The Baltimore Ravens are back over .500 for the first time since Week 5. Baltimore snatched a crucial victory over the Houston Texans on Monday Night. That win keeps Baltimore alive and in the lead in the hunt for the sixth seed in the AFC Playoffs. Today, Baltimore will face a team in a very similar position. The Detriot Lions have the same record as the Baltimore Ravens. Each of these 6-5 teams is in the battle to make the playoffs through a wild card berth, as each division title is seemingly out of reach. A victory for the Lions would keep them relevant in the NFC playoff race, but a loss would all but seal their fate of missing the playoffs. The Ravens face a similar situation. A loss would greatly hinder Baltimore’s playoff chances. With just four weeks left in the regular season after today, a 6-6 Ravens team would be contested for their playoff position. However, a 7-5 Ravens team going forward would have a much easier time making the playoffs. Three of the four final games for Baltimore are against losing NFL squads. In short, Baltimore’s odds of making the playoffs are best if they defeat Detriot today. Here are the three keys to a Baltimore victory today, along with my game predictions:
Ravens Defense Must Thwart Lions Passing Attack
The Lions passing attack is currently ranked the 11th best out of 32 NFL teams. The Lions also have two of the most electric receivers in football, Marvin Jones, and Golden Tate. Needless to say, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is going to air the ball out today. Baltimore will have to rely on their secondary if they want to shut down the best facet of Detriot’s offense. The good news for Baltimore is that so far this season, the secondary has been the best asset on the defense. Aside from the game against the Texans, Jimmy Smith has been nothing short of a lockdown cornerback this season. Brandon Carr and rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey have also played very well this season. Safeties Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, and Lardarius Webb also have to be credited with outstanding play this season. If the secondary can hold Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones, and Golden Tate back, they will stunt Detriot’s offensive production. Detriot is currently ranked 30th in the league in rushing, and the Ravens in recent weeks have been one of the best-run defense teams. Detriot simply will not be able to run on the Ravens defensive front, making them one dimensional. If Baltimore can shut down the air assault, Detriot will lose all offensive production.
Ravens Running Game Must Carry the Team
I think that it is just assumed at this point that the Ravens will not be able to pass the ball very well. For that reason, the Ravens running game will need to carry the team to victory. Baltimore’s rushing attack has performed very inconsistently in the past few weeks. Since rushing for 100+ yards against Miami, running back Alex Collins has averaged under 4.0 yards per carry. For perspective, Collins averaged far above 4.0 yards per carry in six of his first seven games before facing Miami. Collins showed signs of life last week, getting 3.8 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts. If the Ravens want to win this game, Collins and the running back corps will need to put the offense on their back, and rush for at least 100 yards.
Ravens Special Teams Must Win Duel with Lions
The Baltimore Ravens have the best special teams unit in the NFL. Justin Tucker is the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, and Sam Koch is one of the best punters in football. On the other side, Lions kicker Matt Prater holds the NFL record for the longest field goal, at 64 yards. Detriot also has a fantastic punter, Jeff Locke, who averages 45.3 yards per punt. The last time these two teams met, in 2013, the Ravens won off the leg of Justin Tucker, who kicked a 61 yard field goal to win the game. The same formula for the Ravens must hold true against the Lions this time around. The Ravens must win off the legs of Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. Quite frankly, the offense will not be able to put up enough points on their own, and Justin Tucker will likely be called in for multiple field goals. Sam Koch will also have to be utilized to back up the Lions offense deep in their own territory. Baltimore’s special teams unit is crucial for this matchup and will need to outperform Detriot’s unit to win.
This game is going to be very close and will have major playoff implications. Here are my predictions
- Joe Flacco throws for under 150 yards.
- Alex Collins rushes for 70 yards.
- Mike Wallace catches the only Ravens touchdown.
- Justin Tucker kicks three field goals.
- Matthew Stafford throws for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Matt Prater converts on two field goals.
FINAL SCORE: Lions 20 – Ravens 16