Analysis of the Ravens' and Jacksonville Jaguars' offense, defense, special teams and intangibles.
RAVENS: Steve Smith Sr.'s season-ending Achilles tendon injury puts even more pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco and an unproven wide receiver group. Kamar Aiken steps into the No. 1 receiver role and Jeremy Ross and Chris Givens likely will get a significant increase in snaps. The Ravens also want to get their tight ends more involved. With 2,176 passing yards, Flacco is 10th in the NFL and on pace to set a franchise record. He also ranks ninth in the league with eight interceptions.
JAGUARS: The Jaguars have done a nice job assembling targets for young quarterback Blake Bortles. Second-year players Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are both on pace to finish with over 1,200 receiving yards and they've combined for 12 touchdowns, the most by any wide receiver tandem in the NFL. Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis are both accomplished pass-catching tight ends. Bortles has thrown 10 interceptions and been sacked 25 times, but he makes plays with his arm and his legs. (EDGE: JAGUARS)
RAVENS: Justin Forsett rushed for fewer than 50 yards in four games last regular season. It's already happened three times this year. The Ravens rank 22nd in the NFL with 99.2 rushing yards per game a season after finishing eighth with 126.2 rushing yards per games. The Ravens have seven rushing touchdowns but three of them were scored by Flacco. To take pressure off their quarterback and to avoid so many third-and-longs, the Ravens badly need their run game to get going.
JAGUARS: Second-round NFL draft pick T.J. Yeldon carries the load for the Jaguars, ranking second among NFL rookies in carries (115) and rushing yards (470). He also has Jacksonville's only rushing touchdown. Overall, the Jaguars rank 23rd in the NFL — one spot behind the Ravens — with an average of 96.8 rushing yards per game. Bortles is the team's second-leading rusher. Former Ravens running back Bernard Pierce has just six carries for 11 yards, but plays extensively on special teams. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: The Ravens weren't dominant against the run in the first half, but it was still one of the team's strengths. They've allowed two 100-yard rushers — Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell and Arizona's Chris Johnson — and five rushing touchdowns. They have allowed 99.8 rushing yards per game, 10th-fewest in the NFL. Daryl Smith, a former Jaguars linebacker, is third in the NFL with 76 tackles, but the key cog of the Ravens rush defense is nose tackle Brandon Williams, who fights double teams on a weekly basis.
JAGUARS: This group solidified itself as a top-10 run defense last week when it held the New York Jets to 29 yards on 28 carries. The Jaguars lead the league in opponent rushing average (3.2 yards per carry) and are seventh in opponent rushing yards per game (94.2). Veteran defensive tackle Roy Miller is a big reason why. Outside linebacker Telvin Smith is fourth in the NFL with 75 tackles, one fewer than Daryl Smith. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is one of the Jaguars' leaders. (EDGE: JAGUARS)
RAVENS: John Harbaugh and the coaching staff feel like this group is improving, but the numbers paint an ugly picture. Only three teams are giving up more passing yards per game than the Ravens, and only five teams have surrendered more passing scores. The Ravens talked about playing more aggressive this past week, and will try to force their first turnover since Week 3. They badly need a big game from Elvis Dumervil, who has gone four weeks without a full sack.
JAGUARS: The Jaguars have a veteran defensive front, but a relatively young secondary, and defending the pass has been a problem at times. Jacksonville is surrendering 263.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 25th in the NFL. With Sen'Derrick Marks now healthy, the Jaguars should be able to improve on their 18 sacks. Cornerback Aaron Colvin, whom the Jaguars drafted with one of the picks they got from the Ravens for left tackle Eugene Monroe, leads the team with three sacks. (EDGE: JAGUARS)
RAVENS: The Ravens spent the bye week doing some self scouting, but there's not a whole lot that needs to be fixed with this group. Punter Sam Koch is having one of the best seasons of his 10-year career. Kicker Justin Tucker has game-winning field goals in both of the Ravens' victories, and he's gotten touchbacks on more than 90 percent of his kickoffs. The coverage teams have been solid and Asa Jackson has blocked a kick or a punt in back-to-back games.
JAGUARS: Jacksonville's kicking game has been shaky at times this year. Rookie kicker Jason Myers is 11-for-14 on field-goal attempts and he's missed 3 of 20 extra-point attempts. He also gets touchbacks on just over 52 percent of his kickoffs, meaning that Raheem Mostert or Jeremy Ross should have return opportunities for the Ravens. Punter Bryan Anger ranks 28th in the league in net punting average. Nick Marshall is the Jaguars' primary return man. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: The Ravens are coming off a bye week, they're at home in November and they're facing the Jaguars, all factors that bode well for them. Under Harbaugh, they are 6-1 following a bye week and 23-9 in November, including 13-2 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have won eight of their past 10 games against the Jaguars, including a 20-12 victory last December. Even as the losses have mounted, the Ravens have stuck together and played hard. That shouldn't change.
JAGUARS: This was supposed to be a year of growth for the Jaguars, but Gus Bradley's team is experiencing some of the same issues as the Ravens. They've turned the ball over way too often, struggled both offensively and defensively on third down and in the red zone, and have faltered both early and late in games. Jacksonville has been outscored by a combined 119-59 in first and fourth quarters this year. The Jaguars have lost 13 consecutive road games dating back to 2013. (EDGE: RAVENS)
If there is a time for the 2015 Ravens to break through with a thorough and dominating performance, this would be it. They are well-rested and at home against a young team that has struggled mightily on the road. But nothing has come easy for these Ravens and they just don't have enough playmakers on either side of the ball to impose their will on opponents. Still, this should be a game that they win, even if they need another late field goal by Tucker to do it. RAVENS, 23-20