Coming off a big road win in Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 5-1, yes 5-1 Detroit Lions head over to M&T Bank Stadium to take on a tough 4-2 Baltimore Ravens team. Detroit enters the game tied with the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Francisco 49ers for the best record in the NFL and they look to improve to 6-1 with a win on Sunday.
Despite having the better record, the Lions come in as underdogs. While revenge games have them at 1-1 this season, Detroit looks to make it back-to-back revenge game victories. Back in 2021, the Lions lost to the Ravens 19-17 off an NFL record 66-yard field goal by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.
It wasn’t just that they lost to an NFL record kick, but that on the play before, the Ravens should have been flagged for a delay of game, making the try 71 yards instead, which likely would have forced a Hail Mary attempt instead of a field goal. This was the first heartbreak the Lions suffered that season, as 2021 was the year of almost victories.
Two years later, the story has changed in Detroit. Let’s look at it in the Detroit Lions Week 7 scouting report.
- 10-7 record (2nd in AFC North)
- 19th in points scored, 3rd in points allowed
- Overall DVOA: 5th (9th on offense, 8th on defense)
Last season was a difficult one for the Ravens. Despite the positive record and playoff appearance, they had to play six games without their star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Despite making the playoffs, they were unable to overcome the loss of Jackson, losing to the Bengals in the Wild Card round. With Jackson out, the Ravens offense wasn’t able to do much besides throw the ball to tight end Mark Andrews, as their top running back J.K. Dobbins was returning from an ACL tear he suffered in 2021, and he only played in eight games.
The defense had to be the team's saving grace at times. Without Jackson, it was the main way the team was able to pull out games, winning three of the final six games in all low-scoring affairs. The team dealt with a lot of injuries and obstacles in 2022 and it was more of a season to forget for the franchise.
Key additions: WR Odell Beckham Jr., CB Rock Ya-Sin, WR Nelson Agholor, CB Trayvon Mullen, LB Jadeveon Clowney
Key losses: G Ben Powers, CB Marcus Peters, EDGE Justin Houston, DE Calais Campbell
2023 NFL Draft picks
Round 1: WR Zay Flowers
Round 3: LB Trenton Simpson
Round 4: EDGE Tavius Robinson
Round 5: CB Kyu Blu Kelly
Round 6: OT Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu
Round 7: G Andrew Vorhees
The biggest offseason story was the Ravens trying to keep Jackson around and eventually, they ended up signing Jackson to a five-year deal worth $260 million. The team made some moves to help out Jackson and the offense, signing Beckham Jr., Agholor, and drafting Flowers in the first round.
Their tough defense lost their best two members in Houston and Campbell and the team tried to replace them with Simpson, Robinson, and Clowney. Another big loss for the Ravens was losing Peters, but the team got help in Ya-Sin and Mullen, though Mullen would suffer a toe injury in the offseason and would be put on IR, ending his season before it even began.
2023 season thus far (4-2)
Week 1: Win against Houston Texans 25-9
Week 2: Win against Cincinnati Bengals 27-24
Week 3: OT loss against Indianapolis Colts 22-19
Week 4: Win against Cleveland Browns 28-3
Week 5: Loss against Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10
Week 6: Win against Tennessee Titans 24-16
- 15th in points scored, 4th in points allowed
- 6th in DVOA — 10th on offense, 2nd on defense, 15th on special teams
So far this season, the Ravens are still dealing with an injury bug like no other. Multiple players are already out for the season, one of them being Dobbins, who has now only played in 24 games in the four seasons he has been with the team. Luckily for them, Jackson isn’t dealing with any injuries this season and he has been doing just fine. So far, Jackson has thrown for 1,253 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions, along with 327 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The help he got in the receiving game has been there for him. Flowers is his top option with 35 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown. Andrews in second with 294 yards and a team-high three touchdowns. Agholor has 210 yards and a touchdown, while Beckham Jr. has 113 yards, though he has only played in four games so far this season.
Start your morning off by rewatching Zay Flowers’ first NFL touchdown. pic.twitter.com/aim2tgYyEd— Ravens Nation LIVE (@LIVERavenNation) October 16, 2023
Despite the defense losing its best two pieces from last season, the Ravens are still a dominant defensive team, led by defensive tackle Justin Madubuike with a team-leading 4.5 sacks. Safety Geno Stone has been a ball magnet this year, getting a team-high three interceptions.
Geno Stone shows off the range to make this clutch interception with the Titans driving, only down 5 points.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) October 16, 2023
Geno didn't bite on Chig Okonkwo's little head fake. pic.twitter.com/wP8jtZsEDU
Overall, though, the team hasn’t been tested heavily so far this season. Wins over the Texans and a banged-up Titans team aren’t anything special, but beating the Bengals and Browns on the road is easier said than done. An overtime loss to the Colts was a shocking loss, and a sloppy performance against the Steelers put them at 4-2 so far this season.
Key players ruled out: RB J.K. Dobbins (IR/Achilles), LB David Ojabo (IR/ankle/knee), S Ar’Darius Washington (IR/chest), LB Tyus Bowser (NFI/knee), CB Trayvon Mullen (NFI/Toe)
Key players to monitor: LB Odafe Oweh (ankle), S Marcus Williams (hamstring)
The team is stacked with members on their IR or NFI list, something nobody likes to see six games into the season. Dobbins and Mullen are out for the season, while Ojabo could join them. Oweh hasn’t played since Week 2 and after missing practice all week last week, unless he can improve to limited status, most likely he will miss this game as well. Although John Harbaugh did say this week Oweh is “looking close” to returning.
Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the win over the Titans last week and that will be another player to monitor this week. Williams has been playing well this season, and if he has to miss time, the team might be thin at safety as Washington is out as well.
Biggest strength: Quarterback
Anyone could tell you that this team is completely different without Jackson at quarterback. Even last year the team struggled when he wasn’t around and had to rely on the defense to win them games. While the defense could be considered its biggest strength, if they aren’t able to make any stops, and the offense can’t score without Jackson, it’s over. Jackson is their whole team.
While Jackson hasn’t been having a phenomenal season or been making earth-shattering plays, he has been overall well this year. This group of receivers is the best he has had in Baltimore and while the stats aren’t showing it yet, this team has a good chance to not just make the playoffs, but win the AFC North and host a playoff game, possibly winning a game as well. With Jackson in those big games, the Ravens are a big threat, especially with his dual-threat ability.
Film doesn't lie on Lamar Jackson's day vs. the Steelers. pic.twitter.com/wJNfn3Ud4W— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) October 10, 2023
And where the traditional stats don’t show outstanding number for Jackson, some of the advanced do. He’s the No. 2 graded QB by PFF (behind Jared Goff), and ninth in NextGenStats’ completion percentage above expected (+2.6%).
Biggest weakness: Running Back
Another year goes by that the Ravens don’t have a solid starting running back. They were hoping to get that in Dobbins, but his injuries have hurt him greatly and the team has to rely on Jackson to be their main rusher, which is a dangerous game to play. It’s great that Jackson can run, but if he gets hurt, this team is done.
Gus Edwards has been the best back for the Ravens so far this year with 282 yards and a touchdown, but he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. Justice Hill has found the end zone three times with 150 yards. Neither player has been much of a threat to break a long run, as the longest run from this duo is 20 yards.
With a poor rushing attack going up against the best run defense in the NFL in the Lions, it isn’t looking good for the Ravens' running backs to pick up yards this week, as Jackson will have to be the main offensive weapon once again.
Key matchup: Lions front seven vs. Lamar Jackson
As I have said throughout this article, Jackson is the Ravens' offense. If the Lions are able to shut him down as a passer and a runner, this game can be won by them. Sure the Ravens defense is difficult and I expect this game to be low-scoring because of how good both defenses are playing.
If the Lions' offense can’t move the ball but the defense is able to hold Jackson in check, I think the Ravens defense will falter first, crack, and eventually get beaten up by this high-powered Lions offense.
The Lions were only able to get one sack on Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield last week and it was linebacker Julian Okwara who got the sack. The Bucs protected Mayfield well and while he saw pressure, he never got taken down by it until the fourth quarter. The biggest challenge here is if the Lions are able to generate pressure on Jackson, he can quickly escape it and use his legs to move the chains. The Lions are going to need to contain him and eliminate his legs as a threat because if Detroit lets Jackson run loose, it’s how the Lions lose this game.
Vegas line for Sunday: Ravens by 3