The Falcons are back at MBS for their second to last home game of the season. Their last one will take place two weeks after that against the Arizona Cardinals. Atlanta, losers of three straight, welcome a Baltimore team coming off back-to-back wins behind Lamar Jackson.
Joe Flacco may return Sunday, but it does not seem like the Ravens are to eager to rush him back, and why should they be? Jackson has taken some lumps as a passer, like we all expected, but his ability to run the football might be better than any of us could have imagined at this level. In his two starts, Jackson has 37 carries for 190 yards and a touchdown. It’s also opened up the running game for the offense as a whole. Gus Edwards has 235 rushing yards on 40 carries over the last two weeks.
Those two and the rest of the Ravens offense will be up against the vaunted Atlanta defense. All they did last week was hold Drew Brees to 171 yards passing… and four touchdowns. If there were ever a defense that could make a rookie feel comfortable, it belongs to Atlanta. Although, their best two performances of the season have come in their last two home games. They held the Giants to six points going into the fourth quarter, and allowed 22 to a revitalized Cowboys offense two weeks ago.
With a sluggish pass rush and a crippled secondary, the best way to attack the Falcons is through the air. Jackson has not shown he is capable of that just yet. He has thrown three interceptions compared to one touchdown and is averaging 164 yards per game passing. There’s no question Jackson’s biggest threat is his feet, and that is something Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel have done a fantastic job of limiting against running quarterbacks like Cam Newton.
It could be even better if the Falcons’ Pro-Bowl linebacker returns this week. Dan Quinn said after Monday’s practice that Deion Jones looked excellent. Hopefully, that means he will be on the field Sunday for the first time since week one. That would be monumental for Atlanta in stopping Jackson and their rushing attack.
On offense, the Falcons will be face-to-face with the stingiest defense in the league. The Ravens lead the NFL in both total defense (295.4) and point allowed per game (18.0). That doesn’t bode well for Atlanta, who have been stuck in the mud offensively over this three game losing streak.
The Falcons failed to score over 20 points against the Browns, Cowboys and Saints, which seems almost unfathomable in today’s NFL given the amount of weapons they have and the man under center. But as they say, the game is won in the trenches, and that is where the Falcons are failing.
Once again, that does not play to the Falcons’ advantage when facing a front that has come up with 32 sacks on the season. This is an offensive line that has suffered some injuries, but has still massively underperformed as a group. Matt Ryan has been under duress for the majority of the season and the running game has been non-existent. If Atlanta can’t hold their own in the trenches, I cannot see how they plan on reaching the 20-point mark in this one.
Another fact pointing towards the Ravens is Dan Quinn’s poor results when facing the AFC, particularly the AFC North. Mike Conti of the Atlanta Falcons radio network dropped this little nugget for us on Tuesday:
Coming in to this Sunday, the Falcons have lost nine of their last ten games against AFC opponents. And they've lost seven straight games against the AFC North.
— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) November 27, 2018
With that in mind, as much as it pains be to say it, I am rolling with the Ravens here. This loss will crush any lasting hope the Falcons have of making the playoffs, but I do not like the matchup here. It looks like another game where the Falcons will move the ball yet fail to put up touchdowns, and the defense for Atlanta cannot be trusted.
Ravens 24, Falcons 20