By Matt Vensel
The Baltimore Sun
9:57 AM EST, December 16, 2013
As a blanket of white powder covered the field during last Sunday’s win against the Minnesota Vikings, the weather turned my crystal ball into a snow globe. There were a couple of close calls, but only one of my predictions came true. I feel better about my odds this week, with the Ravens playing the Detroit Lions on Monday night in a climate-controlled dome. As for their chances of winning? Outlook not so good.
1. The quarterbacks will combine for 700 yards
On the fast track at Ford Field, footballs should be flying all over the place. The Lions rank third in the NFL in passing offense, with Matthew Stafford averaging nearly 300 yards per game. The Ravens rank 20th in the category, but Joe Flacco has thrown for at least 245 yards each of the past three games. Both defenses are good against the run and vulnerable to big passing plays, with the Ravens and Lions ranking Nos. 1 and 2 in most 40-yard receptions allowed. So tonight's game is shaping up to be a shootout. Both quarterbacks should throw for at least 300 yards, giving fantasy football nuts something to cheer about.
2. Jimmy Smith will pick off at least one pass
Smith will be in the spotlight when he matches up with Detroit's Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver in the NFL, for at least some of the snaps. The Ravens drafted Smith for challenges such as this. He is a tall, lean press cornerback who this season has jostled with other big wide receivers, such as the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green and Chicago Bears' Brandon Marshall. Those guys are good, but they are no Megatron. Johnson will get his catches and yards against the Ravens — and maybe a touchdown or two — but Smith will be tested enough to come up with a game-changing play of his own.
3. The Ravens will commit more personal fouls
The Lions have a reputation as one of the dirtiest teams in the NFL. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will be a handful for the Ravens' interior offensive linemen, is considered one of the filthiest. That's what happens when you stomp on a guy during a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving Day. But this season, the Lions have been pretty disciplined, at least by their standards. They have committed 89 penalties this season for 724 yards. Suh and the Lions will try to get under the Ravens' skin. Look for the Ravens, who have gotten flagged 90 times for 743 yards, to lose their composure at least once.
4. The Lions will win with a late scoring drive
After playing well in the first three quarters of games, the Ravens' defense continues to melt down late, whether it is being unable to get off the field when trailing in the fourth quarter or allowing opponents to tie the game or take a lead. In the final two minutes of the win over the Vikings, the defense allowed not one, but two go-ahead touchdowns before being bailed out by the offense and special teams. It won't be as lucky this time. Stafford and the Lions will have the ball last and will march downfield for the winning score.
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