Pleased to Meet You: Week 11, Baltimore Ravens

Rob Carr

The Bears get the defending NFL champions following their Week 10 loss to the Lions. We're previewing Sunday's matchup.

The Bears are in a weird place, depending on how you view things. You can view it as the Bears might be beginning another late-season swoon, or you can view it as the Bears are smothered by injuries to their best linebacker, best defensive tackle, his backup, best cornerback, a decent middle linebacker, and oh yeah, their starting quarterback. That can kind of begin to ruin a team's chances.

So they stumble into this week's matchup against the Ravens at 5-4, down a game plus the tiebreaker to the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.

Last Year: The Ravens went 10-6, winning the AFC North and a little thing called the Super Bowl. I hear that's kinda what teams play at when the season ends. I think the Bears were there a couple times in their history, but haven't won it since the 1985 season.

This Year: This year, they don't look like that team. They're 4-5, which is still good for second place in the AFC North.

When Last We Met: You have to go back once again to the 2009 season (the last time the NFC and AFC North squared off) to find this Week 15, 2009 matchup, in which the Ravens defeated the Bears 31-7. Todd Heap caught two Joe Flacco touchdown passes (of Flacco's four). The Bears' lone score came on an Earl Bennett punt return in the second quarter.

Offense:
Total Yardage:
2,768 (29th)
Total Points: 188 (21st)
Rushing Yardage: 658 (30th)
Passing Yardage: 2,110 (17th)

Joe Flacco was turned into a hundred-million-dollar man this offseason, and he's rewarded it by being... pretty average. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly one-for-one (12 to 11) on the seventh-most passing attempts in the league, with the 25th-highest net yards per attempt. The passing game also suffers from missing Dennis Pitta as well as Brandon Stokely, the former being on injured reserve/designated to return and the latter missing last week's game with a thigh injury.

As far as running the ball goes, you'd figure a team with Ray Rice wouldn't be so down in the ranks. But Rice and Bernard Pierce have nearly have a 60-40 split of carries and both are averaging below three yards per carry. When that happens, usually the offensive line can't block. It doesn't help starting left guard Kelechi Osemele is injured and (replacement) starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie Eugene Monroe is... well, starting (original editor disclaimer: Dammit PFR, keep up - and myself for not paying attention!). That offensive line that's pushing for a combined 2.8 yards per carry has allowed Flacco to be sacked 30 times.

Defense:
Total Yardage:
3,080 (15th)
Total Points: 189 (8th)
Rushing Yardage: 923 (10th)
Passing Yardage: 2,157 (18th)

Things are a different story defensively, as they may be missing Ray Lewis due to retirement, but they've managed to keep in the top half of the league. And half of that is because they can still get penetration and rush the passer. Terrell Suggs has nine sacks on the year and free-agent acquisition Elvis Dumerville has another eight. Add in another four from Arthur Jones and that paves the way for ten Ravens to have picked up at least a sack (and Arthur Brown has a half sack).

The defensive backfield has some guys that can make tackles, as safety James Ihedigbo, Corey Graham, Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith round out the top six on the team in tackling. But some of that is that when their 3-4 defense attacks, the backs are often the ones left to cover. That's okay, because those four also account for five of the team's seven interceptions as well as three forced fumbles. (For the record, those seven INTs aren't meant to be an impressive number.)

If the Bears do this...

Josh McCown is in for the Bears. The Bears will lose some playmaking ability with the switch (I mean, did you see the touchdown toss to Marshall?), but they should be able to get some plays in against a statistically average passing defense. The Ravens have allowed sixteen passing touchdowns, but only one rushing touchdown, so don't bank on Matt Forte getting that score rushing (and certainly not Michael Bush). It'll have to be Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett doing things after the catch.

If the Ravens do this...

I don't think we can say the Ravens have a good offense at this point in the season - they're below average passing and near the bottom of the league rushing. That doesn't mean the defense (especially as bad as the Bears' rushing defense has been) can take a week off; the Ravens are probably looking at this as the "Get Ray Rice Back On Track" week. In addition to "Hey the Bears are missing a pass rush, two linebackers and a top defensive back, let's air it out!" week. The Bears are playing a lot of young players on defense and the results haven't been stellar, though they did hold the Lions to 21 points on Sunday, so perhaps the arrow is slowly turning up.

Closing Thoughts:

The Bears come in beat up and hurting from a division loss to the Lions. What's that saying about a wounded animal being the most dangerous? I don't know, I was never good with proverbs.

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