Baltimore Ravens (8-6, 7-7 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, 7-7), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in its last five games.
The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as a road underdog.
Baltimore is 5-1 toward unders in its last six road games.
The Ravens could get Lamar Jackson back this week but he’s been miserable since their Week 9, averaging 6.0 YPA with six TDs and eight INTs in his last four full games. His backup Tyler Huntley has outplayed him in recent appearances, scoring 53.2 FP in his last seven quarters of action. Lamar completed 15/31 passes for 257 yards and one TD and he added 12/88 rushing against the Bengals in late October.
Mark Andrews is pacing all TEs with 17.4 FPG after posting 10+ catches, 115+ yards, 1+ TDs, and 28+ FP in consecutive games playing with Huntley. He’s posted 50+ yards in six consecutive games, and he’s seen 8+ targets in seven straight contests. Andrews had his second-worst showing against the Bengals earlier this season, finishing with 3/48 receiving on six targets.
Marquise Brown had one of the more bizarre stat lines you’ll see this year, posting 10/43 receiving on 14 targets against the Packers last week. Opponents have been conceding underneath targets to Hollywood with his aDOT plummeting from 15.0 yards through Week 9 to only 8.3 yards in Weeks 10-15. Hollywood blew up for 5/80/1 receiving against the Bengals in late October but he needed 14 targets to get it done.
Rashod Bateman mustered just a five-yard catch on two targets last week despite playing a season-high 93% of the snaps with Sammy Watkins (COVID) out. The rookie posted 7/103 receiving on eight targets a week earlier so his production has been all over the map. Bateman will only be on the radar this week if Watkins misses another game, and the rookie posted 3/80 receiving on six targets in this matchup earlier this season with Watkins out of the lineup.
Devonta Freeman lost his stranglehold on the backfield last week with just 7/24 scrimmage after totaling 13+ touches in six straight games. OC Greg Roman went with the warm-hand approach last week with Latavius Murray posting 8/51 scrimmage. The Ravens used a split backfield the last time these teams played with Freeman leading the way with 4/14/1 rushing and 3/25 receiving.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.
Cincinnati cleaned up on the Ravens 41-17 as 6.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 46 points back in late October.
The Bengals can smell blood in the water in the AFC North. They’re looking to finish off a reeling Ravens’ squad this week that’s dropped three straight games by a combined four points, and they already cleaned up on the Steelers twice this season.
The Bengals averaged just 4.9 yards per play against the Broncos last week, but they limited the Broncos just 4.1 YPP and 10 points to grab a pivotal road victory as three-point road underdogs.
Joe Burrow posted 416/3 passing while averaging 10.9 YPA in their victory against the Ravens earlier this season. It shouldn’t be totally surprising since he’s been one of the best quarterbacks against the blitz all season. He’s averaging a league-high 11.0 YPA against the blitz and the Ravens were blitzing at the third-highest rate (32.4%) through 14 games.
Ja’Marr Chase slaughtered fantasy teams last week with a career-worst three-yard catch on four targets against the Broncos. He’s now finished with fewer than four catches in four of his last seven games, and he’s posted fewer than 55 yards in six of his last seven contests. Chase turned in a massive 8/201/1 receiving performance against the Ravens earlier this season, and the Bengals should skew more pass-heavy this week against Baltimore’s weak secondary.
Tee Higgins also fell flat with just 2/23 receiving on three targets against Denver, which snapped a three-game run with 16+ FP and 110+ yards in three straight games. He’s still posted 60+ receiving yards in six of his last eight games even with last week’s dud. Higgins posted 7/62 receiving on 15 targets in this matchup back in late October.
With no other receiver doing anything last week, Tyler Boyd erupted for 5/96/1 receiving on six targets against the Broncos. He’s now posted double-digit FP and 4+ catches in four of his last five games. Baltimore lost their top remaining cornerback Tavon Young to a concussion last week, and they’re down to next to nothing in their secondary. Boyd managed just 4/39 receiving on seven targets against Baltimore earlier this season.
Joe Mixon already had an injury scare earlier this season when he went down with an ankle issue, and he had his left leg rolled up late in Cincinnati’s victory over the Broncos. He missed the rest of Cincinnati’s second-to-last drive, but he did come out for Joe Burrow’s kneel down on the final play of the game. Samaje Perine would be the next man up if Mixon has to miss their pivotal matchup against the Ravens. Perine has had one chance to dominate the work back in Week 5 when he posted 11/59 rushing and 4/24/1 receiving on 61% of the snaps against the Packers. Mixon has seen 17+ carries in five straight games since their Week 10 so there’s a sizable role to be had in this backfield this week. Mixon posted 12/59/1 rushing and he didn’t see a target in Cincinnati’s last matchup against Baltimore back in Week 7.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.4 (25th)
Plays per game: 73.9 (1st)
Pass: 60.4% (14th) | Run: 39.6% (19th)
Pace: 29.3 (24th)
Plays per game: 63.7 (18th)
Pass: 59.9% (18th) | Run: 40.1% (15th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
While we wait on the final word on whether or not Lamar Jackson can play, the good news is that the Ravens have not changed anything up philosophically with Tyler Huntley under center. In Huntley’s two starts and one relief appearance, Baltimore has gone 61% pass-heavy – which is right in line with their eight-week average (60% pass-heavy).
Meanwhile, the Bengals have been overly conservative in their last two games. Maybe it’s HC Zac Taylor trying to protect Joe Burrow and his broken finger? That’s my only theory – because Burrow’s actual play hasn’t warranted conservatism. The Bengals have slipped to 49% pass | 51% run on early-downs over the last two weeks despite Burrow averaging 9.0 YPA and owning a 117 passer rating. I’d love to see Taylor open up the playbook and attack the Ravens downfield just like they did in their Week 7 meeting this season where Burrow threw for a season-high 416 yards. Baltimore’s secondary is even worse off since then without Marlon Humphrey and they could be down even more guys this week (CBs Westry, Smith, and Young are all questionable).
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
We don’t have enough of a sample size to withdraw reliability from Tyler Huntley’s work across from any scheme. I can pass along that it’s obvious what Baltimore sees in Huntley. Groomed as a direct replacement if/when Lamar Jackson is unable to take the field, distinguishing Huntley from L-Jax can be difficult, at times. Huntley doesn’t have the blazing fastball of Jackson to laser a throw 30 yards on a rope, but he does have a nice touch on his deep ball. Huntley also understands exactly where his bread is buttered, peppering Mark Andrews with all of the volume he can handle. He doesn’t pack the otherworldly, sudden direction changes of Jackson, but Huntley does possess every bit of his length, long-stride, and straight-line speed to take it the length of the field when breaking contain.
It’s in Huntley’s scrambling ability that turns a QB still refining his coverage reads, mode of attack, and understanding of the resulting blitz packages into a one fully capable of catapulting himself toward top-five QB scoring in every start. The Bengals have faced QBs with dual-threat ability in two games this season. They surrendered 88 rushing yards to Jackson in Week 7. And, while he’s not the greatest example of a dual-threat skillset, they let Trevor Lawrence rush for 36 yards and a TD in Week 4. They also had MIKE LB Logan Wilson on the field in both games. No Wilson and no watered-down levels of Lawrence’s dual-threat in play this week.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
NOTE: RAVENS QB TYLER HUNTLEY DIDN’T PRACTICE ON FRIDAY WITH AN ILLNESS. BOTH HE AND LAMAR JACKSON ARE QUESTIONABLE. IF NEITHER CAN GO, JOSH JOHNSON WOULD START.
Ravens QBs Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game at the Bengals.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 24, 2021
Jackson didn't practice all week with a right ankle injury. Huntley missed Friday's practice with an illness.
Josh Johnson was the only available QB at Friday's practice
True, but Tyler Huntley is still fully expected to start for the #Ravens Sunday in this monster matchup vs the #Bengals, I am told by someone w/in the organization. (Lamar Jackson missed his 12th straight day… don’t expect him to play.) https://t.co/1IYpg8tSQW— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 24, 2021
The Ravens appear likely to take it to gametime on QB Lamar Jackson (ankle) again, but comments this week suggest they’re skeptical he will go. That would be Tyler Huntley time again, and he’s proven he can be a very effective getting the ball to his weapons — especially TE Mark Andrews and WR Marquise Brown — while being a defensible fantasy start himself.
My personal angle here has been to handcuff Jackson with Huntley wherever I can and take the decision down to Sunday. I’m comfortable starting the mobile Huntley in my fantasy playoffs.
Here’s Jake Tribbey from the DFS Early Look on Hollywood:
“Over his last 5 games, Brown ranks 4th in targets per game (10.4), but just 38th in FPG (11.3) among WRs. So what’s with the massive underperformance relative to high-end WR1 volume? Well, those targets certainly haven’t been well placed, as Lamar Jackson has graded out as PFF’s worst passer (41.7 passing grade) in that span. We do know, however, that Jackson is far from the worst passing QB in the NFL. The 2 worst-graded passing games of Lamar’s career have come in the last 5 weeks, and it’s obviously unreasonable to expect that to continue. And if Lamar can return to just normal form, then Brown’s FPG will look a lot more like it did in the first 7 weeks of the season (18.6 FPG).
Should Jackson sit out in Week 16, that’s an obvious hit to Brown, but it’s still worth noting he will be heavily involved even if Tyler Huntley starts. With Huntley under center, Brown has still commanded a 28% target share over the last two games, and he’s the only Raven other than Mark Andrews with more than 10 targets in that span, with 21 total. The 11.7 FPG he’s averaged in those games certainly won’t turn any heads, but Brown’s target volume relative to his price is almost unmatched on this upcoming slate, and he offers enough big play ability to turn any of those targets into a long TD.”
One of the biggest disappointments for fantasy last week was Raven RB Devonta Freeman, who had been a low-key bell cow for weeks but ceded work to the washed Latavius Murray against the Packers last week. Here’s Graham:
“What the hell happened with Freeman last week? After seemingly taking over this backfield recently, the Ravens decided to trot out Latavius Murray out of nowhere. Murray led this backfield in both carries and targets against the Packers last week as Freeman got just 6 carries and 1 target. Maybe Freeman is dealing with some sort of minor injury that we don’t know about? Because that is the only explanation that makes sense. Freeman has clearly looked like and produced as the Ravens top option in their injury-riddled season. Keep in mind, Murray had just one carry in Week 14 while Freeman had 13. It makes no sense. That said, Freeman is a low-floor FLEX option coming off his demotion. The Bengals have not allowed a RB to top 12.5 FP against them since Week 9.”
Bengal QB Joe Burrow made some headlines this week on how he’s staying away from the recent COVID breakout around the league.
Here’s Scott Barrett from Start/Sit on Burrow and this Bengals offense:
“When Cincinnati last faced Baltimore, in Week 7, Burrow threw for 416 yards and 3 touchdowns, scoring a season-high 27.6 fantasy points.
WR Ja’Marr Chase, facing Marlon Humphrey’s tough shadow coverage, gained 201 yards, scoring 34.1 fantasy points on 10 targets. WR Tee Higgins was less productive on better volume, gaining 62 yards on 15 targets. WR Tyler Boyd did very little (7.9 fantasy points), understandably, against Tavon Young’s tight coverage in the slot. And TE C.J. Uzomah caught 3 of 3 targets for 91 yards and 2 scores (24.1 fantasy points).
Baltimore ranks 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs (+2.2). They’re giving up the 2nd-most passing FPG to opposing QBs (17.6), while also ranking 5th-worst in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.498). Over the last 5 weeks, they’re giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+5.8). Against outside WRs — the strength of Cincinnati’s passing attack — the Ravens are giving up the 4th-most FPG (23.3), and the most over the last 8 weeks. But they’ve been much tougher against slot WRs, giving up the 8th-fewest FPG (10.9).
And Baltimore’s secondary is significantly worse than all of these numbers imply. Baltimore lost CB Marlon Humphrey (out for the year) in Week 14, after already losing CB Marcus Peters in training camp. They were forced to start Anthony Averett and Chris Westry on the perimeter, with Young in the slot. But Westry is on the COVID-19 list, his backup Jimmy Smith is also on the COVID-19 list, and Young is now in the concussion protocol.
All of this to say, Burrow should smash this week, and all of his WRs could go nuclear. There should be some concern over Burrow’s injury (dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand), though he’s been hyper-efficient in the two games since (12.6 YPA). And, mostly, this matchup is simply too attractive to fade. We like him this week as a mid-QB1.”
Here’s some good news — if you are playing Ja’Marr Chase in a fantasy matchup this week, the Ravens won’t be dedicating the same kind of resources to him as they did to Davante Adams last week.
Ravens DC Wink Martindale said he will not double/triple team Ja'Marr Chase like he did Davante Adams.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 23, 2021
"Adams is one of the top 2 receivers in the league and he's not No. 2. Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame QB, and I don't think we're ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe (Burrow)."
Also, RB Joe Mixon will be playing through an ankle injury this week. He’s been touchdown dependent this year, and the last two games without scoring really highlight how low his floor is. He’s an RB2 in this matchup and you hope he gets in the end zone.