Monday Night’s match-up between the Lions and Ravens has major playoff implications. Detroit is hoping to keep pace with the Chicago Bears for the NFC North lead, while the Baltimore Ravens are hoping to keep pace with the Miami Dolphins for the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC.
Baltimore is coming off one of the craziest endings to a game ever against the Vikings where 5 touchdowns were scored in the last 2-minutes and 5 seconds. Joe Flacco’s touchdown pass to Marlon Brown with 4 second remaining won the game.
Detroit couldn’t overcome the elements in Philadelphia losing to the Eagles 34-20. The Lions have now lost 3 of its last 4 games, and both teams could really use a win to stay alive in the hunt for the playoffs.
Joe Flacco and Ray Rice are both having frustrating seasons. Flacco has 18 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, and Rice has only eclipsed 100-yards rushing once this season. That came in week 11 against Minnesota where he ran for 131 yards. Besides that game, Rice’s 2nd highest rushing total is just 74 yards. Dennis Pitta’s return to the offense though is huge for Baltimore’s offense giving Flacco the security blanket he hasn’t had all year. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have struggled with the adjustment of being Flacco’s 2-main receiving targets, but the Ravens offense as a whole is really starting to come together. If Baltimore can get Ray Rice going and improve from having the league’s 29th ranked rushing attack, this offense can be as good as any.
The Detroit Lions offense is as explosive as any in the NFL. Matt Stafford is 24-yards shy of 4,000 for the year, and Calvin Johnson is the best receiver the NFL has seen since Jerry Rice. Megatron is a highlight waiting to happen. He has a team leading 75 catches for 1,351 yards, and 12 of Stafford’s 27 touchdowns on the year. Reggie Bush is 2nd on the team with 45 catches and he’s expected to make his return to the lineup after slipping during pre-game warm-ups last week in Philadelphia. Bush is closing in on his 2nd career 1,000 yard rushing season. He’s flourished in his first year with the Lions finally giving the team a legitimate backfield threat. The key will be Detroit’s other weapons like Nate Burleson and Kris Durham taking advantage of the attention Johnson and Bush receive.
Lions – The Lions offense has been far more efficient than Baltimore’s, but the Ravens O is really starting to come on.
The key for the Detroit Lions defense is the defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Suh and Fairley had no answer for LeSean McCoy and his Eagles franchise record 217 rushing yards last week in the snow. For the season though, Detroit has the NFL’s 6th ranked rush defense giving up just under 100 yards on the ground per game. Suh and company are poised for a major bounce back game on Monday night. For the secondary, a crucial factor will be limiting the big play. Joe Flacco loves to throw the deep ball to his speedy receivers so it’s going to be crucial for Chris Houston, Rashean Mathis, and the rest of the NFL’s 25th ranked pass defense to be on top of their games.
Defense is what has carried the Ravens this season, at least through the first 3 quarters of games. In the fourth quarter, Baltimore is giving up an average of 6.9 points which ranks 21st in the NFL. The Ravens have let leads slip away in games against the Bears, Bengals, Vikings, and Browns and finishing has been a significant problem. Elvis Dumervill’s return to the lineup should considerably help fix those problems. Overall, Baltimore has the NFL’s 7th ranked rush defense, and 14th ranked pass defense. Look for Baltimore to attempt to take Calvin Johnson out of the game and force the other Lions receivers to beat them.
Ravens – The match-ups in this game favor Baltimore. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones can eat up the Lions secondary.
Kicker: David Akers vs. Justin Tucker
Punter: Sam Martin vs. Sam Koch
Return Man: Michael Spurlock vs. Jacoby Jones
David Akers inconsistencies have continued during his first year with the Lions. Akers has missed 5 of his 20 attempts after he missed 13 of his 42 attempts last season. Aside from week 2 against Cleveland, Justin Tucker hasn’t missed all season. He’s been one of the league’s most accurate kickers in 2013.
Sam Martin and Sam Koch not only share the same first name, but also each have 8 touchbacks this season. Martin is averaging 2 more yards per punt though than Koch is.
In the return game, has been average returning kicks with a long of 57 yards. Jacoby Jones is one of the league’s most dangerous return men, and finally recorded his first return touchdown of the year after Minnesota briefly took a 19-15 lead.
Ravens – David Akers is struggling again, Justin Tucker is not, and Jacoby Jones comes into this game with momentum in the return game.
Baltimore comes into this game winners of 3 straight, while the Lions have lost 3 of its last 4 games. The Ravens look like they’re getting hot at the right time and Joe Flacco earns his stripes in this game.
Ravens 31 Lions 23