Ravens-Rams: Five gameday predictions

September 24, 2011 | Luke Jones

Looking to rebound from a shocking 26-13 defeat in Tennessee last week, the Ravens travel to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis to take on the 0-2 Rams. Sunday will mark the fifth meeting between St. Louis and Baltimore with the series being tied, 2-2. The Ravens will look to break the pattern of the home team winning each of the previous four games in the series history.

Under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 12-4 in games immediately following a loss. Baltimore has won eight straight games after a defeat and has not lost consecutive games since 2009 when the Ravens fell to the Patriots, Bengals, and Vikings in the month of October.

As for me, going 0-for-5 in my predictions last weekend doesn’t make me feel any better about my prognosticating ability, but it’s safe to say very few saw what was coming last Sunday — especially the Ravens. At the very least, it provides for good comedy as I’ve been wrong in picking the Ravens’ first two games.

Here are this week’s five predictions for what to expect against the Rams …

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1. Any production in the passing game will be far more about Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta than the Ravens’ trio of rookie wide receivers. While the coaching staff and Joe Flacco would love to see one or some combination of Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams, and Tandon Doss step up in Lee Evans’ absence, the Ravens are more likely to use two tight ends in an effort to run the ball effectively and control the clock. Smith still plays without confidence and is thinking too much on the field while the slower Doss will be active for the first time. Don’t be shocked if Williams actually has the most productive day of the three. However, Flacco will prefer going to Dickson and Pitta underneath, and Cam Cameron may elect to split out one of his tight ends from time to time.

2. Ray Rice will pass the century mark on the ground. After being stymied on the ground against the Titans last week, Rice goes against the worst run defense in the NFL with the Rams allowing 177.5 rushing yards per game. With so many question marks at receiver and needing to create manageable third-down situations, the Ravens will be committed to the ground game as Rice and Ricky Williams should get plenty of touches. Keeping the Rams high-tempo offense off the field will be a priority, so controlling the tempo on the ground will be paramount.

3. Baltimore will improve its third-down efficiency on both sides of the football. The Ravens offense was only 3-for-10 on third down against the Titans, mainly due to their inability to run the football to create third-and-short situations. Defensively, Baltimore allowed the Titans to convert seven third downs in 17 tries, most of those coming in the second half when the Ravens were trying to mount a comeback. With the St. Louis linebackers struggling in pass coverage, Rice, Dickson, and Pitta will be used plenty on third down to move the chains.

4. Sam Bradford and the Rams will have some success running the no-huddle offense before Ed Reed turns the tables late in the game. It’s hard to envision the second-year quarterback carving up the Ravens’ 28th-ranked pass defense in the way that Matt Hasselbeck did a week ago, but the Rams have shown the ability to move the ball between the 20s before shooting themselves in the foot in the red zone. The 6-foot-5 Danario Alexander and 6-foot-2 Mike Sims-Walker don’t bring the same threat as Kenny Britt, but the Ravens cornerbacks will struggle matching up against them if the defense is unable to create pressure. The Rams won’t use the no-huddle the entire afternoon, but the Ravens will have some problems against it before Reed picks off a pass in the fourth quarter. The future Hall of Fame safety has been doing it to young quarterbacks for years, and Bradford will only become the latest victim.

5. The Ravens get the job done in St. Louis, but the 21-17 victory won’t be an easy one. It’s funny how one game changes the dynamic of how a team is perceived. A week ago at this time, the Ravens could seemingly do no wrong while many are now fearing a second straight loss this week against the Rams and the possibility of being 1-2 with the New York Jets coming to Baltimore next Sunday night. With injuries continuing to hamper the Ravens early in the season, they’ll run the ball effectively and play bend-but-don’t-break defense to earn a close victory on the road.

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