Analyzing Week 15

By
Andy Benoit
· More from Andy·
Slowed by the snow in Week 14, Calvin Johnson was passed for the league lead in receiving yards and now trails Cleveland's Josh Gordon, 1,400 to 1,351, with three weeks remaining. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Slowed by the snow in Week 14, Calvin Johnson was passed for the league lead in receiving yards and now trails Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, 1,400 to 1,351, with three weeks remaining. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6), 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Ravens offense vs. Lions defense

At least both teams know they won’t get stuck playing in weather this time. For the first 54 minutes last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense clomped around in the snow and played an almost randomized form of football. In the final six minutes, the field conditions stabilized and Flacco went to work, completing 7 of 11 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco feasted on Vikings linebackers Audie Cole and Chad Greenway in both man and zone coverage.

The Lions use a lot of similar coverage concepts as the Vikings, so it will be on Stephen Tulloch and NFL interception leader DeAndre Levy to play with discipline. That includes late in the down, which Flacco was able to work into last week as the Ravens used a sixth blocker – usually running back Bernard Pierce or Ray Rice – to buttress their protection against the Vikings’ formidable four-man rush. The Ravens will take the same approach this week against an even better Lions four-man rush.

To save his team some trouble, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell may want to just have Flacco drop back and throw on every down. After all, the Ravens offensive line continues to get no push whatsoever on the ground. Likely the only thing keeping the Ravens from throwing nonstop is a wide receiving corps that lacks the depth and refinement to be featured in an unbalanced offense.

Lions offense vs. Ravens defense

Last week the Ravens defense had success in press-man, which is not a coverage they play often. This was likely a strategic adjustment made for a snowy field. This week, they should get back to more of their off-man coverages, which means savvy linebacker Daryl Smith will be a key buzz defender underneath against Calvin Johnson’s slant routes.

Johnson is frequently used on slants at the deeper intermediate level, as well, so strong safety James Ihedigbo, who was outstanding in the box against Minnesota, will play deep, alongside free safety Abe Elam. This will mean more understaffed defensive fronts for Detroit to run against. Reggie Bush appears set to play after sitting last week with a calf injury. His presence is vital because the Lions’ ground game will have to come out of passing looks, as their offensive line—like many offensive lines these days—is not capable of driving Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty and Arthur Jones off the ball. 

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10 comments
JayWasHere
JayWasHere

Not so sure about this take on Kaepernick and Tampa.  I'm pretty sure teams have been using man to man against him because he was absolutely destroying zone defenses.  Just ask Green Bay.

brob99
brob99

Unfortunately, Suh and Fairley represent a nightmare matchup against the Raven's underpowered interior line. 

AQ Shipley has been consistently dominated (understatement) by power rushers, and Gradkowski has been little better. 

The Ravens front office has been rightly praised over the years, but must bear considerable criticism for stocking so little talent in this area. It amazes me that there is nobody on the roster that could be coached up to play at a higher level than these traffic cones masquerading as offensive lineman. 

TigerFrankBurris
TigerFrankBurris

Abe Elam?  Last time I checked its brother Matt playing the other safety spot for the Ravens, what a joke someone who covers the sport can't even get someones first name right.

argirodo
argirodo

Andy some flawed logic here again. Dolphins have Ellerbe and Wheeler so they don't have to play dime. They haven't done it all year. Vereen is the best/most important player outside of Brady, but Brady threw for 115 with Gronk (no Vereen) in week 8.  Vereen won't be a mismatch when the Dolphins key on him. Odrick also dominated your all-pro Mankins last time. Look for more of the same. Plus the refs won't be on 1 of the teams side. 

Nathan16
Nathan16

Soft schedule huh? The Pats played Denver, Indy, Cincy, the Saints, Panthers, and several wildcard contenders including two from their own division. Their total opponents' record is 49% while the NFL range is only 45-55%. The teams near the top I that range include most of the NFC South, who drew the West and AFC East; the AFC South, who drew the West and the NFC West; and the teams in both West divisions who have to play against their own power teams. Additionally, beating one's opponents makes one's schedule "weaker" because your opponents take more losses, so good teams will tend to have "weak" schedules.

John64
John64

@Reedster2185 Up on your Patriots-hating soapbox again, Reedster?  Weren't you the same goofy dude who was referring to the Patriots' "slide into mediocrity" right after they got "cheating" over six years ago?  Hard to believe that, after they lost the ability to "cheat", they went on to win 80% of their games and went back to two more super bowls.  LMAO... not to mention Brady winning two MVPs.

Oh wait though... they lost two super bowls by 3 and 4 points.  LOL... they must have had their ability to "cheat" taken away in the final few minutes of each of those two games... right?

I'm no Patriots fanboy, but I'm kind of a fan of common sense.  Something the tin foil hat-wearing Patriots-haters show no signs of possessing...

Scramble
Scramble

@TigerFrankBurrisLooks like Ravens coach "Jim" Harbaugh will have to figure out which Elam is starting this week.

Scramble
Scramble

@John64@Reedster2185They only got to the second super bowl because they wouldn't review Lee Evans touchdown catch. They were hoping for a Patriots/Giants rematch, which turned into a real snoozer.

John64
John64

@Scramble  Why review it? Evans never controlled the ball all the way through the catch.  If Calvin Johnson's TD catch vs the Bears a couple years earlier was ruled an incompletion, then the Evans play wasn't even close to a catch.

John64
John64

@Reedster2185   I'm sorry, I didn't notice, are you holding your tin foil hat in your lap in that avatar photo? You should be wearing that on your head at ALL times. Be PROUD of your ignorance, Reedster!    

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