Atlanta finds themselves in a tough match-up against an AFC wild card contender in the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are 2-0 with Lamar Jackson subbing in for Joe Flacco. Jackson has not thrown the ball considerably well in his two appearances, however he has impacted the run game heavily. Atlanta will have their hands full with this run dominant attack on Sunday. Here are the keys to stopping it.
Stuffing the Run
The Baltimore Ravens stand at 6-5 with a solid defense and a mediocre offense. This offense grinds its way down the field to averaging 24.6 points per game. With the 11th ranked rushing offense, Baltimore averages 122 yards per game on the ground. Typically, Alex Collins is the workhorse, however Baltimore has had two 100 yard rushers in the past two weeks without that name. Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards have had great success the past two weeks. Atlanta knows Baltimore is going to stick to the ground. Without a big name receiver on the outside, Dan Quinn should focus on loading the box and putting a spy on Lamar Jackson all day long Sunday.
Containing Lamar Jackson
Former Louisville Quarterback and Heisman Trophy Winner, Lamar Jackson seems ready to take over the helm in Baltimore. With a 2-0 record while starting, Jackson has done most of his work with his feet. Jackson has rushed for 190 yards in the past two games. Atlanta needs to keep him in the pocket if they want to stop this offense. Jackson has thrown three interceptions in these games as well. He is young and not completing a good percentage of his passes. Atlanta cannot afford their edge rushers like Vic Beasley to lose containment. Jackson will do the most damage outside of the pocket. Atlanta will thrive off his inaccuracy in the pocket.
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Force Obvious Pass Plays
On a third and short, Baltimore is going to run and beat Atlanta all day. If this defense can force third and longs, where Lamar Jackson has to make a throw, they will see a lot of success Sunday. Baltimore completes 47% of its third downs because typically its third and short. Shutting down the run on the early downs will be key for this defense to get off the field. Atlanta will win this game if they can force Lamar to win with his arm. He is young, inexperienced, and ready to make mistakes over the top. If Atlanta wants to let him be comfortable and let this team run all over them, it will be a long day.
This game should be a good one. A defensive juggernaut versus an offense that can explode at any moment. This game will come down to who has the ball at the end. I see a come from behind win in Matt Ryan or a game winning field goal from Justin Tucker. With a lot of playoff implications on the line for Baltimore, this game is not one they can lose. Let’s hope Atlanta rises up and spoils their season.