NFL 2019 (Week 12): Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 12): Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? If Lamar Jackson runs into Aaron Donald on Monday night, we could find out. Jackson may win most improved player honors from someone this offseason if he continues on his current trajectory, and of course Donald is the two-time defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Jackson’s Ravens have not lost a game since September 29, and they lead the league in scoring at 34.1 points per game. Donald’s Rams have had a rockier road, losing four games already and leaving themselves with some ground to cover over the final six games to keep their NFC title defense alive. Despite their struggles, Los Angeles’ defense still ranks 10th in yards and points allowed per game as well as fifth against the run. Pitting strength against strength, this game will potentially be decided by the Ravens’ passing game. While their 20th-ranked pass attack may not sound all that formidable, passing yardage is limited simply because teams haven’t been able to stop the run. Why pass when your running game averages 5.7 yards a pop? Donald and his cohorts will have their work cut out for them.

Ravens: Baltimore is more than just Lamar Jackson, obviously, and other players deserve recognition. Mark Ingram has run like a man with plenty of mileage left on his tires, despite turning 30 in a month and being allowed to leave New Orleans in free agency. Tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson’s 2018 draft classmate, leads the team in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Rookie receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is second in each category even though he missed two games. Matthew Judon has six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, and four players--Josh Bynes, Earl Thomas, Marlon Humphrey and former Ram Marcus Peters--have each contributed two interceptions. John Harbaugh and his staff deserve a lot of credit for creating a scheme in which their players can thrive, too. These are not the defensive juggernaut 2000 Ravens, nor are they the 2012 rendition who won behind the best play of Joe Flacco’s career. These Ravens have become championship contenders based on a befuddling offense with seemingly no limitations and an opportunistic defense that has scored five touchdowns in ten games.

Rams: Sean McVay leads his own championship contenders, who have won the NFC West the last two seasons but now find themselves looking up at both San Francisco and Seattle. They have four division games in their last six, but they need Jared Goff to regain his previous form. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback inked a big new deal in the offseason, but his 11:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio is hardly indicative of a franchise player. Star running back Todd Gurley has also been conspicuously absent, with only 525 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to his name so far. For comparison, Gurley had 1,043 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns at this time last season. A few bright spots have been linebacker Cory Littleton and receiver Cooper Kupp. Littleton leads the team (or is tied for the lead) in tackles, pass breakups, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries. Kupp has returned from a season-ending knee injury last November to lead the Rams in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and first downs. Goff and Gurley’s resurgence could be the ticket to a third consecutive playoff appearance.

Prediction: Jackson and Ingram struggle to get untracked, and L.A. keeps its hopes alive with a much-needed upset.

Los Angeles Rams 27, Baltimore Ravens 21

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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