Baltimore Ravens Week 13 Preview

The Baltimore Ravens (6-5) will welcome the Dallas Cowboys (3-8) to M&T Bank Stadium on Tuesday for an interconference primetime matchup at 8:05 p.m. EST on FOX/Amazon/NFL Network.

This matchup was originally supposed to kick off Week 13 on Thursday Night Football but had to be postponed due to the Ravens’ COVID-19 outbreak within the organization that is now under control.

The Ravens are coming off a Week 12 slugfest with the formerly undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers where a COVID ravaged and injury-riddled team of mostly backups and practice squad players produced a thriller on Wednesday afternoon that went down to the wire before coming up short and falling 19-14.

The Cowboys were blown out 41-16 by the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving to complete the season sweep and compound what has been a rough and underwhelming season for a team that had Superbowl hype and expectations heading into this season.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the matchup including potential X factors, who will likely be out with an injury for each team, and a final outcome prediction.

What’s at stake:

The Ravens are officially out of the race for the AFC North division after getting swept by the Steelers and are still third in the standings behind the 9-3 Cleveland Browns.

The highest they can finish now is second if they win out and the Browns lose at least one more game or third if they win out and the Cleveland finishes 12-4.

With a win, Baltimore would improve to 7-5 overall but still sit at 3-4 in AFC conference play. They currently sit on the outside looking in on the current playoff picture, but they have a favorable schedule down the stretch and the other wild card contenders currently in front of them will play each other and more quality opponents going forward.

If the Cowboys were to pull off the upset, they improve to 4-8 overall while still sitting at 3-6 against conference opponents. Their only path to the postseason is winning the much-maligned NFC East so they will need to stay within striking distance of the 5-7 division-leading New York Giants.

Who might not suit up:

Thankfully, the Ravens appear to be getting healthy at the right time as their COVID outbreak has subsided and they are expected to get back several starting and key players on both sides of the ball from injury and from the Reserve/COVID-19 List.

At one point, Baltimore had placed 23 players in the reserve list but are now down to six after starting quarterback Lamar Jackson and three other players were activated on Monday and are expected to be available for this week’s game.

The Ravens injury report is a little long but that is expected since they are coming off a short week after playing a nail-biter against their archrival. All nine of their players listed as questionable are expected to play.

It is especially great news considering that veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams are among them and will be making their triumphant returns to the lineup this week after missing multiple games with injuries. The two Pro Bowlers are key members of the Ravens rush defense that has sorely missed them during their three-game skid.

Baltimore declared backup quarterback Robert Griffin out with a thing injury but that was given considering he was already placed on injured reserve on Friday.

Rookie defensive tackle Broderick Washington and veteran defensive back Tramon Williams are listed as doubtful to play. Washington suffered a concussion against the Steelers and Williams is dealing with a thigh injury.

As for the Cowboys, they are relatively healthy but have two major injuries on their offensive line that could be a major advantage for the Ravens defense and their pass rush in particular.

Starting left tackle Cam Erving (ankle) and four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin (calf) who has been playing right tackle as of late have both been declared out for this game.

Dallas has four defenders listed as questionable on their final injury report: starting cornerback Anthony Brown (ribs), starting outside linebacker Aldon Smith (illness), starting safety Donovan Wilson (groin), and backup safety Steven Parker (ankle).

Potential X factors:

RB J.K. Dobbins

While the most compelling storylines heading into this game are the return of the reigning league MVP to the lineup after catching COVID and the first time that veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant will be facing his former team, the Ravens might just predominantly keep the ball on the ground and ride their dynamic rookie running back to victory.

Before he was forced to miss the Steelers’ game as he recovered from COVID, Dobbins had appeared to have seized the role of the featured back on the offense and has averaged just over 13 touches in his last four games after receiving limited touches during the first half of the season.

The second-round pick out of Ohio State has been the second-most explosive offensive playmaker behind Jackson this season and leads all of Baltimore’s backs in yards per carry with a mark of 5.3.

Dallas has the worst rush defense in the entire league and allows an average of 156.4 rushing yards per game and nearly five (4.9) yards per carry. Dobbins may wind up leading the team in yards on the ground but don’t be surprised if his fellow backfield mates have big games as well.

OLB Yannick Ngakoue

With both of the Cowboys starting tackles out for this game, it would’ve been easy to just list every edge rusher on the active roster as potential ‘X’ factors this week but the Baltimore’s prized midseason acquisition could be in store for his best game as Raven to date.

The Pro Bowl pass rusher has recorded one sack, one quarterback hit, seven pressures, and five hurries in his first five games as a Raven which aren’t eye-popping numbers but don’t tell the entire story of the kind of impact that his having or the kind of offenses that the team has been facing.

Since he joined the team the Ravens have faced two teams that have veteran quarterbacks who have two of the quickest releases in the league in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh twice. They’ve also played two dominant rushing teams in the Patriots and Titans who ran for 173 yards apiece on the Ravens in back to back weeks.

None of those situations are ideal for a star pass rusher to shine bright but even in limited opportunities to get after the quarterback, Ngakoue has been effective and this week I believe he will go off and make General Manager Eric DeCosta look like a genius yet again for making a bold move to acquire a prominent player on the defensive side of the ball.

Recent history of the matchup:

The Ravens own a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series between these two teams dating back to the first meeting when the 2000 Superbowl team shut out Dallas 27-0. The Cowboys won the last meeting 27-17 in 2016 thanks in large part to Bryant who hauled in six passes for 80 yards and pair of touchdowns.

Despite dropping the last matchup, Baltimore is 2-1 against Dallas during the John Harbaugh era. The last time they faced off in M&T Bank Stadium was in 2012 during the Ravens’ second Superbowl winning season resulted in a 31-29 win for the home team.

Final prediction:

Both of these teams need a win in the worst way if they want to keep their fleeting playoff hopes alive but I believe that the Ravens are hands down the better team and are better equipped to execute what they do well on both sides of this ball at a high level now that they are expected to have several starters and other key players back in the lineup.

Since Jackson didn’t come off the COVID-19/Reserve List until Monday, he hasn’t had any time to practice with his pass catchers in nearly two weeks.

The Ravens are already a run-first offense, but I believe that they will be leaning even more heavily on their talented stable of backs to roll to a lopsided victory this week.

I also believe that with will be a big week for the defense and predict that they will dominate Dallas from start to finish. As talented as the Cowboys’ receiving core is, the Raven secondary is just as if not even more formidable, but they likely won’t have to cover that long because the Ravens’ pass rush will be generating relentless pressure on veteran quarterback Andy Dalton early and often.

Final outcome: Ravens blowout Cowboys 38-9

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