After another dismal Monday Night performance by the Ravens, hopefully the woeful Detroit Lions will prove to be just what the Doctor ordered to get them back on track.
The last time the Lions won a road game was October 28, 2007. Three players that aren’t even on the team any more, Jon Kitna, Kevin Jones, and Roy Williams, paced that win.
This season, they are losing games played outside of a dome by an average of 33-14.
Their #1 quarterback, Matt Stafford, is injured and will not start. Instead, veteran journeyman Daunte Culpepper, playing for his fourth team in five seasons (his second in the Motor City), will get the nod. Culpepper has played in four games in 2009, completing 37 of his 65 passes for 433 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Daunte, now 32, can nonetheless still do some of the things he did back in his mid 20’s – namely, scramble and fumble. He has 51 rushing yards on just four attempts this season, but has also fumbled three times. While not quite on the incredible butterfinger pace he was in 2002 (23 fumbles in 16 games), he is still obviously prone to dropping the rock.
Terrell Suggs has been practicing, albeit on a limited basis, and could be back in the lineup Sunday.
Things set up very well for the Ravens here, as they try to scrape back above the .500 mark. Still, most Ravens fans are a bit uneasy about this one, especially after watching Pittsburgh lose to 1-win Cleveland last night. Last year’s AFC Championship Game participants are proving to be but shells of what they were a year ago, and the feeling around town is that a win is far from guaranteed for our purple and black on Sunday.
So, what could go so horribly wrong that the Ravens somehow allow Detroit to escape B’More with a win?
- Megatron – The Lions’ undisputed best player is wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The third year pro out of Georgia Tech is a Top 5 WR in the league, and his 6’5″ frame is just the type that has given the Ravens’ secondary fits all season. Johnson, though is BETTER than Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Dwayne Bowe, and the other guys that have torched the Ravens. Culpepper looks at #81 and sees his glory days with Randy Moss in Minnesota flash before his eyes. Look for Daunte to go deep several times to Johnson on Sunday, especially knowing that the Ravens’ DBs are extremely likely to draw flags, whether they are warranted or not. If Ed Reed, who missed the Packers game and has not practiced (as of Thursday) this week misses another game, Megatron could have a field day at M&T Bank Stadium.
- Flacco’s Struggles – On paper, the Lions 32nd ranked pass defense looks ripe for Natty Joe to rebound from his career-worst performance at Lambeau. They allowed Brady Freaking Quinn to throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns three weeks ago, and Aaron Rodgers hung up 348 on them Thanksgiving day. Joe, though, has been making poor decisions and poor throws for over a month. Even against Pittsburgh, he floated the deep ball to Clayton that probably should have been a touchdown. Let’s hope that the increased mobility we saw from him in Green Bay is proof that his ankle is really feeling better, and that it will lead to some crisper throws. Combine that with the solid decision-making and spreading around of the football that we saw early in the year, and Detroit won’t stand a chance.
- Minnie Mouse – Mighty Mouse Ray Rice also needs to bounce back from his poor game in Green Bay. He lost just the second fumble of his career, and the first since his pro debut against Cincinnati, and was held under 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week 3. Detroit’s defense is a bit better against the run, allowing 113 yards per game, but they don’t have nearly the talent at linebacker that the Packers boast. Rice should be able to find running room against the Lions. If he doesn’t, and if Cam Cameron still refuses to give Pain Train McClain the ball, it will put even more pressure on Flacco.
- Collapsing Pocket – The Lions, luckily, are a bit more inept than even the Ravens at pressuring quarterbacks. They have just 21 sacks on the season, one behind the Ravens’ total of 22. Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, and Ben Grubbs all played terribly in Green Bay, and will need to step it up big over these last four games if the Ravens are to have any chance of making the postseason. Flacco has been sacked 8 times in the past two games, after not going down at all against Indy. All five of Pittsburgh’s sacks came in the second half, making it 8 sacks over the last six quarters allowed by the Ravens. Joe’s significantly diminished play over those six periods is no coincidence. Keep your QB on his feet, O-Line!
The Ravens have just one home game left after this one. The chances of a home playoff game, should they get into the postseason, are about zilch. Holding serve at M&T Bank Stadium here in Weeks 14 and 15 will have them finish a respectable 6-2 in B’More. At that point, they’ll have their work cut out for them in Pittsburgh and Oakland, but at least they will have a shot. Lose either of these next two, and it’ll be time to pick your surrogate playoff team for 2009, I’m afraid.
Ravens 27 Lions 10