The Los Angeles Rams travel to Maryland Week 17 to take on the Baltimore Ravens in a game that was supposed to hold more intrigue. After the first six weeks of the season, the Ravens had a five-game win streak and were 5-1. The Rams were also 5-1. By November’s end, the Ravens were 8-3 while the Rams were crashing and starting to burn. Just one game behind the Ravens on paper, 7-4 looked a lot worse as the Rams lost all three games played that month. It was not just that they lost, it was that they looked lost and confused offensively while doing it.
Yet, one month later and fate has taken a complete and decidedly fickle turn.
Week 17 Rams-Ravens Contest Could get Ugly
Lamar Jackson has missed practice Thursday, a day after his very limited practice on Wednesday. This is not a good sign and indications are strongly pointing to his unavailability this Sunday versus the visiting Rams.
Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Tyler Huntley has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is highly likely to get the start. While this may not be a huge drop-off to some NFL experts, this writer does not share that opinion.
Huntley looked decent enough against the Green Bay Packers in Week 15, a 31-30 defeat. However, the game capped off a four-game stretch in which the Packers allowed 30 or more points in three of their last four. A stretch which also included beating the Rams (36-28) during a skid of their own. I venture to say Week 17 will see the Ravens facing a different animal. A defensive unit that boasts two beasts, at the very least: Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
Not what the NFL and FOX were hoping for
When the NFL announced the change of scheduling for this game, it likely had in mind that Jackson would return. If not, Huntley looked deceitfully impressive and the hope is for the same entertaining results as when this David (of sorts) faced a Goliath known as Aaron Rodgers.
One thing is bankable, the powers that be didn’t want two major markets like Dallas and Los Angeles squaring off against each other. Understandable, both are attractive match-ups on the surface. And as mentioned, this game was supposed to have been better than it’s likely to be. Still, this is probably a minority opinion so a deeper look is in order.
Week 17: Los Angeles Rams (11-4) versus the Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
Time: 10:00AM (Pacific time) / M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Odds: Rams by -5.5 (46.5 over/under)
The latest interesting note is the odds. The game opened at Rams -2.5 and gradually moved upwards to Rams -4.5 quite literally until Thursday’s winds of hope changed directions abruptly with Jackson missing practice. Now it stands at Rams -5.5. Rightfully so, this appears to be a setback and although John Harbaugh is quoted as leaving the door open, it is beginning to look like Jackson is better off not playing. Anybody less than 95% facing Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller on the same line is not advisable.
Then there is the game itself. Huntley is destined to be more confused than when he faced the Packers. This, plus the pressure he will be faced with can definitely yield a turnover or two, especially early enough in the game. What happens when Sean McVay and the Rams have a lead at halftime is very predictable… The Rams do not appear to be returning to an offensive downslide anytime soon. A halftime lead is not only likely but it seems inevitable.
The limited and recent Covid-19/schedule-abused Rams have risen to all occasions of late. Now they get healthier with more players returning, likely to include center Brian Allen.
In addition to the above (and the closer for me), is that the Ravens have allowed a growing number of points in each of their last four consecutive losses (20, 24, 31, and 41). If things are actually this bad in Baltimore, the Rams are pinning their ears back for most of the second half. This, to me, screams of a multiple-turnover game, especially in the rain…Oh, did I mention rain is currently in the forecast? Run, Sony Michel, run! That is to say, Cam Akers may not be needed long, if at all, in Week 17.
Week 17 prediction: Rams 31, Ravens 16