederame|
Media Praises Patrick Mekari's Three-Year Contract Extension
On Thursday, the Ravens locked up offensive lineman Patrick Mekari to a three-year extension and local blogs shared their thoughts on the deal.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz: "Mekari has done nothing but help the Ravens offensive line in any way he can. Taking snaps at center, guard and tackle as a relatively overlooked UDFA who had a studly career at CAL, Mekari has overcome naysayers who say he's too small, his arms aren't long enough and imply he can't play tackle. With toughness, quickness, technical refinement and gazelle like feet, Mekari has worked his way into the fabric of the Baltimore Ravens for the foreseeable future. This will be the first of many moves along the offensive line leading up to next season"
Ravens Wire’s Steve Rudden: "This is a good move for the Ravens' offensive line and the stability of it going forward. Since Mekari has been in Baltimore, he's shown that he can play and succeed at any of the positions on the line."
Ebony Bird’s Kristen Wong:The 24-year-old fought through multiple injuries to plug in wherever the Ravens needed the most help. After losing Ronnie Stanley, that area was right tackle, and Mekari performed at a high level in his new position game after game. At the very least, re-signing Mekari gives Baltimore an excellent and versatile depth piece who can fill in at any offensive line position in a pinch.
Ben Roethlisberger Sends Message That Next Week's Game Will Be His Last
The Ravens are focused on the Rams, but next week's regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a significant one no matter the stakes.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters yesterday that "all signs" are pointing to Sunday's game being his last at Heinz Field. If Pittsburgh loses to the Browns, that would mean next Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium would be Roethlisberger's last ever.
As for who could play quarterback for the Steelers next season, former GM Mike Tannenbaum is pointing to Aaron Rodgers.
- Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz listed as a future NFL General Manager candidate by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. Eagles Director of Player Personnel Ian Cunningham, a former scout for Ozzie Newsome, was also listed.
- Return specialist Devin Hester, who spent his last NFL season with the Ravens, has reached the group of 15 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists.