Rob Gronkowski: 'Joe Burrow Is Going to Decimate the Ravens Defense'
When Calais Campbell was asked yesterday about the possibility of the Ravens not having Lamar Jackson for Sunday night's playoff game in Cincinnati, the defensive lineman said: "I don't know if anybody is going to believe in us outside of this locker room, but we're for dang sure going to believe in ourselves here."
Sure, "no one believes in us" is a sports cliche, but sometimes it's fitting.
This is one of those times.
With the Ravens likely starting either Tyler Huntley or undrafted rookie Anthony Brown at quarterback in an offense that hasn't scored more than 17 points in a game since Thanksgiving weekend, several prominent pundits are giving Baltimore little chance of defeating the defending AFC champion Bengals, who are riding an eight-game winning streak.
"Let's be clear: The Baltimore Ravens have no chance, without Lamar Jackson. And with Lamar Jackson, I still wouldn't pick them to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, even though that defense has stepped up a little bit," ESPN’s Marcus Spears said on “First Take.”
ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said on "NFL Live," "Very simply, if the Cincinnati Bengals don't turn the football over, the Ravens have no shot to win this game. [The Bengals] are too good of a team to go against."
Former All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski said on FanDuel's "Up & Adams," "Joe Burrow is going to decimate the Baltimore Ravens defense. The Baltimore Ravens can sign whoever they want for a hundred million dollars, it is not going to stop Joe Burrow. I think they just signed that linebacker; it doesn't matter. You can keep him there long-term. Joe Burrow is gonna decimate your secondary. He did it last week. He's gonna do it again this week coming up. And it's gonna be back-to-back wins. And Baltimore's gonna go home disappointed. And Joe Burrow is gonna lead them to another deep playoff run."
A couple of things regarding Gronk's "analysis." First, it's not a good look that he apparently doesn't know All-Pro Roquan Smith's name. Second, Burrow, as undeniably talented as he is, didn't decimate the Ravens defense last week.
In fact, two of Burrow's least productive games this season have come against the Ravens. He had 217 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception in the Bengals' 19-17 loss to the Ravens in Week 5. In last week's game, Burrow had 215 yards passing, one touchdown, and a 59.5 completion percentage.
The Bengals were held to just three points in the second half last week, and "that linebacker" set the tone defensively with his physicality and athleticism, finishing the game with 16 tackles.
It's not just the talking heads on TV who are writing off the Ravens. The analytics experts also have concluded that Baltimore will be one and done in the postseason.
The Athletic's Austin Mock's model gave the Ravens a 5.6% chance of reaching the Super Bowl and a 2.6% chance of winning it. Only the Miami Dolphins had worse odds among the 14 playoff teams.
The Ravens fared even worse in NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund’s model, which gave them a 0.6 percent chance of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, putting them ahead of only the Seattle Seahawks and Dolphins.
How the Ravens Can Slow the Bengals' Explosive Offense Again
As noted above, the Ravens defense has largely kept Burrow in check this season. That's a stark contrast to last season, when the Bengals quarterback threw for 941 yards and seven touchdowns (to one interception} in two lopsided victories over the Ravens.
If the Ravens are to slow the high-scoring Bengals offense again on Sunday night, The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer identified several things they need to do. Here's a look at three of them:
Stop the run
"The Bengals rarely found daylight up front [last Sunday], finishing with 20 carries for 55 yards (2.8 per carry). They averaged just 0.15 yards before contact per rush, their second-lowest rate of the season, and had a rushing success rate of 20%, according to TruMedia. Against light boxes (six or fewer defenders), Cincinnati was especially unproductive: eight carries for 27 yards and no first downs, minus-0.25 yards before contact per rush and a 14.3% success rate. It won't be any easier in Round 3. In Week 16, the Bengals lost right tackle La'el Collins to a season-ending knee injury. On Sunday, right guard Alex Cappa, maybe the offensive line's top starter, suffered a third-quarter ankle injury and did not return. Coach Zac Taylor said Monday that it would be 'tough' for him to play Sunday."
Pressure with precision
"Like every quarterback, Burrow struggles when he's under duress. But his rhythm and timing have proven especially fundamental to Cincinnati's success this year. Burrow was pressured on at least 7.9% of his drop-backs in just four regular-season games, and the Bengals lost all four. The challenge for [Defensive Coordinator Mike] Macdonald is figuring out how to bother a quarterback with one of the NFL's quickest triggers and most dangerous group of receivers."
Stay zoned in
"In Burrow's first matchup with Macdonald, he saw just eight man-to-man snaps. In his second? Just one, a season low. Sometimes, less is more. The Ravens changed up their zone coverages effectively Sunday, relying on a mix of one-high-safety shells (13 snaps) and two-high-safety shells (28 snaps) and cycling between standard and exotic-looking zone packages. [David] Ojabo's strip-sack in the third quarter came after Burrow found himself with nowhere to throw downfield, the Ravens' pass coverage having handed off every route with precision."
Roquan Smith Named to Players' All-Pro First Team
Now that the regular season is over, various All-Pro teams and choices for individual awards have been announced.
Smith, who yesterday was voted the Ravens' Most Valuable Player by the local media and Baltimore chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America, was the lone Raven named to the Players' All-Pro First Team, as voted on by the players themselves.
Justin Tucker was excluded, as Seattle's Jason Myers got the nod at kicker. Myers also was named to NFL.com’s Nick Shook’s All-Pro team. However, Tucker was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro second team; Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson was the first-team selection.
Meanwhile, two Ravens rookies received mention in Sports Illustrated’s list of individual awards. Center Tyler Linderbaum was tied for ninth in voting for Offensive Rookie of the Year, while safety Kyle Hamilton placed fifth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
- Former Ravens Jeremy Maclin and Bryant McKinnie were named to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame class.