It’s been four years since the Detroit Lions faced off against the Baltimore Ravens, and it’s fair to say that both teams look a little different than their 2017 selves. That year, the Ravens took it to the Lions in a 44-20 blowout, but it was actually a down year for the AFC North powerhouse. They missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record, leading them to make a key franchise move the next offseason.
Lamar Jackson was drafted with the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018, and they’ve assumed an entirely different offensive identity since. Meanwhile, they’ve managed to keep their defensive identity as one of the most feared units in football.
But it hasn’t quite been the same story for the Ravens thus far in 2021. So let’s catch up on the Lions’ Week 3 opponent with our scouting report.
- 11-5 record, 1-1 in playoffs (2nd in AFC North)
- 7th in points scored, 2nd in points allowed
- Overall DVOA: 7th (11th on offense, 9th on defense)
The Ravens continued to be one of the toughest teams in the AFC last year. Led by a rushing attack that averaged over 191 rushing yards per game, Baltimore has one of the most unique offenses with Lamar Jackson as their dual-threat quarterback. Defensively, the team was the same as they’ve been for years: capable of pressuring the quarterback (seventh in pass rush win rate) and creating turnovers (22 takeaways, 10th in NFL).
However, the narrative of the team changed in the playoffs. The Ravens scored just three points against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round, and many started to question (again) whether Jackson could hang in the NFL as a passer. He completed just 14-of-24 passes for 162 yards and an interception. And many pointed to his 14 season turnovers as a serious problem.
Key free agent additions: G Kevin Zeitler, WR Sammy Watkins, RB Latavius Murray, RB Devonta Freeman, LB Justin Houston
Key losses: RB Mark Ingram, WR Willie Snead, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, LB Matthew Judo, OT Orlando Brown (trade)
2021 NFL draft picks:
Round 1: WR Rashod Bateman
Round 1: LB Odafe Oweh
Round 3: G Ben Cleveland
Round 3: CB Brandon Stephens
Round 4: WR Tylan Wallace
Round 5: CB Shaun Wade
Round 5: LB Daelin Hayes
Round 5: FB Ben Mason
The Ravens offseason wasn’t exactly a transformative one. However, their big move was trading away offensive tackle Orlando Brown to the Chiefs for four draft picks, including the 31st overall pick. That move turned out to be very ironic, as the player they ended up spending that first-round pick on (Odafe Oweh) ended up slipping past Brown on what would turn out to be the game-winning forced fumble last week against Kansas City.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, their other first-round pick, WR Rashod Bateman, suffered a groin injury that required surgery, and he is out for the foreseeable future.
Elsewhere, the Ravens made some changes at running back for their dynamic rushing attack, mostly due to injuries.
2021 season thus far (1-1)
Week 1: Lost to Raiders, 27-33 (OT)
Week 2: Beat Chiefs, 36-35
- 4th in points scored (31.5 PPG), 29th in points against (34.0 PPG)
- 17th overall in DVOA (11th on offense, 23rd on defense, 3rd on special teams)
This Ravens team looks pretty much like any other Ravens team of the past 10 years or more. Their offense is still almost entirely based on their rushing attack, but their defense is off to a slow start.
Thus far, they’re averaging 220 rushing yards per game at 5.9 yard per carry—both stats leading the entire NFL. But they also lead the league with six fumbles.
Defensively it appears the team may have taken a step back. Obviously, it’s hard to tell with such a small sample size, and it should be pointed out the two teams they’ve faced (Raiders, Chiefs) are both currently ranked in the top seven in scoring.
Still, Baltimore has struggled, in particular, against the pass. They’ve allowed an average of 104.5 passer rating (22nd) and 8.9 yards per attempt (25th).
Key injuries: WR Miles Boykin, WR Rashod Bateman (IR), RB J.K. Dobbins (IR), RB Gus Edwards (IR), TE Nick Boyle (IR), G Tyre Phillips (IR) LB L.J. Fort (IR), CB Marcus Peters (IR), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), DE Derek Wolfe (back/hip), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), S DeShon Elliott (concussion), DT Brandon Williams (neck)
This isn’t even a complete list of the Ravens injuries. Currently the team has 14 players on injured reserve.
They’re currently hurting most on the offensive line, where starting left guard Tyre Phillips is on IR after suffering an injury in Week 1 and franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley is dealing with a serious ankle injury that will likely keep him out of Sunday’s match vs. Detroit.
To deal with the injuries the Ravens moved right tackle Alejandro Villanueva from right to left tackle, while third-year offensive tackle Patrick Mekari stepped in on the right. Against the Chiefs, Villanueva had the second-highest PFF grade of all Week 2 offensive tackles, while Mekari had a respectable 65.4 grade.
Baltimore is also dealing with a ton of injuries in the secondary. With Marcus Peters already on IR, and Jimmy Smith dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the season, they endured another injury with starting safety DeShon Elliott, who suffered a concussion on Sunday night. The Ravens plugged in third-round rookie Brandon Stephens to replace him, and the youngster struggled.
The defensive line has also been hit hard by injuries. Derek Wolfe is dealing with a serious back injury, while Ravens starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams suffered a neck strain on Sunday night and did not return. However, Williams’ injury appears to be considered minor.
Biggest strength: Rushing attack
Despite the shuffling along the offensive line and some injuries, this team is still set up to destroy opposing defenses on the ground. Obviously, Lamar Jackson’s mobility helps—he leads the team both in rushing yards (193) and rushing touchdowns (2)—but second-year running back Ty’Son Williams is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, too. Last year, they were held below 100 rushing yards exactly zero times. They rushed for over 200 yards six times.
Biggest weakness: Pass defense
The aforementioned injuries have left the Ravens in a tough spot in the secondary. While they still have a great talent in cornerback Marlon Humphrey, they could be missing three potential starters in Peters, Smith and Elliott this week.
Baltimore also has struggled to generate pressure through two weeks. Their pass rush win rate is just 38 percent (t-24th) and their PFF team pressure grade of 66.6 is 23rd in the NFL.
Vegas line for Sunday: Ravens by 7.5