Ravens Are Unanimous Choice to Defeat Cowboys
The Ravens are 8.5-point favorites over the visiting Dallas Cowboys (3-8), who have the worst record in the NFC. But you know what they say about "any given Sunday."
Fortunately for the Ravens, the game is on a Tuesday. Still, last night's upset of the previously undefeated Steelers by the Washington Football Team (more on that below) is a reminder not to overlook any (NFC East) opponent.
The Ravens are still feeling the effects of a COVID-19 outbreak that severely depleted their already injured-ravaged roster for last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Losers of three straight, the Ravens (6-5) now find themselves in a situation in which they may have to win their remaining five games to get into the playoffs.
The good news is the Ravens have activated 11 players off the Reserve/COVID-19 list over the past several days, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, who reportedly will play tonight.
All 47 of the pundits we looked at are picking Baltimore to beat Dallas.
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens will win despite several factors not being in their favor.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "This game … is essentially a survival test for both teams. The Ravens are playing on a short week, while the Cowboys will have almost two weeks off after playing on Thanksgiving. … It will be close but [the Ravens] will win it."
Fansided's Matt Vederame: "No reason to pick the Cowboys, even with Baltimore on a short week, Dallas on almost two weeks' rest and the Ravens dealing with COVID challenges. [Dallas quarterback] Andy Dalton and [Head Coach] Mike McCarthy aren't beating anybody these days."
Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer: "The Cowboys will have a long layoff from Thanksgiving playing this game four days later than expected. The Ravens will hope to have enough healthy bodies to field a competitive team that more resembles their best self. For now, it's hard to think John Harbaugh and their staff will get out-coached by the mess Mike McCarthy is operating in Dallas. There's too much pride and desperation here in trying to get an AFC wild-card berth to think Baltimore will fall, leaning much on its running game and defense here."
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "Baltimore hopes to get Lamar Jackson and others back for this game, but the Ravens can't take anything for granted after the month they've been through. The Cowboys have experienced their share of awful luck this season, but they've collapsed within games enough times to believe it's part of their makeup. When the talent is so depleted for both sides, I lean toward the better quarterback and better organization."
The Ravens will use the adversity they've faced recently for motivation.
Pro Football Talk's Chris Simms: "I wouldn't be surprised if all these current events kind of bring them together and make them better and stronger and more pissed off and feeling like more of the world's against them and they're getting no respect. I think they'll play that card here. I would be shocked if we don't see the Ravens play some better football and kind of go on a run here at the end of this season."
The Ravens' running game and defense will lead them to victory.
The Baltimore Sun's Daniel Oyefusi: "Even if Jackson shows some rust in his return to the field, the Ravens should be able to rely heavily on their running game, while defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale takes advantage of a Cowboys offense missing several starters along the offensive line."
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has had a fumbling problem this season, and he's going against a defense that thrives on creating turnovers.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has fumbled six times this year, and he's lost five of them. That's especially notable this week as the Ravens lead the league with 21 forced fumbles. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey leads all players with six forced fumbles, and two of his teammates, Yannick Ngakoue (five) and Marcus Peters (three), also rank in the top 15. You can bet the Ravens will be tugging at the ball to see if they can get Elliott to cough it up. Dallas has a minus-13 turnover ratio, the second worst in the NFL."
The Ravens should win, but the Cowboys could pull an upset if their star players have big games.
The Baltimore Sun's C.J. Doon: "The Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson need a 'get right' game as they seek to finish 10-6 or better to guarantee a spot in a crowded AFC playoff picture, and this certainly qualifies. That is, unless Dallas' stars — Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Demarcus Lawrence — wreak havoc."
|Source||Team Selected||Panelists Score||Comments|
|ESPN||10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Baltimore Sun||4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||“The Ravens couldn’t ask for a much better opponent as they try to recover from a COVID-19 outbreak and a three-game losing streak. The Cowboys give up tons of yards and points, and their offense is pedestrian with quarterback Andy Dalton playing behind a battered line. If Lamar Jackson is anywhere close to full speed, the Ravens will roll.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|NFL.com||Ravens 23, Cowboys 16||“When the talent is so depleted for both sides, I lean toward the better quarterback and better organization.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Sporting News||Ravens 24, Cowboys 17||“There's too much pride and desperation here in trying to get an AFC wild-card berth to think Baltimore will fall, leaning much on its running game and defense here.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens||“Who will be back for the Ravens? No matter who they get back, it will be close but they will win it.”— Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“Even after all the Ravens went through over the last couple weeks, they’ll handle the Cowboys.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Fansided||Ravens 32, Cowboys 15||“No reason to pick the Cowboys, even with Baltimore on a short week, Dallas on almost two weeks’ rest and the Ravens dealing with COVID challenges.” — Matt Verderame|
Could Dez Bryant Be an X Factor Against His Old Team?
One of the obvious storylines for tonight's game is Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant going up against the team he played for from 2010-2017 for the first time.
There were hard feelings when Bryant and the Cowboys parted ways, but Bryant said last week that "it's water under the bridge." That said, could Bryant be an X factor for the Ravens tonight?
Zrebiec recalled what happened when wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. played against his former team during his second season with the Ravens and noted that Bryant and Smith have the same swagger and competitive fire.
"It might behoove [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman to go back and look at the offensive game plan from Sept. 28, 2014, when the Ravens played the Carolina Panthers, Smith's former team," Zrebiec wrote. "Joe Flacco targeted Smith on the Ravens' first play from scrimmage and picked up 17 yards. Five of the team's first 12 offensive plays went to Smith or at least in his direction, and he responded by catching seven balls for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens' 38-10 win.
"I'm not claiming Bryant is as dynamic now as Smith was in 2014. However, you just know Bryant will be ready to go Tuesday. The Ravens should try and feed him early and ride his energy and effort. The offense badly needs a jolt and why not see if Bryant can provide it?"
With tight end Mark Andrews and Willie Snead IV, two of the Ravens' most reliable pass catchers, out for tonight's game, Bryant might have an opportunity to make more of an impact than he has thus far (he has four receptions for 28 yards in his three games as a Raven).
Even if Bryant doesn't put up big numbers tonight, his mere presence could give the Ravens a spark, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio wrote.
"Dez Bryant finally gets to play his former team. Although statistically he may not have a huge game, his emotion could [help] fuel a much-needed win for a struggling Ravens franchise," Florio wrote.
Washington's Chase Young: 'Baltimore Exposed Some Things' About Steelers
Yesterday was one of the rare times Ravens fans were likely rooting for the Washington Football Team, which upset the previously unbeaten Steelers in Pittsburgh, 23-17.
Even though an extremely shorthanded Ravens team came up short at Pittsburgh last week, Baltimore fans can take solace in knowing that the Ravens played a role in the Steelers' loss to Washington (5-7).
After yesterday's game, Washington star rookie defensive end Chase Young said "Baltimore exposed some things" about the Steelers.
"Really a lot. Schemes, certain guy's tendencies," Young said. "I would say tendencies of the offense and certain things they like to do out of different looks Baltimore executed on. I feel like we did, too."
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