Skip to main content

What to watch for in Ravens-Rams on 'MNF'

If the last two Monday night games are any indication, you might want to go ahead and get another batch of popcorn ready because we could be in for another prime-time thriller.

Obviously, any potentially high drama affair wouldn't be complete without players known for giving opposing coaches (and fans) heart palpitations. Neither the Baltimore Ravens (8-2), winners of six straight, nor Los Angeles Rams (6-4) lack in that department.

It has been a tale of two seasons for the Ravens and Rams, thanks to a couple of game-changing acquisitions that occurred ahead of the trade deadline.

Bringing star cornerback Jalen Ramsey to L.A. and stud cornerback Marcus Peters to B-More has elevated both clubs to new heights on defense. Want to know how high? How about to No. 1 (11.0) and 2 (14.0) in scoring defense, respectively, since Week 7 when they debuted in their new threads.

Here are four things to watch for ahead of the red-hot Ravens' first matchup against the Rams in L.A.:

When Lamar met Aaron

You know you're a bad man when you make one bad man ask another bad man how to slow you down.

Earlier this week, Jalen Ramsey asked NFL legend Michael Vick for tips on how to defend MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, aka Michael Vick 2.0. It's possible Ramsey was only asking for himself but chances are he was also asking for a friend. That friend, of course, being Aaron Donald.

While the Rams' defense has 29 sacks, allowed two 100-plus yard rushers all season (both of which were running backs) and ranks fifth in rush defense, Jackson, the architect of the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense, and his Energizer bunny legs care absolutely nothing about that.

Per NFL Research, Jackson is the first Ravens QB with multiple four-plus passing TD games (2) in one season (Weeks 1 vs. MIA and 11 vs. HOU). He's thrown 2,258 passing yards and 19 TDs, which are tied for the fifth-most in the NFL, and five interceptions.

His dominant Week 1 and 10 games made him one of two QBs with multiple perfect passer rating games (min. 10 attempts) in a season since 1950. Ben Roethlisberger recorded two such games in 2007; Jackson still has six more games to get another.

Jackson's composure under pressure ranks among the best in the league. Hint: This is the part you'll want to pay attention to, AD. Against the blitz, Jackson has a 12:1 TD-INT ratio and the fifth-highest passer rating (119.7), per Next Gen Stats. He's been pressured on 21 percent of his dropbacks (fifth-lowest) and has five TDs and a 93.6 passer rating in those situations.

Now, on to his gaudy ground game: Jackson's 6.9 yards per carry ranks first over all QBs and everyone's favorite RBs. His 788 rushing yards are the most of any QB in the Super Bowl era -- yes, that includes Vick -- through the first 10 games of a season. His elusiveness in the pocket has led to 318 of those yards coming on scrambles, which stands as a league-best stat. Whew.

Jackson's been special all year but this is his first time meeting the human mountain that is Donald. After tallying one sack in Weeks 1-5, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year has long since shaken off his slow start and added 7.0 sacks since Week 6.

He has the most QB pressures (53) on the best pressuring defense, and the highest pressure rate (15.3) and pass rush get off time (0.82 seconds) in the NFL, per Next Gen. There's going to be some serious speed coming from both sides of the snap, and Donald's game-wrecking ability could prove to be Jackson's ultimate foil. But, when you have a guy that good under center, the potential of the opposite happening is definitely in play.

Jared Goff hopes to climb out of slump

Oh where, oh where has 2018 Jared Goff gone?

You know, the MVP-caliber QB that threw for 4,688 yards, 32 TDs and 12 picks? Well, the 2019 version is, um, definitely not that guy.

Through 10 games, he's recorded 2,783 yards, 11 TDs and 10 picks. At this same point last year, Goff boasted a 68.4-completion percentage with a 113.0 passer rating; those numbers have plummeted to 60.3 and 82.1, respectively. And that's with Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods active for most of the season.

His play has also reassigned his seat at the table with the league's best to a spot off to himself as the only QB with four-plus more turnovers than pass TDs, per NFL Research. Goff has 15 giveaways (five lost fumbles).

To his credit, he's only been sacked 16 times, which is among the lowest, but his nine fumbles (fifth-most) are still a glaring issue for the Rams.

Goff has struggled mightily versus the blitz, an area Baltimore's pass rush, led by linebackers Matthew Judon and Patrick Onwuasor, has excelled in, pressuring QBs on 46.8-percent of dropbacks (second-highest). As a whole, the Ravens have 16 takeaways and a NFL-best five defensive TDs, all of which have come since former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters joined the fray; he was two of those scores.

Speaking of Peters, his presence has helped make Baltimore a better man coverage team; defensive back coach Chris Hewitt's group has allowed the fewest yards per attempt (4.2), lowest passer rating (43.4) and a 0:3 TD-INT ratio since Peters' arrival. Safety Earl Thomas has continued to show great versatility in Year 10 and has been vital along with CBs Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith in limiting teams to 192.3 pass YPG in that span.

Time is running out on a turnaround, and it would behoove Goff to start winding the clock back and playing like that other guy. Unless he's content with a Peters pick-six in his return to the Coliseum being on endless loop come Tuesday.

Will Todd Gurley get his groove back?

Offensive numbers are down across the board for the Rams, and key piece Todd Gurley is not exempt from the criticism.

Who knows how much his oft-questioned health has played a role in his down year -- Malcolm Brown and rookie Darrell Henderson have cut into some of his touches -- but it's odd to see Gurley not have a single 100-plus yard rushing game on his '19 resume.

L.A. is averaging 97.6 rush YPG, down from 139.4 in 2018, and rank outside the top 10 in points (24.3) and total yards (366.5) per game; they finished second in both a year ago.

The Rams have five games of less than 350 total yards this season after just three in '18. Gurley's production is a big part of that "total" amount. One of those sub-350 games came against the Bears in Week 11, a game in which Gurley had a season-high 133 scrimmage yards in a win.

It was a feel-good moment but it came at a time where Gurley's averaging career lows in touches (16.3), carries (14.3) and scrimmage yards (71.3) per game, and served more as a stark reminder of what the team has been sorely missing.

Similar to the Rams' D, the Ravens have been stingy against the run (94.3 YPG) and has allowed more than 100 yards just five times. If the Rams are going to keep their hope alive, they're going to need their lead back to get his groove back in Week 12.

Which Ravens will step up against Ramsey, revitalized Rams secondary?

Ramsey's stats as a Ram (1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble) haven't set the world on fire but you can never have too much of his type of energy on the field.

Since he came on board and helped safeties Eric Weddle and rookie Taylor Rapp fortify an ailing secondary, the Rams are allowing 14.7 fewer PPG, 55.5 fewer YPG (291.3) and a lower passer rating -- down from 90.9 to 78.9 -- while holding teams to fewer than 20 points over the past four weeks.

This current group has yet to register an INT, and there's a chance they might not get tested much in this one, based on how much the Ravens like to utilize the players closest in proximity to Jackson.

Running back Mark Ingram (136 carries, 667 yards, 8 TDs) has formed quite a duo with Jackson, making Baltimore the only team with two players with over 600 rushing yards and six rush TDs. As a team, the Ravens' 203.8 rush YPG are the most since Walter Payton's 1977 Bears, and their 5.69 yards per carry are the most since Jim Brown's 1963 Browns, per NFL Research.

The Ravens' tight end unit has the most receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,060), and are tied with Houston for the most TDs (8), per NFL Research. Most of those numbers belong to Mark Andrews, who has 48 catches, 598 yards and six scores. Translation: If you posted a 40 time over 4.3, there's a home for you on this offense.

For the rest of you (i.e. the wideouts), things aren't as guaranteed. Marquise Brown has been a bright spot, save for the minor injuries that he's been dealing with. But the Ravens' receivers have been far from making Hollywood-esque headlines, combining for the fewest catches (74) and ranking only ahead of the Eagles in receiving yards (1,022).

The 2019 Rams aren't what they were a campaign ago but Baltimore's offense still needs to collectively be on point in their efforts to notch a seventh-straight win.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content