Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
Player absences have been a big theme in games this week and this game is no different, except for the fact that most of the absences in this game are injury related, rather than COVID. In addition to the sheer amount of players expected to miss this game, which I will get into later, there is also a significant amount of uncertainty because the Ravens don’t know if quarterback Lamar Jackson will be able to play through an ankle sprain and, even if he does play, his effectiveness would be a question, given how much he is dependent on his athleticism and how he has been struggling already in recent weeks.
The odds makers seem to think the Ravens will be without Jackson, shooting this line up to favor the Packers by a touchdown in Baltimore, after favoring them by just 1.5 points on the early line a week ago. Jackson is far from the Ravens’ only injury concern and not their only new absence or potential absence either. Already without stud left tackle Ronnie Stanley, their two best running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, starting defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, starting cornerback Marcus Peters and starting safety De’Shon Elliott for an extended period of time, the Ravens are now without starting left guard Ben Powers, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell, starting safety Chuck Clark, top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and his would-be replacement Jimmy Smith.
The Ravens are 8-5, but they haven’t been as good as their record even when they were healthier, as they have gone 6-3 in one score games and rank 14th, 24th, 1st, and 11th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency. The Packers have their own injury issues though and it doesn’t seem like this line has fully taken those into account, as this is an inflated line even if Jackson plays and is replaced by backup Tyler Huntley, an unproven, but promising replacement.
The Packers have been banged up all season long, but the hits have kept coming in recent weeks. Already with a long-term absent list of left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions, as well as starting center Josh Myers and starting tight end Robert Tonyan, the Packers in recent weeks have lost slot receiver Randall Cobb, top defensive lineman Kenny Clark, and another two starters on the offensive line, Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner.
The Packers are 10-3 despite all of this, but they haven’t fared as well in more predictive metrics like first down rate and yards per play and, as previously mentioned, their injury situation is only getting worse. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on these metrics, the Packers rank 11th, 9th, and 32nd respectively on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while ranking just 18th in mixed efficiency. One of their losses came without Aaron Rodgers, while a fluky blowout loss to the Saints week one skews their efficiency ratings, but missing all they are missing, it’s hard to argue the Packers are as good as their 10-3 record, at least right now.
The Ravens definitely aren’t as good as their record either, especially if Jackson sits or is heavily limited, but this line has swung too far in the Packers’ direction given all they are missing as well. In addition to their injuries, the Packers have also not been as good away from home in Aaron Rodgers’ career, unsurprising given that Rodgers’ 10 point QB rating drop off from home to away is well above average, and that has continued into this season, as their only road victory that would have covered this 7-point spread came in a 10-point win in Chicago in a game that was closer than the final score against a Bears team that the Ravens beat without Jackson a few weeks ago.
Even without taking the Packers’ relative road struggles into account, my calculated line has the Packers favored by just 3.5 points, even if Huntley plays or Jackson is heavily limited. I am not really making much distinction between a limited Jackson and Tyler Huntley in my roster rankings and I would take the Ravens as touchdown home underdogs regardless, so I want to lock this one in now, as the line could drop on game day if Jackson ends up being able to play.
Update: It seems like Jackson is out, as this line has shifted to 9.5. I already assumed he would be out when I bet on the Ravens at +7, so I am going to increase this bet at the higher number. The Packers have just one double digit road win all season and Tyler Huntley is a promising backup quarterback.
Green Bay Packers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20
Pick against the spread: Baltimore +9.5