WHO: Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)
WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
WHEN: Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, 8:15 p.m. EST
The red-hot Ravens go prime time this week with a Monday night matchup at Los Angeles, which has won three of four after an earlier three-game losing streak. The Rams are clearly the more desperate team, as they stand in third place in the NFC West and their playoff hopes are tenuous at best.
The Ravens meanwhile, entered this week with a three-game lead in the AFC North and a six-game winning streak — the longest active streak in the NFL — after their 41-7 rout of the Houston Texans Nov. 17.
The Ravens are 8-5 on “Monday Night Football” in John Harbaugh’s tenure, with 11 of those 13 games coming on the road (a sore point with both Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti). This will be the Ravens first game against the Rams in Los Angeles; the Ravens own a 4-2 series lead, but the Ravens’ last meeting against the Rams on the road was a 37-7 win in St. Louis in 2011.
As the Ravens look for their seventh straight win — which would tie their longest regular-season winning streak, set during 2000 Super Bowl season — here are three matchups to watch:
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson vs. Rams S Eric Weddle
Jackson against Weddle will be a fascinating chess game. Jackson has been magnificent this year, worthy of his status as front-runner for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He has been a strong passer, with a completion percentage of 66.3 percent, and is on pace to set the NFL record for rushing yardage by a quarterback. Sensational, highlight-reel runs have become a weekly occurrence.
Perhaps more important, Jackson has taken care of the ball. His five interceptions this year have been bunched into just two games, with none in his past 130 passes dating to Week 5 against Pittsburgh. Jackson had at least one fumble in every start last year but has just four fumbles this year, not all of them his fault, and hasn’t lost any. The Ravens’ turnover ratio of plus-6 is surely a factor in their success.
The Ravens have talked of rebuilding their offense from the ground up this offseason, but Weddle knows the Ravens as well as any opponent after spending his three previous seasons in Baltimore.
Weddle, who ranks second on the Rams with 72 tackles, thrives on creating confusion for the opposing quarterback with deception and late pre-snap adjustments, so expect a cat-and-mouse game as Jackson and Weddle read the field and each other.
“I just have to play football,” Jackson said, “be alert at all times on the field, just find [No.] 32.”
Ravens G Marshal Yanda or G Bradley Bozeman vs. Rams DL Aaron Donald
Interior line battles don’t get any better than Yanda vs. Donald, a likely future Hall of Famer against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When asked about the prospect of facing Donald, Yanda said, “Most guys in this league are competitors, and I’m definitely a very competitive guy. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Donald and the rest of the Rams front could represent the toughest challenge yet for a Ravens run game that ranks first in the league by a wide margin, averaging 203.8 rushing yards a game.
Donald has 35 tackles, eight sacks, 16 quarterback hits and a league-best 16 tackles for loss, and he’ll line up in a variety of spots along the Rams defensive front. The Rams will prefer to line him up opposite Bozeman, the second-year player who will rely on help from tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Matt Skura or a tight end to deal with a player that John Harbaugh has called “a game-wrecker.”
Skura has seen that firsthand. He recalled one college game when his Duke team faced Donald, who was playing for Pitt. “I remember one play,” Skura recalled. “He tackled our quarterback and running back at the same time. And I was like, ‘All right, this guy’s pretty legit.’ … And he’s gotten bigger and faster and stronger since then.”
Ravens CB Marcus Peters vs. Rams QB Jared Goff
Peters has had quite the impact since his midseason trade from the Rams, with two interception return touchdowns in four games. Those two picks increased Peters’ career total to 26 — the most in the league since 2015, when he was a first-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Peters played 22 games for the Rams — all 16 games last season and six this year before being dealt to the Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young and a fifth-round draft pick, so he knows the Rams’ system and schemes as well as any Raven. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey has praised Peters’ intelligence in the meeting room and how that translates to the field, and Peters will no doubt try to goad Goff into a mistake.
After posting passer ratings of 100.5 and 101.1 in the past two years, Goff enters this game ranked 29th in the league with a rating of 82.1. He has completed 60.3 percent of his passes this year (225-for-373) for 2,783 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for an offense that ranks 13th overall.
This game could be the best test yet for a Ravens offense that has flummoxed every defense it has faced the past six games. The Rams have the strength in the interior to stymie the run game, an elite cornerback in Jalen Ramsey to challenge the passing game, and Eric Weddle to diagnose and direct things from the back end.
The Ravens, though, have a much improved defense that is playing with confidence, and they will be facing a Rams offense that hasn’t quite found its rhythm this season. The cross country trip and imposing Ravens defense create problems, but the Ravens escape.
Ravens 20, Rams 19.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox