With just five games left in the regular season, the time is now for the Baltimore Ravens to make their playoff push. Sitting at 6-5 and holding the final wild card spot, the Ravens control their own destiny. Most believe that a 9-7 final record will be enough to punch their ticket, but if the team can squeeze out four wins out of the next five games, they would likely be a lock. However, the team must continue to take things one game at a time, which leaves our focus on the Atlanta Falcons.
At the beginning of the year, this game looked like one of the toughest on the schedule. Going to Atlanta is never an easy task, but the Falcons have a very talented roster on paper. As the season has unfolded, though, the Falcons have faltered and look like a lost team under head coach Dan Quinn. They are 4-7 in a difficult NFC, and numerous defensive stars have suffered season-ending injuries.
Given the injuries, the Falcons represent an opportunity for Lamar Jackson to continue to grow as an NFL quarterback. In his first two starts, there have certainly been ups and downs, but in the most important metric – wins – Jackson is perfect. With him under center, the Ravens control the tempo of the game and are able to run the ball superbly well; this will be the key in Atlanta.
Though the Falcons have one of the worst NFL defenses, their offense still has plenty of firepower, highlighted by Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Tevin Coleman and, of course, Matt Ryan. The biggest thing standing in the way of a Ravens win is this unit, and the defense (which, I’m sorry, is nowhere near the best in the NFL) will struggle to contain them. Therefore, to hold the Falcons to a reasonably low scoring total, Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards and the tight ends will have to be working well in order to keep Ryan and his boys off the field.
Another potential advantage the Ravens have that could fly under the radar is that the SEC Championship game will be taking place in the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Saturday. This will be a huge deal to many Falcons fans, and we might find that they choose to attend that game over the one played by the dirty birds. If that’s the case, look for a lighter home-field advantage on Sunday.
In the end, this game is just as critical for Baltimore to win as the ones against Kansas City or the Chargers will be, if not more. I think the Ravens will come out hungry, remain energized, and win a surprisingly slow contest.
Final Score: Ravens 30 – Falcons 24