Tale of the Tape: Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions
The Baltimore Ravens look to continue their improbable run at an AFC playoff berth as they visit the Detroit Lions in the NFL Monday nighter.
The defending-champion Ravens look to be all but out of the postseason picture, but have reeled off three-straight wins to remain in the hunt. The Lions are in the same position, but are coming off a subpar effort in a 34-20 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
Baltimore's offensive attack has been the team's weak spot for most of the season, but has steadily improved over the course of the team's winning streak. The Joe Flacco-led pass assault averages a modest 227.9 yards per game - ranking it in the lower half in the NFL - but tossed three touchdowns in last week's 29-26 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings. The run game remains a black hole, averaging a paltry 82.3 yards per game while compiling just six scores.
The Detroit passing game is among the most potent in the league, coming into the game with an average of 297 yards per contest. Matthew Stafford has thrown 27 touchdown passes on the season, with All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson the biggest beneficiary (1,351 yards, 12 TDs). Detroit has scuffled when it comes to rushing yards - averaging just 112.5 per game - but has racked up 12 touchdowns on the ground, led by Joique Bell's seven scores.
The days of the Ravens owning one of the league's most imposing defenses are long gone, but Baltimore remains at least respectable on the defensive side of the football. They've surrendered an average of 232 passing yards per contest, having allowed 21 touchdowns while forcing just nine interceptions. The Ravens have piled up 37 sacks, and have been particularly stingy against the run - surrendering just 3.8 yards per carry and three scores this season.
Detroit has followed the same recipe as Baltimore on the defensive end through the first 13 games. The Lions have struggled against the pass for the most part, allowing opposing quarterbacks to average 256 yards while giving up 22 touchdowns and snagging 13 interceptions. Teams have had a difficult time running against Detroit, however, averaging just 4.1 yards per attempt while scoring nine TDs.
Baltimore boasts one of the more impressive return games in the league entering Monday night, averaging 25.7 yards per kickoff return and 14.8 yards per punt return - and having scored a touchdown on both. Opponents are averaging just 22.8 yards per kickoff-return try and 9.6 yards per punt-return attempt. Veteran kicker Justin Tucker has been close to automatic all season long, connecting on 29-of-31 field-goal attempts - including 13-of-15 from 40-plus yards.
Like the Ravens, Detroit has recorded a kick-return and a punt-return touchdown, averaging 26 yards per kickoff return and 9.9 yards per punt return. The Lions are allowing a whopping 26.1 yards per kickoff return, but have limited opponents to 126 yards on 25 total punt returns - and a long run of just 17 yards. Kicker David Akers hasn't been as sharp as he has in recent years, missing five of his 20 field-goal chances and he's just 3-of-6 from between 40 and 49 yards.
"Their reputation, they definitely live up to it. I don't know if you want to call it physical or dirty. Whatever the refs see, that's what they see. But needless to say, I'm not going to spark any fire." - Ravens RB Ray Rice on the Lions defense
"Sometimes you just need to know when to keep your mouth shut, but you know, he's a rookie, he'll learn." - Lions WR Calvin Johnson in response to Ravens FS Matt Elam, who referred to Johnson as "old"