The Baltimore Ravens head to London this weekend to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. This will be the fourth straight season these two teams have faced off. The Ravens are 2-1 having won in 2014 and 2016 with the lone loss in 2015. All three games have been decided by one possession, two of them being decided by two points. It won’t be a cakewalk win. Here are three keys to the Ravens grabbing a win across the pond.
Stop Leonard Fournette-
The Ravens have always had a stout run defense and this season is no exception. Brandon Williams is possibly the best run stuffer in the league and after suffering a foot injury Sunday, may not be able to go after not practicing today. Williams if he goes, and the rest of the defensive line will have to stuff Fournette at the line of scrimmage and not allow him to get a full head of steam. The linebacker core will also have to be on their heels as Fournette will eventually get past the front four. They must make wrap up tackles, as arm tackles will not get the job done against the LSU product. If the running game is shutdown then the secondary will be able to continue to make plays as they have in the first two weeks.
Get Flacco Moving–
Last week against the Browns, Quarterback Joe Flacco had a number of play action, roll outs where he was able to make a good throws downfield, hit the wide open receiver in the flat, and stay away from pressure and avoid taking a hit. Both of Flacco’s touchdown passes came when Flacco was outside of the pocket. This will be an even bigger key to a win, with the unfortunate loss of All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda. The Jaguars have 11 sacks through two games which does not bode well for a beat up Ravens offensive line. There is no way for Yanda to be replaced, so the Ravens have to do all they can to make life easier for Flacco and the offense to move the ball down the field.
Find a Way to Run the Ball-
This may be the toughest goal to accomplish. As I mentioned above, the loss of Yanda is unmeasurable. Although Yanda is only one of the five offensive linemen on the field he was arguably the best guard in football. The Ravens have had success running the football in both of their first two games as they are third in the NFL in rushing yards per game, sitting at 146.5 yards per. But they had Yanda on the right side of the line in both of those games. Running the ball between the hash marks is going to be difficult against a formidable Jacksonville front seven. Taking the rock to the outside may give the Ravens the best chance to run the ball. Newly added Alex Collins gives the Ravens a speed back who can make quick cuts and adjustments while Terrance West and Buck Allen do the dirty work and try to get something going up the middle.
The Ravens are the favorites to win this game with a -3.5 point spread as of today. The Jaguars may have an advantage as this is their fifth straight season playing in London. But if the Ravens can achieve these three keys they give themselves a great chance to improve to 3-0 for the second consecutive season.