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Ravens vs. Jaguars Preview Article

VirginiaCavs

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Ravens vs. Jaguars NFL Week 12 Picks & Prediction: Ravens Dominate Jaguars in Low-Scoring Game

Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville

Baltimore's Slow Defensive Start

Statistically, Baltimore's defense does not appear as good as it truly is, because of its slow start to the season.

This slow start is a consequence of numerous factors that are no longer in play.

Baltimore has a new defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald, and some young players.

They needed to get used to each other. This need conveyed itself in an adjustment phase that impeded Baltimore's defense from securing leads and otherwise succeeding.

The fact that these factors are no longer in play is evident in various statistical progressions.

For example, Baltimore ranks 15thin total defense on the season, allowing 336.2 yards per game.

However, the Ravens are allowing 265.7 yards per game over their last three games.

This drastic reduction in yards per game allowed constitutes evidence of their superb defensive improvement.

As part of their four-game win streak, they won their last two games by double digits while limiting the Saints to 13 points and the Panthers to three points.

The Arrival of Roquan Smith

In addition to the team gaining more experience as a collective unit under a new defensive coordinator, Baltimore's acquisition of star linebacker Roquan Smith has been tremendous.

Not so coincidentally, his arrival in Baltimore coincides with the Ravens' last two games in which they allowed a combined total of 16 points to New Orleans and Carolina.

In his debut game as a Raven, Smith accrued five tackles and a 0.5 stuff against New Orleans before achieving seven tackles and a sack against Carolina.

Smith and Patrick Queen

A former All-Pro selection, Smith's impact has been felt in the progress of other players.

With opposing offenses having to account for Smith, fellow linebacker Patrick Queen has thrived more extensively.

Against Carolina, in Smith's second game with the team, Queen amassed 12 tackles, two stuffs, and a half-sack.

His presence was felt to be pervasive.

Together, Smith and Queen form a top-level linebacker duo that is transformative for an already gelling and otherwise improving Raven defense.

They help the team react more quickly to plays, to make quick tackles even in the open field, and to limit positive passing opportunities for the opposing offense -- Smith is known, among other things, for his excellence in pass coverage as he reliably grades highly in the pass coverage category.

Baltimore's Run Defense Stats

With help from Queen and Smith, Baltimore now ranks third in run defense.

After limiting the Panthers to 36 rushing yards in their last game, the Ravens are allowing a season average of 86.4 rushing yards.

Travis Etienne's Outlook

The excellence of Baltimore's run defense is significant because, for Jacksonville, running back Travis Etienne has been crucial to Jacksonville's offensive success.

His tremendous efficiency, productivity, and nose for the end zone against the Giants, Broncos, and Raiders helped his team stay competitive in or outright win those games.

However, his team's last opponent, Kansas City, posed a rare challenge to Etienne.

The Chiefs rank fifth in run defense and limited Etienne to 45 yards on the ground.

While the Chiefs formed Jacksonville's toughest test in terms of run defense, Baltimore's run defense will now be the toughest that Etienne has to encounter.

The Importance of Etienne

To spell out my point, Jacksonville tends to struggle when it cannot rely on Etienne.

For example, they were playing well against the Eagles before the Jaguars became too pass-happy, deviating from Etienne.

While quarterback Trevor Lawrence has faced some low-ranking pass defenses in recent weeks, he generally has fallen off from his early-season levels of productivity and, plagued among other things by a habit of missing open receivers, he suffers inconsistency.

Etienne should be the rock of Jacksonville's offense, but he won't be helpful this Sunday.

Baltimore's Pass Defense

In alignment with its general defensive progression, Baltimore's pass defense has improved statistically.

Most recently, Panther quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered his worst game of the season, in terms of passer rating, against the Ravens.

Two weeks ago, Saint quarterback Andy Dalton nearly suffered the same fate before achieving a garbage-time passing touchdown.

In addition to thriving with strong linebacker play, the Ravens gladly rely on cornerback Marlon Humphrey, a former All-Pro selection who is yielding a 63.6 passer rating when targeted.

Because Jacksonville lacks a true number one receiver -- neither Christian Kirk nor Zay Jones played this role in their respective former teams -- the team does not have a wide receiver who can challenge Humphrey in the slightest.

The Jaguars need more talent at the position -- hence, they acquired Calvin Ridley from Atlanta, and he will play for them next year.

Besides lacking a good wide receiver to rely on, Lawrence will struggle with Baltimore's improving pass rush as well as other components of Baltimore's pass coverage.

Lamar Jackson Misses Rashod Bateman

Lamar Jackson also lacks a top wide receiver to throw to because Rashod Bateman remains on injured reserve.

Especially without Bateman, Jackson is not the guy to rely on his arm to help Baltimore achieve a high passing total.

It is no coincidence that the Ravens' season-high in point total came against Miami.

In this game, Jackson achieved his season-high in passing yardage and Bateman earned his season-high in receiving yardage.

Jaguar Run Defense's Outlook

Primarily, especially without a top wide receiver to hurt the Jaguar pass coverage in the way that Colt Michael Pittman among others did, the Ravens will rely on their rush attack.

Led by some young players, Jacksonville's run defense has been inconsistent.

But even in the worst efforts of its rush defense, opponents haven't scored too many points.

The Giants, for example, managed 23 points.

While Philadelphia scored 29 points, the Eagles benefitted from two drives in which they required few yards to reach the end zone.

Of course, the Jaguars have also limited excellent rushing quarterbacks like Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts, and they have stymied good running backs like Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs and Charger Austin Ekeler.

The Verdict

My favorite play for this game is the Baltimore spread because the Ravens rank second in takeaways, and, as in their loss to the Eagles, turning the ball over is something to which the Jaguars remain vulnerable.

Baltimore will ensure momentum and achieve easy scoring drives by turning over especially the still maturing Lawrence.

Still, Jacksonville's offensive struggles -- the Jaguars are also a horrible red zone team, as evident in their missed opportunities in Kansas City -- and their ability to limit the scoring damage inflicted by run-heavy offenses will ensure that this game remains low-scoring.

For the above reasons, I recommend investing in the Ravens ATS and the "under."

I expect Baltimore to score between 21-24 points and Jacksonville to score between 10 and 13.

Scoring Prediction: Ravens 23 -- Jaguars 13

Best Bets:
Ravens -3.5 at -112 with BetOnline & Under 44 at -115 with Bookmaker
 
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