The Ravens welcome the Rams to Baltimore holding the No2 seeding in a crowded AFC playoff picture that changes week-to-week and will continue to do so throughout the season.
The Rams on the other hand are on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff standings with the picture a little clearer in that particular side of the Super Bowl picture.
Back to .500 after a three game winning streak off the back of their bye week the Rams (6-6) have scored 73 points over the last 2 games, but they will face a much stronger test on the road when they take on the Ravens (9-3) in Baltimore.
The weather which was expected to be a factor in this game doesn’t now appear to be such a worry although rain is possible throughout the game making conditions far from pleasant.
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The Ravens had their streak of 5 straight games with at least 31 points snapped in a 20-10 win over the Chargers in Week 12. It was the first full game after tight end Mark Andrews was lost to injury, but it’s not like the Ravens struggled to move the ball. They just turned it over on downs twice and had an uncharacteristic, missed field goal by Justin Tucker. The Rams for their part have been very steady this season averaging 22.3 points per game but since their bye week they have they been more aggressive and potent on offence with wins over the Saints, Bears, and Chargers during that span, plus a loss to the resurgent Packers. Now that set off opponents isn’t exactly from the top echelon of the NFL but it does show that the Rams are a capable team and will provide a test for the Ravens.
Give some credit to Sean McVey and his staff to get this team back to 6-6 as they have had plenty of injuries to cope with to leading players. Cooper Kupp started the season off by missing the first four games and was injured in another. Kyren Williams missed four games in the middle of the season. QB Matthew Stafford left one game early and missed the following game with an injury, whilst their other main wide receiver, Puka Nacua is dealing with some ongoing injury problems. Nacua, of course, has taken much of the NFL by surprise. After being picked in the fifth round by the Rams, the 6-foot-2 receiver already has 77 catches for 1,029 yards.
In these teams last meeting, the Rams edged Baltimore late in the regular season in January 2022 on their way to an eventual Super Bowl victory, but Tyler Huntley was the Ravens quarterback and they will be facing a far better quarterback in Lamar Jackson this time around. The last time Los Angeles faced Lamar Jackson, the soon-to-be NFL MVP winner humiliated the Rams defence with five touchdown passes and 95 yards rushing in a 45-6 victory. Jackson is 18-1 as a starter against NFC teams in his career.
Jackson leads a Baltimore offence that has led at the half in 11-of-12 games this season, the most in the league, outscoring opponents by 116 points in the first half this season, the largest margin in the league. With that statistic in mind, it may be worth taking a looks at the starsports.bet first half handicap betting which has Baltimore at 3-4 giving up -3.5 points.
The Ravens don’t average many passing attempts per game but when they do pass they do so in a very efficient manner, looking to attack downfield. The other aspect of their offence that is worth highlighting is that they seek to control the game environment with that control seeing them average a robust 27 points per game. Efficiency and control are very much two words that can be used to describe the Ravens offence.
Those two base elements allow them to run the ball evidenced by their league-leading 32.5 rush attempts per game. Don’t be fooled by this offence and think that it’s a conservative one though as when they need to they can still shift up a gear and blow away the opposition. That was shown in their commanding wins over the Lions in Week 7 and the Seahawks in Week 9, two games that came in the midst of the team scoring 31 points or more in five consecutive games.
Jackson is very much a modern day dual threat quarterback and he accounts for around nine carries per game with 2-3 of those coming in the red zone. Those red zone carries make him a touchdown threat and it’s no surprise to see starsports.bet price Jackson at 6-4 to score a touchdown to add to the five that he already has this season. The Rams struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks. They are 26th in rushing points allowed per game (4.2) to passers this season, allowing front-end rushing performances to Anthony Richardson (56 yards and a touchdown) and Jalen Hurts (72 yards and a touchdown) as well as allowing rushing scores to Brock Purdy, Kyler Murray, and Kenny Pickett. The Ravens have outscored opponents by 108 points on rushing touchdowns this season, the largest margin in the league.
Talking of touchdowns, the starsports.bet Sunday Team Market Special of the Ravens, Colts (@Bengals) and Buccaneers (@Falcons) to score 9+ TD’s combined at 15-8 is one of the specials that appeals with all three teams capable of contributing to the final number.
Aside from Jackson the Ravens operate a backfield by what can only be called a committee with three RB’s in a timeshare. Most recently rookie Keaton Mitchell appears to have risen to the top before the bye we saw Mitchell lead the Baltimore backfield in snaps (33), touches (11), and yards (89). That role may extend further here but he may still lose red zone work to veteran short yardage back Gus Edwards who leads the team with 12 touches inside of the 5-yard line. Edwards has converted nine of those touches for touchdowns and he’s 11-8 to score a TD with starsports.bet. Justice Hill (four) is the only other running back to touch the ball for Baltimore inside of the five this season. Mitchell has not played a single snap yet in goal-to-go situations.
The Ravens, at 22 rushing touchdowns, are tied with the Dolphins for the most in the NFL, and Baltimore have scored at least one rushing TD in six straight games. The Rams have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns this season, which is tied for 12th most.
We have already mentioned the efficiency of the Ravens passing offence with rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers very much the centrepiece of the aerial attack. However, with the Rams playing zone coverage on 80% of their passing downs it may be that Flowers won’t have such a role to play this time around and the focus may fall more on TE Isaiah Likely who has replaced the Ravens No1 TE Mark Andrews (out for the season). Likely caught 4-of-6 targets for 40 yards in Week 12 before the bye and the Rams have been vulnerable to the tight end position this season. Baltimore love to use this position overall and in the end zone which brings Likely into play as a TD scorer, 5-2 to score an anytime TD with starsports.bet and his receiving yards line at +34.5 (10-11) also looks achievable.
The Rams offence will be marshalled by a totally different style of quarterback in Matthew Stafford who is far more in the traditional pocket passer mode. Stafford has thrown 7 touchdown passes over the last 2 games, including a solid passing performance (279 yards, 3 TD) against a tough Cleveland defence that has a lot of statistics on par with Baltimore’s defence.
This won’t be any easier though as the Ravens have played some tough defence this year yielding the NFL’s fewest yards per pass attempt (5.5) and leads the league in sacks (47), that’s five more than any other team. But it will be a challenge to get pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford, who has been sacked 20 times, the fourth fewest among quarterbacks with at least 400 dropbacks this season.
On the ground the Rams have settled on Kyren Williams as their lead RB and he put in a hardworking performance last Sunday, something he has done regularly when available this season. Williams handled 24-of-25 backfield touches for 112 total yards and a touchdown against the Browns.
Injuries in the receiving corps have hampered the Rams this season losing Cooper Kupp for the first few games and although he appeared to come back at elite performance level his game has been on the wane of late. Kupp led the Rams in targets (eight) and catches (six) on last week, but his 39 yards were the sixth straight game in which he was held to fewer than 50 receiving yards and he still looks limited physically.
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Puka Nacua is another Rams receiver who is battling through injuries but he ended the game last Sunday catching 4-of-7 targets for 105 yards, anchored by a 70-yard catch, and run for his fourth touchdown. He’s expected to play in this game despite carrying an injury. Nacua has nevertheless banked 100+ yards and/or a touchdown in seven of 12 games, so despite the injuries he remains the main threat in the Rams receiving corps.
The games that the Ravens played against Seattle and Detroit (37-3 and 38-6 wins) show that they have propensity to blow sides away and Jackson has been dominant against NFC teams in his career. Baltimore should win this but the Rams have been playing better and if they can protect Stafford he will pass them into scoring positions. It’s not unknown for the Ravens to blow a multiple score lead either, they have done just that on seven occasions since 2022 but on this occasion and with a chance of the No1 seeding in the AFC they should keep their foot to the floor in this intriguing encounter.
BACK Baltimore Ravens to score over 24 match points 1pt at 11/10 (⭐
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BACK Lamar Jackson over +47.5 rushing yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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BACK Gus Edwards to score a TD anytime 1pt at 11/8 (⭐
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BACK Baltimore Ravens First Half Handicap -3.5 2pts at 3/4 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (DEC 2023): LOSS -1.45 points