Scouting report

December 27, 1998|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Lions run defense

The Ravens have the No. 23 run offense and the Lions have the No. 25 run defense, so this won't be pretty. Three of the Ravens' starting linemen are questionable because of injuries and the Lions will be without middle linebacker Stephen Boyd (shoulder). The best matchups are Ravens right tackle Spencer Folau against left end Robert Porcher, and Ravens guards Ben Cavil and Jeff Blackshear vs. defensive tackle Luther Elliss. Detroit has allowed the last three running backs it has faced to rush for more than 100 yards and the Ravens counter with Priest Holmes, who has managed only 83 yards in his last three games.-- EDGE EVEN

Ravens pass offense vs. Lions pass defense

The Lions are tied for ninth in pass defense, but rookie cornerback Terry Fair and second-year cornerback Bryant Westbrook have given up a lot of deep balls this season. The Ravens have the potential for big plays with receivers Jermaine Lewis, Michael Jackson and Patrick Johnson, but will quarterback Jim Harbaugh have the time to throw? -- EDGE EVEN

Lions run offense vs. Ravens run defense

The Lions have the No. 7 run offense and possibly the game's best back in Barry Sanders. The Ravens have been able to stop the run, but cutback runners give them fits, and Sanders is one of the most creative ever. The Ravens need defensive tackle Tony Siragusa (neck) in the lineup to slow Sanders, but even if he plays, his presence might not be enough. -- EDGE LIONS

Lions pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Ravens cornerbacks Duane Starks and Rod Woodson have been inconsistent lately and they won't get a break against Detroit receivers Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton. The problem for Detroit is that quarterback Frank Reich doesn't have much strength in his arm anymore, even though the Lions finally got Moore into the offense last week. A word of caution to Woodson: Double moves will kill you every time. -- EDGE LIONS

Special teams

The Lions do a slightly better job of returning kickoffs than the Ravens, but the Ravens have an edge in punt returns and cover units. Both punters and both kickers have similar abilities. -- EDGE RAVENS

Key matchup

Lions guard Jeff Hartings vs. Ravens tackle James Jones: Hartings has had a solid season and is underrated. Jones has been the defense's most consistent player. If he gets a lot of penetration, this could make Sanders less effective. -- EDGE RAVENS

Intangibles

This late in the season, there are few intangibles for two teams going nowhere but home. But at least the Ravens are playing at home and they may not tank this one the way they did a week ago against the Bears. -- EDGE RAVENS

Prediction

Sanders gets his 50 yards to have more than 1,500 for the fifth straight year and leads the Lions to victory. Lions 20, Ravens 17. EDGE -- LIONS

Keys to a Ravens victory

1 Contain running back Barry Sanders and keep him from cutting back, which usually hurts the Ravens.

2 Cornerbacks Duane Starks and Rod Woodson must have solid games vs. receivers Johnnie Morton and Herman Moore.

3 Get an early lead, which might frustrate a losing team playing its season finale on the road.

Pub Date: 12/27/98

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