Week 11 Preview: Ravens vs. Bears

| November 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Baltimore Ravens (4-5)

At

Chicago Bears (5-4)

Sunday at 1pm, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

Line: Bears -3

photoWhen the schedule was released before the season, many people, myself included, thought this would be a matchup between two first place teams. Instead, in Week 11, it is a game between two teams fighting for their playoff lives.

The playoff picture in both the NFC and AFC is muddled. Both teams are not out of the playoffs with a loss, but a win could go a long way in helping them make the post season. At this point, every game is a “must win” and there should be a sense of desperation from both teams.

The Ravens have come out flat in the first half of several games this season, especially road games, and if they do the same Sunday, they will likely get blown out. The Ravens look to get back to the .500 mark and win just their second road game of the season, but will they?

Here is my take on the game:

Ravens offense vs. Bears defense

For years the Bears have been defined by defense, however, this is not the same Bears team of the past. Brian Urlacher is gone, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are hurt, and they are the second worst run defense in the NFL. The Bears have been winning games in spite of their defense this season.

As inept the Bears defense has been, the Ravens offense, especially on the road, has been just as bad.  The Ravens won last week despite gaining less than 200 yards for the game and they still showed no signs of life in the running game. If those stats are true this week, they will lose the game.

Something has to give as the 30th ranked running game of the Ravens goes against the 31st ranked run defense. I have a feeling it might be the bad run defense that steps up. Joe Flacco will once again need to carry the team on his shoulders and he will need to step his game up if the Ravens offense is going to score enough points to win.

Advantage: Even

Bears offense vs. Ravens defense

Before the season, not many people expected the Bears offense to be one of the best in the NFL, but eleven weeks into the season, that is precisely what they are. Despite Jay Cutler not playing Sunday, there are still plenty of weapons the Bears possess that will give the Ravens defense fits.

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be tough matchups for the Ravens secondary and Matt Forte is having the best season of his career and is a duel threat coming out of the backfield. The Ravens defense will not be able to contain both, and I suspect they would try and contain Forte and put the game in the hands of Josh McCown. Unfortunately, stopping Forte is a lot easier said than done and Josh McCown has shown an ability to move the ball and put up points in the passing game.

Getting off the field quickly and creating turnovers are a must if the Ravens defense is going to give their team a chance to win the game. The “bend but don’t break” defense we have seen from the Ravens this season probably will not be good enough in this game.

Advantage: Bears

Special Teams

The NFL Hall of Fame is littered with the best players in the history of the game but special teams players are not among them. If there is ever going to be a player who gets into the Hall of Fame solely based on his merits as a kick returner it should be Devin Hester. Earlier this season Hester broke the all-time record for return touchdowns and he is one of the best to ever play the game.

The Ravens do not have Devin Hester, however, they have had success in the return game this season.  While I am by no means a Tandon Doss fan, he has given the return game a spark and could be a major factor this week. I am not saying Doss is better than Hester but I am saying he has been good enough to help the Ravens this season and that could continue this week. One team is likely to have a big return or two in this game, let’s just hope it is the visiting team.

Advantage: Even

Prediction

This is a golden opportunity for the Ravens to turn their season around as after this they have three consecutive homes games against teams they should be favored to beat. I like what I have been hearing from the Ravens this week. They are finally starting to acknowledge they have struggled running the ball and that they will need to improve it. That is a far cry from earlier in the season when the coaching staff kept acting like nothing was wrong and things would work themselves out. Also, both Harbaugh and Flacco stressed the need to improve against the blitz, so look for some changes in protection and play calling.

While it certainly is nice to admit you need to improve, it is hard to improve if you do not have the talent. The Ravens have talent in the backfield and on some parts of the offensive line, so maybe an emphasis and possible change in protection or play calling will help them.

I look at all aspects of the game but ultimately generally pick games based on a feeling. I don’t know what it is, but I just have a feeling that this team took a long look in the mirror, realized how fortunate they were to win last week and how they are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. The Bears will move the ball and score points on the Ravens, but I have a feeling Joe Flacco will play one of his best games of the season. Flacco at close to his best is certainly much better than Josh McCown.

Call me crazy, which I am sure if all of you will if the Ravens come out and play bad, but I think the Ravens come out fired up from the start of the game and end up on the winning side. Of course, I could just being picking based on my sense of desperation.

Ravens 24, Bears 21

Follow Marco on twitter @mromanell and Southbmore.com @southbmore1

About the Author:

I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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