Week 16 is here, and the Atlanta Falcons are facing another difficult road matchup. This week, the team travels to face the Baltimore Ravens, who are in the midst of their own difficulties at quarterback. Lamar Jackson has been declared out for the game, so the Ravens will be relying on backup Tyler Huntley for this game.
Here at The Falcoholic, we like to think we keep you all incredibly well-informed on all things Falcons. We’re not nearly as diligent in covering the Ravens, so I’ve enlisted the help of a Baltimore expert: Kyle Barber. Kyle is the managing editor over at Baltimore Beatdown, SB Nation’s site for all things Baltimore Ravens.
I brought five questions to Kyle to try to get a better read on the Ravens, including his confidence in Tyler Huntley, the strength of Baltimore’s rushing attack and run defense, and the mounting injuries in the Ravens secondary. Read on for Kyle’s answers.
Q1. Lamar Jackson has been declared out for Week 16. How much confidence do you have in Tyler Huntley to keep the Ravens offense going, and how has he looked thus far in 2022?
Kyle Barber: Confidence somewhat dwindled last week after Huntley struggled to push the ball downfield, but the offense as a whole shouldn’t be operated behind him. Rather, the offense should flow through the run game and play action, with both running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards showing great strides the past couple weeks.
Q2. Speaking of offense, the Ravens and Falcons offenses have looked pretty similar thus far: struggling passing games bolstered by elite running games. How important is the rushing attack, and the return of JK Dobbins, for Baltimore’s chances on Saturday?
Kyle: The running game is what this team built around. They have two great backs and a top-tier offensive line. This is a team that essentially built themselves to be capable of running against everybody, regardless of their opponent’s run-stop prowess. So, in a matchup against the Falcons who have struggled to stop the run, the Ravens should have the advantage. But, we’ll see if they commit to the run the way fans are expecting/hoping.
Q3. Defensively, the Ravens have been one of the NFL’s elite run defenses. How big is the loss of Calais Campbell this week, considering Atlanta’s propensity to run the ball?
Kyle: It’s certainly a loss. Campbell is still, in year 17, a force. But, the Ravens defensive line depth is stocked with Justin Madubuike, a developing Broderick Washington and excitable rookie Travis Jones. I think this is a place for concern, with the Falcons being a top-tier running group, but the Ravens have a solid group in the trenches and a pair of great linebackers in Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen who fly to run support.
Q4. Baltimore is known for having an elite secondary, but the pass defense has been below-average thus far. How big has the return of Marcus Williams been, and how much does Marcus Peters’ absence affect the secondary?
Kyle: The group just can’t seem to all be on the field and healthy at the same time, which is frustrating. But, the return of Marcus Williams is huge. He has four interceptions in seven games, and he’s currently playing with a brace on one wrist.
The loss of Peters will be noticeable as the Ravens’ secondary depth hasn’t flourished the way many imagined at the beginning of the year. The rookies, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams haven’t filled in as anticipated. Brandon Stephens lacks the consistency you’d desire of a No. 2 corner right now, though he flashes potential in each game. This will be an area of concern for Saturday.
Q5. Baltimore is currently a 6.5-point home favorite, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Kyle: If this was in Atlanta, I think this would be a loss. But I’m confident in the Ravens’ home field advantage and the weather and how this team is constructed to defeat the Falcons. The Ravens tend to beat up on rookie quarterbacks and Desmond Ridder may be the next victim.
However, if the Falcons take a lead, I don’t see the Ravens coming back. Huntley hasn’t shown the ability to move the ball downfield enough and the Ravens wide receiver unit lacks the weapons of Atlanta. Think this will be a rather ugly, cold, physical game the Ravens win on their grass due to the defense, run game and a superior kicker (though Younghoe Koo is great!).
Many thanks to Kyle Barber for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow him on Twitter at @KylePBarber, and if you’re in the mood for a Ravens perspective on things, follow Baltimore Beatdown at @BmoreBeatdown.