Concluding our series of offseason breakdowns following the 2021 schedule release, theRams.com breaks down the Rams' Week 17 road opponent, the Baltimore Ravens (M&T Bank Stadium, Jan. 2, 1:25 p.m. PT, FOX).
The Ravens won five of their first six games for a 5-1 record at their Week 7 bye. Although they endured a small slump after their bye week with a 1-4 record across Weeks 8-12, whatever issues plagued it during that stretch were resolved quickly.
Baltimore ripped off five consecutive wins to close out the season, with the fifth victory – coupled with a Miami loss – clinching the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture. It also ended the regular season with the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense (191.9 yards per game), No. 7 scoring offense (29.3 points per game) and No. 7 total defense (329.8 yards allowed per game).
From there, the Ravens won their wild card round playoff game with a thrilling 20-13 victory over the Titans, then couldn't find the endzone in a 17-3 loss to the Bills in the divisional round.
The Ravens' biggest offseason additions included signing former Giants offensive guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year deal, signing former Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a one-year deal, and signing former Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal.
Villanueva was effectively signed as the Baltimore's replacement for former starting offensive tackle Orlando Brown, whom it traded along with a 2021 second-round pick (58th overall) and a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Chiefs in exchange for a 2021 first-round pick (31st overall) a 2021 third-round pick (94 overall), a 2022 fourth-round pick (either 136 or 144) and a 2022 fifth-round pick.
Baltimore also made four additions to its coaching staff, including hiring Tee Martin as its wide receivers coach. Martin coached Rams wide receiver Robert Woods at USC.
In the draft, they used their original first-round pick (27th overall) on Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Their other first-round pick – 31st overall – which was acquired in the Brown trade was used on Penn State linebacker Odafe Oweh. Their approach to the first round mirrored that of their eight-member draft class overall, which was evenly split with four picks addressing offense and four addressing defense.
John Harbaugh enters his 14th season as head coach of the Ravens, compiling a 129-79 record through his first 13 years with the franchise. Baltimore has qualified for the playoffs nine times during that span, highlighted by winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2012 plus two additional AFC championship game appearances in 2008 and 2011.
What to watch for
Rams defense vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
While Jackson is a capable passer, it's his mobility that gave teams the most trouble in 2020.
With 1,005 rushing yards last year, he joined Michael Vick as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to post back-to-back seasons with 1,000 rushing yards. Those 1,005 rushing yards ranked ninth in the NFL, and he also added seven rushing touchdowns.
Remove position labels, and he's the fifth 1,000-yard rusher on the Rams' 2021 schedule.
Los Angeles should be well-equipped to come up with a gameplan for Jackson, having to play quarterbacks with similar skillsets like Seattle's Russell Wilson and Arizona's Kyler Murray each twice a year. In fact, it will have already done so in 2021 by Week 17.
For L.A., its chances of coming away with a victory in this game depend strongly upon limiting Jackson.