The Baltimore Ravens (6-3) and coach John Harbaugh have a few extra days to prepare for the Chicago Bears (3-6) after their embarrassing 22-10 loss in Miami last Thursday night. The Bears had a bye week following their 29-27 loss in Pittsburgh in Week 9.
The Ravens (3-6 ATS) are a 6-point favorite over the Bears (4-5 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. Chicago coach Matt Nagy is 0-3 SU with two double-digit losses following a bye week in his career.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields has shown improved play over his last two games, but is he ready to upset Lamar Jackson and the struggling Ravens? In his career, Jackson is 3-0 after a double-digit loss, but two of those wins were by a field goal in overtime games.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, November 21, 2021 – 01:00 PM EST at Soldier Field
What Is Wrong With Baltimore?
Frankly, the Ravens have been living on the edge all season. Had the Colts made a 47-yard field goal and Justin Tucker didn’t get the perfect bounce on a 66-yard field goal in Detroit, Baltimore would be 4-5 right now instead of 6-3. That’s to say nothing of Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire losing his first career fumble in field-goal range in Baltimore’s 36-35 win in Week 2.
But things really fell apart for the Ravens on a humid night in Miami on a short week last Thursday. Baltimore’s offense had a season-low 304 yards as Sammy Watkins had a crucial fourth-quarter fumble returned for a touchdown. Lamar Jackson was sacked four times and held under 40 rushing yards for only the second time this season.
However, the offensive side of the ball is hanging in there for the Ravens. They have mostly overcome the losses in the backfield. Jackson still has very good weapons in No. 1 receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, and rookie first-round wideout Rashod Bateman is averaging 60.3 yards per game in his first month of action.
The usually reliable Baltimore defense is letting the team down. Baltimore ranks 20th or worse in points, yards, and takeaways. The Ravens are allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt after allowing only 6.4 yards per attempt in 2020 and 6.6 in 2019.
It has not been this easy to pass and score on the Ravens in quite some time, and the offense has not always been helpful with five games with multiple turnovers.
Can Chicago Capitalize?
One of the biggest problems Baltimore has this year is allowing big pass plays. In 9 games, the Ravens have allowed 9 completions of 40-plus yards, including 7 touchdown passes. That’s as many 40-plus yard pass plays as the Ravens have allowed in any full season since 2015.
Even Miami hit two of them last week as the two quarterbacks combined to throw for over 300 yards. Baltimore has already allowed three 400-yard passers this season.
The Chicago offense has a league-low two pass plays of 40-plus yards this season. Justin Fields just had his best passing game in Pittsburgh with 291 yards, but it was only the second time in seven starts where he cracked 200 yards.
The Bears are still keeping his attempts low as they lean on the run. Running back David Montgomery had 63 rushing yards against the Steelers, his first game since Week 4. Baltimore has been above average at stopping the run.
Fields is going to have to build on his improvement in the last two games to take advantage of this Baltimore defense. There should be a lot of vertical passes in this one. Fields’ average depth of target is 10.0 yards this season, which trails only Jackson (10.1), according to Next Gen Stats.
But it could be Fields’ legs that make the difference for Chicago. That’s where he should take a lesson from Jackson and scramble more when he sees an opportunity. Fields is averaging 57.3 rushing yards per game over the last four games compared to 8.3 yards per game in his first three starts.
Fields had that five-turnover meltdown game in Tampa Bay, but Chicago’s offense has protected the ball much better in other games this season. The Bears have also had their three best games on offense, measured by expected points added, at home this season.
I wish I had more confidence to pick the Bears at the NFL odds, but they prove time and time again under Nagy that they don’t have the offensive side of the game figured out. Now the defense is not stellar this year, and I think this is a big bounce-back game for Jackson and the Ravens.
Harbaugh is 12-2 against the NFC since 2018, and Nagy is 1-7 SU and 2-6 ATS as a home underdog of more than three points in his career. I will take the Ravens to cover for your NFL picks.
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