Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Some big names missed practice for the Ravens on Tuesday, none bigger than quarterback Lamar Jackson. LJax has been out since injuring his knee on December 4th, with head coach John Harbaugh taking a tight-lipped approach to his expected status for Saturday.
- Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay suffered a foot injury in practice on Tuesday and was swiftly placed on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least the next four games. Baltimore promptly signed Sammy Watkins, who was released by the Packers last week and is familiar with the coaching staff stemming from his time in Baltimore last season.
- Defensive stalwarts Calais Campbell and Marcus Peters also missed practice on Tuesday.
- Running back Caleb Huntley was placed on injured reserve by the Falcons after injuring his Achilles’ tendon in the team’s Week 15 loss to the Saints.
- Both teams rank bottom nine in first half pace of play, bottom six in overall pace of play, and bottom ten in situation neutral pace of play this season.
How atlanta Will Try To Win ::
Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder was asked to throw the football only 26 times last week in a game the Falcons fell behind by two scores halfway through the first quarter. Furthermore, Atlanta is one of only four teams to be at league average or below league average in pass rate over expectation (PROE) in every game, joined by Tennessee, Dallas, and Chicago. As such, it remains fairly clear how to expect the Falcons to try and win games – slow pace of play and extreme rush rates. If you caught The Slate podcast for Inner Circle members last week, we covered the fact that Ridder possesses above average pocket presence for a rookie quarterback, whose mobility is more closely tied to escapability rather than pure rushing upside as would be the case for someone like Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, or Jalen Hurts — think more Patrick Mahomesian rather than Justin Fieldsian. Furthermore, Ridder lacks top-end arm strength, which was exhibited through his passing spray chart from Week 15 as 18 of 26 passes targeted a pass-catcher within 11 yards of the line of scrimmage and only two attempts were 20+ yards downfield. He also did not have a completion of more than 11 intended air yards.
The Falcons have operated with a true backfield committee between Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier over the previous six weeks since Patterson returned from injured reserve. The season-ending injury to running back Caleb Huntley shouldn’t influence the backfield dynamics considering he was only seeing a handful of offensive snaps since Week 10 (nine or fewer in each of the previous five games), meaning we should have a good idea of the expected allocation of work. Patterson has averaged 14 running back opportunities to 11.75 for Allgeier over the previous month of play, with the two combining for only 12 targets during that four-game stretch. The matchup on the ground yields an above average 4.50 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Baltimore defense holding opposing backs to just 3.85 yards per carry this season (fourth best in the league).
The pass offense is very much “Drake London or bust,” whose targets per route run rate jumped to 31.5% (fourth in the league) and target market share jumped to 29.3% (seventh in the league) after commanding 11 targets on 26 Ridder pass attempts last week – not to mention his absolutely insane 37.5% red zone target share this year. Expect Olamide Zaccheaus to operate in a near every-down role, while Damiere Byrd and Khadarel Hodge split the remaining snaps at wide receiver, and Parker Hesse, MyCole Pruitt, and Anthony Firkser to share the 130-140% tight end snap rate (30-40% 12-personnel with no tight end playing more than 50-60% of the offensive snaps). Yeah, it gets ugly real fast for pass-catchers not named Drake London here. The path of least resistance is very clearly through the air for the Falcons this week but we have to doubt both their willingness to allow their rookie quarterback to open it up in his second NFL start and the coaching staff’s willingness to move away from the run.