Week 13: Ravens-Falcons, Matchups, Notes, Prediction

If Joe Flacco cannot play, rookie Lamar Jackson will likely make his third consecutive start.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco did not practice Wednesday, opening the door for rookie Lamar Jackson to make his third straight start.

Flacco has been out since suffering a right hip injury Nov. 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The veteran quarterback met with doctors on Monday to determine if he was healthy enough to practice, but he was not available two days later.

Coach John Harbaugh has not officially ruled Flacco out Week 13 against the Falcons.

“There’s a process involved,” Harbaugh said. “It has to do with the doctors and the trainers and his rehab. He’s progressing very well. He’s doing well and there will be another step today, and tomorrow and the day after that. And we’ll see where we’re at."

If Flacco cannot play, Jackson will likely make his third consecutive start. He has earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates over the past several weeks.

This is another critical game for Baltimore (6-5) to hold onto that sixth and final wild card spot.

The Ravens uncertainty at quarterback has also created some challenges in Atlanta, where the Falcons cannot prepare for Flacco and Jackson the same way.

“He's got such quickness and speed, like a wide receiver or a corner has, but he's behind center,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said about Jackson. “You can simulate that with a receiver for the run plays, but it's not as authentic because he can't step back and rip the passes.”

While Flacco has a big arm and likes to throw the ball deep downfield, the Ravens have tailored the offense to Jackson’s strengths with the read-option.

One week after running for a franchise-record 27 times as a quarterback, Jackson had 11 carries for 71 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run in a 34-17 victory over the Raiders in Week 12. Jackson was also 14 of 25 for 178 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions (58.4 passer rating).

Fellow rookie Gus Edwards has also emerged as a playmaker and has run for more than 100 yards over the last two games. Baltimore has averaged 5.30 yards per carry over that stretch.

Edwards said the offensive linemen love the way the Ravens have been able to pound the ball.

“They get pumped out there when we're running and getting positive yards,” Edwards said. “They're jumping around, looking at the sideline, hoping we continue going. They love it.”

Flacco had a strong start to the season, but was behind center for a three-game losing streak to put the Ravens’ playoff hopes in peril. Flacco has thrown for 2,465 with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Ty Montgomery is starting to play a bigger role with the Ravens, especially with the injury to fellow running back Alex Collins.

Montgomery was acquired from Green Bay on Oct. 30 and steadily worked his way into the rotation. He had 51 yards on eight carries against Oakland

“Very pleased, very pleased with Ty and getting him involved,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a very versatile player, as we’ve said, and he’s proven that.”

In seven games with the Packers this season, Montgomery had 105 rushing yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Montgomery also has 15 receptions for 170 yards. The 6-foot, 216-pounder also has experience as a kickoff returner, posting 794 yards on 35 returns (22.7 avg.) during his career.

Montgomery could play a key role in Baltimore over the final stretch of the season.

Harbaugh added: “Only his second [active] game here, so to get him out there to that degree in his second game here is really a great job by our coaches, by [running backs coach] Thomas Hammock and Marty [Mornhinweg] and the game-planners, Greg [Roman, assistant head coach/tight ends coach] and those guys. I was really pleased with that. It was a big plus for us.”

  • Rookie first-round pick Hayden Hurst has battled some injuries this season, which has hampered his development.

However, he is making the most of his recent opportunities.

Hurst had three catches for 25 yards in the previous game against the Raiders. On the season, he has seven receptions for 82 yards with a touchdown.

“He’s done a good job,” Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t played a ton of football, so the more practice he gets, the more reps he gets, I think he really clicks in on stuff.”

SERIES HISTORY

Sixth regular-season meeting. Baltimore leads the all-time series, 3-2. Coach John Harbaugh has gone 1-1 against the Falcons. The Ravens beat Atlanta 29-7 in the most recent meeting Oct. 19, 2014, at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore last beat the Falcons in Atlanta on Oct. 3, 1999.

BY THE NUMBERS

3 – Sacks by OLB Matthew Judon in a span of three plays against Oakland in Week 12. He is the second player since 1982 with a sack on three-straight offensive plays, joining Colts’ defensive end Brad Scioli against Houston in 2002.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

-- S Chuck Clark: The second year player will get the start against the Falcons if Tony Jefferson is inactive because of an ankle injury suffered the previous game against the Raiders. Clark entered the game and played 27 offensive snaps. He finished with four tackles (three solo). Ravens coach John Harbaugh was impressed with Clark’s performance. He was on point, made a number of tackles, was in great position,” Harbaugh said. “He played very well for us, and if Tony can’t go – and Tony is a notorious quick healer; he healed quickly last week – then I think Chuck is a very solid player for us back there and will play well.”

GAME PLAN

The Ravens could have a dramatically different look, depending on whether rookie Lamar Jackson or Joe Flacco gets the start at quarterback. If Jackson get the start for the third straight game, the Ravens will pound the ball against the Falcons’ run defense that is ranked 25th, allowing 123.7 yards per game. If Flacco is able to return from his hip injury, the Ravens will take more shots deep downfield with receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead looking to get behind the secondary. However, the Ravens running attack will be crucial to this game. In the last two games since the bye, Baltimore has risen from 27th in rushing to 11th in the league.

Overall, that Ravens’ resurgent running attack has helped the defense. Over the past two games, the Ravens have run for more than 200 yards and dominated time of possession. This kept the team’s defenders fresh late in the game to make big plays and close out a pair of victories. Baltimore will look to keep Falcons, who are ranked seventh in the NFL, averaging 400 yards per game. Baltimore has the league’s No. 1 overall defense but it will face a bigger challenge this week than the last two opponents -- the Bengals and Raiders.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Ravens secondary vs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones

Ryan leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards. He also thrown 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Jones is the league’s top receiver with 1,305 yards with three touchdowns. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey will likely be assigned to shut down Jones. The Ravens’ secondary could be playing short-handed if safety Tony Jefferson cannot play because of an ankle injury. If Jefferson is scratched, second-year player Chuck Clark will have to provide support against Jones.

Ravens RB Gus Edwards vs. Falcons’ defensive line

Edwards made his first start in place of the injured Alex Collins (foot) and finished with 118 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. The undrafted rookie became the first Ravens player to have consecutive 100-yard games since Justin Forsett in 2015. Edwards will likely start again against the Falcons’ struggling run defense. Atlanta does not have one player ranked in the top 40 for tackles. As a result, Edwards will get an opportunity to pick up his third straight 100-yard game.

PREDICTION

The Falcons are explosive on offense but are just 3-3 at home. The defense will be challenged if the running game sputters and can't control the clock.

Falcons 24, Ravens 18

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