Rams vs. Ravens: How the teams match up for Monday night
Breaking down how the Rams (6-4) and Baltimore Ravens (8-2) match up heading into Monday’s game:
When Rams have the ball
The Rams operated without their starting receiver corps for nearly all of the last three games, a situation that will change against the Ravens. Brandin Cooks returns after a two-game absence while recovering from his second concussion of the season, and fourth in the last 21 months. Robert Woods is back after being absent from last week’s victory over the Bears because of a family issue. Cooks, Woods and Cooper Kupp — one of the NFL’s most productive triumvirates in 2018 — should enable Jared Goff to throw more than the 18 passes he attempted against the Bears. Goff has passed for 11 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. All eyes are on coach Sean McVay to see whether he will once again put the ball in the hands of running back Todd Gurley, or revert to the limited-use strategy he appeared to follow in the first nine games. Against the Bears, Gurley carried the ball a season-high 25 times for 97 yards. He also caught three passes. That plan enabled a mostly inexperienced offensive line to gain confidence heading into a matchup with another aggressive defense. Linebacker Matt Judon has six sacks. Cornerback Marcus Peters has returned two interceptions for touchdowns since the Rams traded him to the Ravens last month. Veteran safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Marlon Humphrey also have two interceptions.
When Ravens have the ball
Quarterback Lamar Jackson is among the MVP front-runners, leading the Ravens on a six-game winning streak. Jackson has passed for 19 touchdowns and run for six while directing one of the league’s most productive offenses. Jackson has rushed for a team-best 781 yards. Veteran running back Mark Ingram has rushed for eight touchdowns for a team that averages an NFL-best 203.8 yards rushing per game. The Ravens also average a league-leading 34.1 points per game. The Ravens deploy three tight ends — Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Andrews has 48 receptions, six for touchdowns. Boyle and Hurst have combined for 43 catches and two touchdowns. Rookie receiver Marquise Brown has four touchdown catches. The Rams defense has been stout since the mid-October trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Opponents are shying from challenging Ramsey, which has enabled cornerback Troy Hill more opportunities to make plays. Hill intercepted a pass and also had a sack against the Bears. Lineman Aaron Donald appears to be gaining momentum. The two-time NFL defensive player of the year recorded two sacks against the Bears, giving him a team-best eight. Linebacker Clay Matthews has seven sacks and linebacker Dante Fowler 61/2. Safety Eric Weddle played the previous three seasons for the Ravens.
Rams coach Sean McVay turned to Todd Gurley to carry a big workload in a win over the Chicago Bears last week. Will he do the same against Baltimore Ravens?
When they kick
Rams punter Johnny Hekker sat out a practice this week because of illness, but was a full participant Saturday and will play against the Ravens. Kicker Greg Zuerlein has made 18 of 23 field-goal attempts. Justin Tucker has made 18 of 20 field-goal attempts for the Ravens, including two of three in last week’s 41-7 victory over the Houston Texans. Punter Sam Koch averages 46.3 yards per kick.
Gary Klein’s prediction
With Cooks and Woods back, McVay once again gives the ball to Gurley and lets Goff work play-action as the Rams offense returns to a semblance of its 2018 form. The Rams must take a lead and force Jackson to play from behind.
RAMS 30, RAVENS 27
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