LA Rams @ Baltimore
Power rankings: Rams 5, Ravens 23
Line update: As is often the case, the line has moved toward the model and the Rams are now 4.5 point favorites. Get your damn bets in early.
The Rams offense is 7th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play. Matt Stafford has the 12th highest PFF passing grade (77.4) while completing 66.9% of his passes (0.5% below expectation) and gaining 8.1 yards per attempt. He plays behind one of the best offensive lines in football -- as a unit, they rank 1st in ESPN's pass block win rate and 6th in run block win rate. Both tackles have been flat out dominant, with 40 year old LT Andrew Whitworth ranking 3rd in pass block win rate and RT Rob Havenstein ranking 4th. Cooper Kupp has been unstoppable, ranking 1st in targets (174), receptions (132), yards (1,734) and touchdowns (14th). He's also second in PFF receiving grades (behind Davante Adams). With Robert Woods (ACL) out, Odell Beckham Jr, TE Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson take on the rest of the receiving work. Sony Michel will handle almost all RB carries now that Darell Henderson (knee) is on IR. The Rams are equally efficient passing and running the ball, ranking 9th in DVOA in both categories. Being an offensive genius that Sean McVay is, he prefers to throw -- the Rams are 4th in the NFL in early-down situation neutral pass frequency. On defense, the Ravens are a mess riddled with injuries, ranking 28th in DVOA and 29th in EPA/play. The strength of the defense is the front 7, but their top edge rusher by pressures, Odafe Oweh, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday due to a foot injury. That leaves interior rusher Tyus Bowser (39 pressures), DE Justin Houston, and DT Calais Campbell (28) as the top options. Campbell is also strong against the run, evident by his 79.4 PFF run defense grade. LB Josh Bynes has also been an asset rushing the passer when the Ravens blitz, which they do 5th most often in the league. The problem with the defense is the secondary -- after Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphries both tore their ACL's, they're left with zero above average players. To make matters worse, CB Anthony Averett (ribs/chest) was injured week 16 and missed last weeks game. The poor secondary has led to a DVOA ranking of 30th against the pass, though they are a much more favorable 6th against the run. This sets up as a mouthwatering matchup for Stafford and Kupp -- they like to throw, they're good at throwing, and they're facing one of the worst secondaries in football. Sometimes it's that simple.
The Ravens offense is 15th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. Lamar Jackson is still nursing a bone bruise in his ankle and is unlikely to play after missing his Thursday practice. That leaves Tyler Huntley as the likely starter. In limited action, Huntley ranks 28th of 40 qualifiers in PFF passing grade (62.5) while completing 68.8% of his passes and gaining 5.9 yards per attempt. Huntley's high completion percentage and low yards per attempt is explained by his low average depth of target, which sits at 7.3, 7th lowest in the league. The offensive line is solid, they have average players at 4 of 5 positions -- the one weakness being LG, where Ben Powers has been absent with a foot injury. The Ravens top receiver, Marquise Brown, appeared on the injury report Thursday as DNP with an illness, never a good sign when COVID-19 cases are souring. Huntley will have Mark Andrews, arguably the best tight end in football this season. The other receiving options are rookie Rashod Bateman, James Proche, and Sammy Watkins. Watkins ended up running just 2 routes total last week, for now it appears he's been benched. Either way, it's a mediocre collection of receivers with a dominant tight end. Devonte Freeman will handle the bulk of the carries, with Latvaius Murray and Huntley chipping in. The Ravens have been better running the ball (8th in DVOA) than passing (15th). They'll have their work cut out for them against the Rams defense, which is 6th in DVOA and 10th in EPA/play. The defensive line is one of the strongest in football, where they rank 1st in ESPN's pass rush win rate and run stop win rate metric. If you don't know who Aaron Donald is at this point -- get out from your rock and fucking google him. He should be on his way to his 4th defensive player of the year award. The line also features Von Miller and Leonard Floyd on the outside, and Greg Gaines joining Donald in the middle. It is worth noting that Gaines isn't practicing with a hand injury, but the line is strong enough to afford to lose him. Jalen Ramsey is PFF's 2nd highest graded corner, while Darious Williams and slot man Dont'e Deayon are more than serviceable options for 2nd and 3rd corners. Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp are both average to above average safeties, though Rapp currently isn't practicing due to a shoulder injury. By DVOA, the Rams defense ranks 8th against the pass and 4th against the run. If Huntley does play, his low aDOT matches up well against a Rams defense that plays a zone-heavy scheme -- they are weaker defending short passes (18th in DVOA) than deep passes (5th), and struggle to cover the middle of the field (24th). Lamar Jackson has the 3rd highest aDOT in the league -- if he can play, it's naturally preferrable for the Ravens, but his deep ball preference is unlikely to be successful. The Rams are 7th in DVOA covering tight ends, an important metric given how well Mark Andrews has played this year.