How do Ravens plan to stop Stafford? Smith answers
What: Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6)
When: Monday, 8:40 p.m. Where: Ford Field, Detroit
TV: ESPN (Ravens Posgame Live immediately after the game on CSN)
Five questions that need answering
1. Are the Ravens ready to win a tough road game?
The Ravens’ abysmal 1-5 road record is the most disappointing aspect of their season. Winning three straight games at home kept the Ravens in the playoff hunt. But winning in Detroit, where the Lions are 4-2, will not be easy. The crowd will be loud, and the Lions average 31.7 points per game at Ford Field. This game will prove something about the Ravens, in a positive or negative way.
2. Will Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson make Ravens safety Matt Elam regret his words?
Elam got unwanted attention for calling the 28-year-old Johnson “pretty old”. Johnson is a gifted receiver who usually rises to any challenge. The Ravens have already allowed too many big plays, like last week against the Vikings, which almost cost the Ravens that game. Johnson is going to make catches, but the Ravens need to limit his yards after catches. Elam isn’t old, but he may feel old after this game if Johnson has a huge night.
3. Will Lions tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley dominate?
Suh and Fairley are strong, aggressive, and highly disruptive. The Ravens’ offensive line has struggled at times with a new starting center in Gino Gradkowski, and a new starting left guard in A. Q. Shipley. On paper, this matchup does not look good for the Ravens. If Suh and Fairley control the line of scrimmage, the Ravens will have a tough time running, and quarterback Joe Flacco will get pressure up the middle. But if the Ravens control Suh and Fairley, Baltimore’s offense should move the football all night.
4. Will either Flacco or Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford make costly turnovers?
Flacco will set a new career high for interceptions this season. Stafford has thrown at least one interception in 10 of 13 games. Turnovers could decide the outcome, and the quarterback that plays best is likely to lead his team to victory.
5. Which offensive X-factor will have a greater impact, Dennis Pitta or Reggie Bush?
Having Pitta back at tight end is a huge boost for the Ravens’ offense. Bush (calf injury) has been listed as questionable for the Lions, but his explosiveness from the running back position make the Lions a different team when he plays. When Bush has more than 100 yards in total offense this season, the Lions are 6-0. The Ravens must contain Bush if he plays, or they will likely lose.