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Late for Work: What Pundits Expect in Ravens-Lions Game

QB Lamar Jackson

Slight Majority of Pundits Pick Detroit to Win in Baltimore

The last time the Ravens and the Detroit Lions met, Justin Tucker kicked a 66-yard field goal, the longest in NFL history, with no time remaining to give Baltimore a 19-17 victory two years ago.

The pundits are expecting another close game when the AFC North-leading Ravens (4-2) face the NFC North-leading Lions (5-1) Sunday in one of the marquee matchups of Week 7.

A slight majority of pundits we looked at (29 of 55) are picking the Lions to come out on top. Of the 33 who predicted the score, all but one have it being a one-score game (NFL Network's Nick Shook has Detroit winning 27-17), with 21 of them believing the game will be decided by three points or less.

The game is being looked at as a measuring stick for both teams. The Lions, winners of four straight (all by double digits) and 13 of their past 16, are the toughest team the Ravens have faced thus far. The Ravens are the toughest team the Lions have faced since Week 1 when they beat the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

Here's what pundits are saying about Sunday's game:

The Lions' third-ranked offense presents a stiff challenge for the Ravens' second-ranked defense.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Eleven players on [the Ravens] have at least one sack. Thirteen have been credited with a tackle for loss. Fourteen have a pass breakup on their stat line. Will the recipe work, however, against the Lions? Can the Ravens create pressure against a very good offensive line with their front four? If they can't, will blitzing heavily expose them on the back end against a dynamic group of Detroit targets? The answers will become clear by late Sunday afternoon. The rest of the NFL will have a better idea of how good Baltimore's defense is by then, too."

London "hangover" could lead to a close loss for Ravens.

Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "Though the Ravens have downplayed there being any lingering effects from nearly a full week in London and the long flight home, that's another factor to keep in mind as an upstart opponent looks to start fast and run its road record to 4-0. I'd be more inclined to pick a Baltimore victory if this Ravens offense had put together four quarters of good football against lesser opponents the last couple weeks, but that inconsistency will be a deciding factor and Jared Goff will make just enough plays through the air in a close 24-20 victory for the Lions."

USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes: "While Baltimore boasts a stellar defense, its offensive identity is still taking shape under Todd Monken and the trip back from London could have the Ravens sluggish to start the game."

The Lions will ride their defense and running game to victory.

The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "[The Lions] will lean on their defense on a windy day and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs will finally show why he was drafted so high with starting RB David Montgomery out. The Ravens still aren't clicking offensively, and they don't pull away from teams."

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will pull out the win.

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: ""All logic points to the Lions. The Ravens haven't played an offense nearly this potent, and it's not like they can count on pounding Detroit's defense. There's also a possible London hangover to consider. That said, this feels like an occasion for Lamar Jackson to put it together after a week of analysts fawning over the Lions."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "This is one of the better games of the week. The Lions are playing back-to-back road games, but the Ravens are coming off a London trip. The Ravens haven't clicked yet on offense, but it's coming. The problem is the Detroit defense is really good. Even so, look for the Ravens and Lamar Jackson to find a way to win this one as the offense actually shows better."

Jackson's running ability will be a unique test for the Lions' No. 1 run defense.

Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson: "The Baltimore Ravens' rushing attack presents a slightly different challenge than most teams because of Lamar Jackson. It changes the whole dynamic. This Lions run defense has been amazing, but Baltimore presents different challenges."

Bold prediction: Lions WR Jameson Williams will score his second 35-plus-yard touchdown reception, and the Lions will start 6-1 for the first time since 1956.

ESPN’s Eric Woodyard: "Williams brings a different dimension to the already high-powered Detroit offense and scored a 45-yard TD at Tampa Bay last week in his second game back after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy."

Tucker hits another game-winner.

The Athletic's Zac Jackson: "Though I think it comes down to a Justin Tucker kick at the end, I'll take the Ravens to bring the Lions back to earth."

Table inside Article
Source Prediction Commentary
ESPN 5 of 9 panelists pick Lions
Baltimore Sun 3 of 4 panelists pick Lions “The Lions’ offense has scored the third-most touchdowns (21) in the NFL, while the Ravens have given up the fewest (6) of any team in the league. But this is also the most complete team Baltimore has faced this season, with the Lions’ defense surrendering just 18.8 points per game, ninth-fewest in the NFL. Detroit star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is also coming off a 12-catch, 124-yard game, and while the Lions are without running back David Montgomery, rookie Jahmyr Gibbs is likely to return from a hamstring injury.” — Brian Wacker
USA Today 5 of 8 panelists pick Lions 3 of 5 panelists pick Ravens “Can Detroit's defensive front keep Lamar Jackson off balance and force him into errors? How much will David Montgomery's absence be felt? It does appear Jahmyr Gibbs could return to the Lions' lineup. Even still, this is the toughest opponent Detroit has seen in over a month — and it'll show.” — Brooke Cersimo
NFL Network 5 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
Sporting News Ravens 23, Lions 20 “The Lions are taking some hits in the running game and that won't help Jared Goff facing an improving Ravens' defense that can handle and contain the middle of the field in the passing game. Lamar Jackson's running is a tough draw and Detroit also won't be able to cover Mark Andrews well.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 4 of 8 panelists pick Ravens “This is one of the better games of the week. The Lions are playing back-to-back road games, but the Ravens are coming off a London trip. The Ravens haven't clicked yet on offense, but it's coming. The problem is the Detroit defense is really good. Even so, look for the Ravens and Lamar Jackson to find a way to win this one as the offense actually shows better.” — Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk 1 of 2 panelists pick Ravens ”There’s a lot to be impressed with with both of these football teams. … I’m going with the Ravens, realizing they can’t go to 4-3, [and] they’re at home.” — Chris Simms
Sports Illustrated 4 of 7 panelists pick Lions
Fan Sided Ravens 21, Lions 20 “Detroit might be one of the rare cases of a team that had the preseason hype train behind it and is living up to it. At the same time, though, the Lions are getting beaten up a bit, particularly at running back, while the Ravens are actually getting slightly healthier and have yet to have their scoring match their efficiency. That changes at home this week as they narrowly get past the Lions here.” — Cody Williams

Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen Ranked Among Top 10 Off-Ball Linebackers

Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are arguably the best off-ball linebacker duo in the NFL, and it was reflected in The Next Gen Stats Analytic Team's top 10 rankings at the position.

Queen was ranked No. 2 and Smith came in at No. 8.

"Whereas most linebackers on this list have made their name in pass coverage, it's Queen's ability to cause pressure that has catapulted him to No. 2," Next Gen Stats wrote via "Since entering the league in 2020, Queen has generated 47 pressures and 9.5 sacks when aligned as an off-ball linebacker, the second- and third-most in that span, respectively. Despite that output, the Ravens declined his fifth-year option in May. This has prompted Queen to adopt a scorched-earth policy this season, as he's currently leading all linebackers with 11 pressures and ranking in the top five at his position in stop percentage at 9.7 (min. 100 snaps as a run defender).

"Baltimore acquired Smith from Chicago just before Week 9 of last season, and the change of scenery paid off immediately. Smith channeled the frustration from how his Bears tenure ended into 13 run stuffs from Week 9 on, the third-most at his position in that span. This helped Smith earn a five-year, $100 million extension, the kind of investment his teammate, Patrick Queen, hopes to receive after this contract year. This season, Smith has picked up where he left off, accumulating the fourth-most tackles in the league (63) while ranking in the top 10 in run stops (30) through Week 6."

Fox Sports also ranked the top 10 off-ball linebackers, and this time it was Smith at No. 2. (Inexplicably, Queen did not make the top 10 or even honorable mention.)

"Smith fit right into the Ravens' scheme, despite arriving in the middle of [last] season, and had 86 tackles in nine games," Fox Sports' Carmen Vitali wrote. "It put him over 160 for the year and earned him All-Pro honors as well as his first Pro Bowl nod. This is weird given that Smith has, in fact, never had a season with fewer than 100 tackles in his career. Even more than the stats though, Smith is a leader. If the Ravens had season-long captains, you have to think he'd be one of them."

Ravens' 2020 Draft Class Is Powering Stout Defense

Queen, the Ravens' first-round pick in 2020, is one of several players from that draft class to become a major contributor on one of the league's best defenses.

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer looked at the class and said its impact is undeniable.

"According to TruMedia, 2020 draft picks have combined to play 28.1% of the Ravens' defensive snaps this season," Shaffer wrote. "The team's leaders in sacks, interceptions and tackles for loss are all fourth-year Ravens. It's not inconceivable that all five defenders from that draft class start Sunday against the Lions' high-octane offense."

In addition to Queen, the other defensive players the Ravens selected that year were: defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (third round), linebacker Malik Harrison (fourth round), defensive tackle Broderick Washington (fifth round), and safety Geno Stone (seventh round).

"Madubuike leads the team with 4.5 sacks — one shy of his career high — and 11 run stops, according to Pro Football Focus," Shaffer wrote. "Washington, who signed a three-year, $17.5 million contract extension in August, is one of the team's hardest-working players and has been a pillar of its elite run defense over the past two-plus years.

"Harrison, taken two rounds after Queen as another inside linebacker, has found a home early this season on the outside, helping to set the edge and grading out as one of PFF's highest-rated linebackers. Safety Geno Stone, the Ravens' 10th and final selection in the 2020 class, has been one of the NFL's most unlikely stars. Waived near the end of his rookie year before returning to Baltimore in 2021, he's now tied for the league lead in interceptions (three)."

As noted in Wednesday’s Late for Work, the salary cap will make it extremely difficult to keep the group together beyond this season.

"Of the Ravens' defensive holdovers, only Washington is signed beyond this season, and quarterback Lamar Jackson's megadeal will limit General Manager Eric DeCosta's spending power in future offseasons," Shaffer wrote. "Time and salary cap space are running out. Tough decisions will have to be made. Can the Ravens afford top-tier contracts for both Smith and Queen? Has Madubuike played himself into a free-agent bidding war? Will Stone and Harrison look for bigger roles elsewhere?"

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