Preview: Ravens Return Home to Take on Russell Wilson and the Broncos
The Baltimore Ravens look to get back in the win column as they are set to take on the reeling Denver Broncos. Despite last Sunday’s lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens remain in first place in the AFC North, holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the second place Cincinnati Bengals. The Broncos under new head coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson are not having the season they thought they would. The Broncos suffered their third straight loss last Sunday to the Carolina Panthers to move their record to 3-8.
The Denver Broncos have already ruled out several players for Sunday. Linebacker Dakota Allen (hamstring), tight end Andrew Beck (hamstring/illness), and defensive lineman Jonathan Harris (knee) have all been ruled out. Cornerback K’Waun Williams (wrist/elbow/knee) is listed as questionable. The biggest injury news for the Broncos is that they could be without three of their top receivers. KJ Hamler (hamstring) has been ruled out, while fellow receivers Courtland Sutton (illness) and Jerry Jeudy (ankle) have both been listed as questionable. Jeudy was limited in practice on Friday while Sutton did not practice at all.
Every week the Ravens inch closer and closer to being almost at full strength. Running back J.K. Dobbins(knee) and safety Marcus Williams (wrist) returned to practice this week but will not play this Sunday, but the window could be open for both returning next Sunday. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley who missed last Sunday with an ankle injury was limited on Wednesday and Thursday but did not practice on Friday, and has been listed as questionable for Sunday.
Safety Kyle Hamilton who was also out last Sunday in Jacksonville with a knee injury practiced in full on Friday and is questionable. Marlon Humphrey (ankle) is questionable but is expected to play. Outside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (quad) is also listed as questionable, but did not practice on Thursday or Friday. Wide receiver Tylan Wallace (hamstring) has officially been ruled out.
Ravens Red Zone Offense
The Ravens used to be one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL inside the red zone. At times it felt like the Ravens scoring a touchdown inside the red zone was as much a guarantee as a Justin Tucker PAT, but not in 2022. The Ravens have struggled this season inside the 20, scoring just over 51% of the time, 24th in the NFL. The Ravens poor red zone offense was on full display last Sunday against the Jaguars as they went 2-5, and had to settle for field goals rather then touchdowns. The failure to score touchdowns ended up being the difference in that game as it kept the Jaguars in it.
The Ravens understand they have a problem in this area of the field, and several factors can be contributed to that. Most of the problem seems to be the play calling, or scheme. Of the 22 touchdowns the Ravens have scored in the red zone, 13 have come in the air. The Ravens inability to run effectively in the red zone has forced them to throw in a part of the field where windows become much smaller, making it much more difficult to complete passes. Greg Roman and this Ravens offense need to be much more efficient in the run game when deep on the opponents side of the field, and with it will come a much improved red zone offense, thus turning those field goals into touchdowns.
The Ravens have a tough task this Sunday to correct their red zone problems as they take on a Broncos defense that is one of the best in the red zone. The Broncos have only surrendered eight touchdowns while also forcing eight red zone turnovers, tied for second most.
Russell Wilson joined the Denver Broncos this offseason after being traded by the Seattle Seahawks. Many in Denver felt the trade could be the boost the Broncos needed to return to the playoffs and contend in the competitive AFC West. But through ten games, Wilson is on pace to have one of the worst seasons in his career. The Broncos have the worst scoring offense in the NFL averaging just over 14 points a game.
While all the blame can’t be put on the Wilson for the Broncos offensive woes as he has been sacked 35 times, only Justin Fields has been sack more times (40), Wilson does deserve a lot of the blame. Wilson has thrown just eight touchdowns to five interceptions while having a completion percentage of 58.9, 29th in the NFL. While it may be too soon to say that Wilson has lost what he once had in Seattle, the Ravens defense must make their presence felt early to keep a bad Broncos offense from making Sunday a game.
The Broncos offense has been one of the worst offenses not just this year but in the last several years. They struggled against some of the worst defenses thus far this season. The Ravens defense is far from the worst and over the last three weeks have looked like one of the best. Expect Sunday to be another long day for Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense. The story on Sunday will be can the Ravens correct their poor red zone production, and sustain drives. The return of Gus Edwards should help the run game that had one of their worst performances last Sunday.
The Ravens will need to start quick and score touchdowns. If the offense can do that the Broncos don’t have enough offensive fire power to get into a high scoring game. Expect this game to be a race to 13 points, and I would take the Ravens every time in that race. Ravens win 31-13.
Line: Baltimore -9.5
All-Time Record: Jacksonville leads series 9-6
Last Meeting: 10/3/2021 Baltimore 23-7