The Baltimore Ravens hope playing one of the league’s worst defenses will solve their offensive struggles when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.
The Ravens (9-5) have just two touchdowns in their past three games combined after being held to a field goal in a 13-3 loss to the host Cleveland Browns last Saturday.
The loss, coupled with the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, dropped the Ravens from leading the AFC North Division to the top wild-card spot.
The Falcons (5-9) lost for the fifth time in their past six games with a 21-18 setback to the host New Orleans Saints. Atlanta likely will have to win its final three games to have any chance of winning its first NFC South Division title since 2016.
The Ravens would win the AFC North by ending the season with victories over Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. But Baltimore has struggled offensively since losing star quarterback Lamar Jackson to a knee injury in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 27.
Jackson didn’t practice on Tuesday and will be a game-time decision on Saturday. In his place, Tyler Huntley has dropped two of his three starts, going 52-for-74 passing (70.3 percent) for 413 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and no completion longer than 25 yards.
After the Ravens rushed for 198 yards on 28 carries — an average of more than 7 yards an attempt — against the Browns, they’ll look to do the same against a Falcons defense that ranks 21st against the run (129.9 yards per game).
The Ravens average 164.7 rushing yards per game, second most in the league. Baltimore, which has struggled throwing the ball downfield for most of the season, could have success against the Falcons, who are 28th defending the pass (248.4 ypg).
“We’re preparing for a very physical, tough game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a very important December game. These games are individualized. One game at a time, high-stakes games. We recognize that, and we’re excited to play in a meaningful game in December.”
Meanwhile, Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder was inconsistent in his first career start replacing Marcus Mariota. Ridder went 13-for-26 passing for 97 yards, but his attempts were limited because the Falcons ran the ball very well against the Saints. Atlanta rushed for 231 yards and two touchdowns on 39 attempts — an average of nearly 6 yards per carry — against the Saints.
“It was the first time he’s been in the pocket in a couple of months,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “That was a good, veteran defense, and they play aggressive. I thought early on he was a little amped up. You could see by the way he was quickly moving. But I thought once he settled down, he did a nice job, especially on some critical downs.”
Tyler Allgeier ran for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Cordarrelle Patterson added 52 yards and a score on 14 carries, with Ridder finishing with 38 yards on six carries.
Along with Jackson, running back J.K. Dobbins (knee), defensive end Calais Campbell (knee) and cornerback Marcus Peters (calf) didn’t practice Tuesday due to injuries, while receiver Devin Duvernay (foot) was limited. However, Harbaugh said he will wait until later in the week to determine their status for Saturday.
Falcons offensive tackle Chuma Edoga (knee) was limited in practice on Tuesday, and his availability for Saturday will be determined closer to game time. –Field Level Media