The Baltimore Ravens dropped their third game of the season last Sunday, falling to the New England Patriots 23-17. Both teams played through a combination of wind, rain, and freezing temperatures in primetime.
Despite the difficult weather, both teams combined for only one turnover all game. It came via a Lamar Jackson interception at the end of the first half, ending what was a promising drive.
The Ravens defense failed to force a turnover for the first time since Week 3 of last season, a streak that had lasted for 21 straight games.
It was not the only streak that ended on Sunday. The Ravens had scored at least 20 points in an impressive 31 straight games, but only managed 17 points against the Patriots.
Overall, it was a disappointing result for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but in the long run it is just one game. The Ravens still have seven games left in the regular season to iron out their deficiencies.
However, the Ravens have a growing list of injuries to significant players that may be enough to derail their season.
Nick Boyle, Brandon Williams injured
Starting tight end Nick Boyle suffered a gruesome leg injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and was carted off. Boyle, who was their best blocking tight end, will now miss the remainder of the season. This will have a lasting impact on how the Ravens operate offensively going forward.
Brandon Williams hurt his ankle early in the first quarter and did not return. He has a good chance of missing next week’s game against the Tennessee Titans and possibly could be out longer. Without Williams, their preeminent run-stuffer, the run defense will be severely tested.
A growing list of injuries for Ravens
Add Boyle and Williams to a growing list of injuries for the Ravens. Boyle’s season-ending injury comes just one week after the team lost All-Pro Ronnie Stanley to a broken ankle. Starting slot DB Tavon Young was lost for the season early in Week 2.
In addition, there has been a number of key players who have missed, or are missing significant time due to injury, including Jimmy Smith (ankle), Mark Ingram (ankle), Tyre Phillips (shoulder), Calais Campbell (calf), Anthony Averett (shoulder), and L.J. Fort (finger).
Although every team is dealing with their own injury problems, the Ravens’ injuries seem to be hitting the positions that have defined their identity over the last two seasons–along both lines and the secondary. For the Ravens to make a long playoff run, they will need to find new and creative ways to win ballgames.
Banged up defense must slow down Derrick Henry
There is a good chance the Ravens defensive line will be without both Campbell and Williams this Sunday against the Titans. This is especially concerning considering who is starting at running back on the opposing team.
Derrick Henry bullied his way to 195 total yards rushing on 6.5 yards per carry against a solid Baltimore run defense in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs. Campbell and Williams are the Ravens’ two best run stoppers along the defensive line, so it could be a long day for the defense.
Fortunately, the Ravens look to get back L.J. Fort on Sunday. Fort has been a full participant at practice all week, and will bring much needed run-stopping support at the linebacker position.
Defensive coordinator Don Martindale must find creative ways to make the Titans one-dimensional on offense. He will be struggling to juggle a thin defensive line rotation all game.
Perhaps the best way to stop Henry on offense is for the Ravens offense to keep the ball out of their hands. If they can put together long, sustained drives that result in enough points that would force the Titans to play from behind and force Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball more.
Ravens-Titans final score prediction
The matchup does not look great for the Ravens considering the circumstances leading into this game. Henry will get to take advantage of a depleted Ravens defensive line, and A.J. Brown will get to test the Ravens’ thinning secondary.
On offense, the Ravens will have to find a way to succeed more through the air. With key members of the offensive line out, the running game might not be as effective as before. If Jackson can hit his receivers accurately on short and intermediate routes, and if these receivers can work to get more open, then they have a chance at a victory.
Despite the odds, I believe their early exit from the playoffs against this team, combined with their disappointing loss last week, will motivate the team to a win. Additionally, John Harbaugh’s teams rarely lose two games in a row.