The final game of the NFL Week 12 slate is another must-watch matchup as the Baltimore Ravens travel across the country to play the Los Angeles Rams. Despite a win and a cover last week against the Bears, the Rams have been downgraded in the betting market. Meanwhile, there is no hotter team in football than the Baltimore Ravens, both in the minds of bettors and casual viewers.
After dismantling the Houston Texans last week 41-7, no one is lining up to bet against the Baltimore Ravens. They have the likely MVP at quarterback in Lamar Jackson, who puts up highlight-reel plays seemingly every quarter. And while the Baltimore defense isn’t the juggernaut it used to be, they’re currently ranked #10 per DVOA. Combine that with the 3rd best offense in the league, and you have a team that should be power rated #1 overall in the NFL.
Ravens Offense vs. Rams Defense
The Ravens are a seemingly unstoppable force on offense, but the Rams are one of the few teams in the NFL that have a defense capable of slowing them down. LA is #3 against the run on defense, which is the biggest key to slowing down Lamar and Co.
The Ravens are the #1 rushing team in football, but the Rams defensive line is #4 in adjusted line yards, #9 in stuff rate and #10 in defending the power run. Most importantly, the Rams defensive line is #2 in the league in getting open-field tackles. With the best running quarterback in football, being able to limit an offense in open space will be a massive factor on this side of the ball.
With an amazing rushing attack, the Ravens are able to keep opposing defenses off-guard and hit them deep with their passing game. Not only does Lamar have a speed demon in Marquise Brown and a reliable pass catcher in Willie Snead, he also has the security blanket of tight end Mark Andrews. The Ravens can test a defense short, medium, or deep, leaving a team to pick and chose which part of the field to focus on.
When it comes to pass defense, the Rams are much less of a force compared to their run defense. But with that said, most of the Rams season stats are without cornerback Jalen Ramsey who they acquired from the Jaguars in mid-October. Ramsey is potentially the best shutdown corner in the NFL, and he completely wiped out Allen Robinson a week ago against Chicago. The Rams also have the defending two-time defensive player of the year in Aaron Donald to pressure Jackson when he drops back.
Rams Offense vs. Ravens Defense
Last week the Rams got their Christmas present delivered early, as Todd Gurley finally looked to be back in vintage form. Behind a reworked offensive line that included two new starters, both rookies, Gurley and the Rams pulled off the power running game to perfection against the Bears. Typically a team that runs a zone-blocking scheme, the Rams unveiling an effective power run game was a surprise, and it's something new for defensive coordinators to consider. What that means for the Rams is it allows them to mask the embarrassment that Jared Goff has become.
Goff is dead last in the NFL in on-target percentage at 69.5% and his QBR of 39.3 (on a 100 scale) ranks 27th overall in the league. Despite Goff’s limitations, his head coach Sean McVay is one of the best offensive minds in the game, and his supporting cast, when at full strength, is also among the best in the NFL. The availability of Brandon Cooks and Robert Woods will be key factors to keep track of in this game.
Woods missed last week for personal reasons, while Cooks missed last week’s game due to lingering concussion symptoms. Cooks was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, and all three of Goff’s excellent wide receivers should be available on Monday night.
The Ravens have the 3rd ranked pass defense per DVOA, but the 25th ranked rushing defense. If the Rams figured something out in their running game last week, they may be able to exploit the Ravens' weakness on defense. By pounding the run, the Rams can keep the clock moving, limiting possessions and keeping Lamar Jackson on the sidelines. If the Rams run the ball successfully, it can lead to explosiveness in the play-action pass game, as we saw last week against the Bears.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was Ravens -1, but after their outburst against the Texans, that number was bought up to as high as Ravens -3.5 early in the week. The number has settled at -3, but there is still heavy juice on the favorite. If you’d like to take the Rams in this one, it might be worth waiting for the hook to come back, as the public is likely to continue clicking Ravens leading up to Monday night. Currently, 80% of the tickets and 78% of the money is on Baltimore.
The total opened at 49 but has been bet down heavily throughout the week, landing at 46.5 across the board. With two strong defenses, this move makes sense in theory. However, both offenses should find ways to exploit the opposition’s defense. It would not be surprising to see this one turn into a shootout given the offensive talent that will be on the field.
By Kyle Johansen