Rams @ Ravens
They faired a bit better in last week’s matchup with Arizona, however, racking up 123 yards on the ground and 262 in the air, as backup QB Gus Frerotte threw for 3 TDs (but also 3 INT). The defense also held the Cards to 102 yards on the ground, as Edgerrin James averaged 3.4 yards on 26 carries.
The Ravens, on the other hand, dropped from 8th to 11th in total offense last week on the “other” bay, and sit as the #14 team in the league rushing, at 113.2 ypg, and #18 in passing, at 241.8 ypg. Steve McNair is set to start again this week, ailing groin be darned. From the Nest’s poll we can see that many of you agree with us that Steve should be sat down for a few weeks to heal completely before the Ravens’ post-bye week murderers row of a schedule starts. McNair will again be likely looking for his favorite target, WR Derrick Mason, who leads the NFL in receptions with 44. Mason has been bothered by a bit of a stomach problem this week, but is expected to start Sunday. Also returning to the lineup is TE Todd Heap, whose presence will hopefully help spark some dead zone success. Running back Willis McGahee comes into the game 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards, trailing only Willie Parker (PIT) and Travis Henry (DEN). ….wait for it…
On defense, Trent Dilfer and the 49ers were just what the Doctor ordered for the Ravens, who are now 4th in the league in total D, 2nd in rushing, and 13th in passing. Cornerback Samari Rolle practiced in full gear this week, and is expected to return to the lineup, although he may not resume full starting responsibilities just yet.
Elsewhere on the injury front, don’t be surprised to see the Ravens with an offensive line very similar to the one that finished the game against the 49ers, as Mike Flynn and Adam Terry continue to recover from boo-boos sustained in that game. Jonathan Ogden does not appear ready to go. As good as the young guys were last week, the presence of all that inexperience in the trenches could prove troublesome on Sunday. Expect a few more drive-killing false start penalties, at the very least. Late word is that Steve McNair missed practice on Thursday with a stiff back, but seems likely to play.
A winless team can be a very dangerous team. Fortunately, according to their comments this week at least, the Ravens realize this and will not take the Rams lightly. The Rams have nothing left to play for this year other than pride and ruining other team’s seasons. With the 2nd half schedule the Ravens have, a loss this Sunday would almost certainly accomplish the latter. The Rams would be wise to not even try to run the ball against the Ravens, which is pretty much impossible, especially with a back-up running back (Brian Leonard). As such, the Nest expects Gus Frerotte to come out firing. If the Ravens are able to get pressure on him, as they did to Dilfer last week, and force him into some early mistakes (and of course, capitalize on these mistakes with, well I dunno…TOUCHDOWNS?), then the purple and black should have little trouble in this one. A perfect recipe for success Sunday (and in any game, really) would be to get early turnovers, punch the ball into the end zone building the lead, and then let Willis loose on this awful Rams defense. If, however, the Ravens allow them to hang around until the end as they have done with now all 3 victories this year, Frerotte-to-Torry Holt may just be able to steal one in Charm City.
…still waiting for it, aren’t you?
Ok, here goes: RUN THE BALL!
This isn’t to say that the Ravens have not ran the ball ‘enough’ this season, per se. Willis McGahee is tied for 3rd in the league in carries with 102 through 4 games. 20-25 carries for Willis, along with another 5-10 going to Musa Smith, should be enough runs to be able to have a successful day on the ground. The problem is that the Ravens (ridiculously) short passing game creates double-digit drives whenever they are able to move the ball down the field. 22 runs for 88 yards (McGahee’s stats in SF) would seem much more productive if there were a few intermediate to long range passes mixed in. The fact that the Ravens run such an overwhelming majority of their plays in between the 20s makes it tough to appreciate what Willis has been able to accomplish so far this year. The Nest hopes to see Mark Clayton and Todd Heap more involved in the offense moving forward, which will help make what has so far been a nice campaign for McGahee all the more impressive, by creating more space near the line, and also allowing him more carries from scoring range.
So maybe a more appropriate request would be: THROW THE BALL (more than 5 yards) and then RUN THE BALL!
The Nest sees the Ravens D, swagger regained (a little at least) last week, coming out and totally dominating a backup QB and RB (as well as several offensive linemen), handing the offense gift-wrapped points, and the O coming alive (for their standards) in front of the home fans against a soft, porous Saint Louie defense.
While the Nest had sworn off predicting blowouts until they actually proved they were capable, we just don’t see this one being close.
Ravens 23 Rams 6