Bears vs. Ravens preview: Who has the advantage in Week 11

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The Chicago Bears (3-6) will host the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) on Sunday, where Chicago is looking to snap a four-game losing streak against a talented Baltimore squad.

When it comes to determining who wins football games, there are a number of factors that contribute to a victory. Solid quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and taking it away, controlling important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of an injury situation.

In our weekly preview series, Alyssa Barbieri from Bears Wire and Kevin Oestreicher from Ravens Wire went deep into the matchup to determine who has the advantage at the five key factors for winning football games in the NFL.

Quarterback play

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Bears Wire: Despite a rough start to his rookie season, Justin Fields looks to have all the makings of a star quarterback in the NFL. Fields is coming off the best game of his young career against a good Steelers defense, where he came up clutch in a big moment on a prime-time stage. Fields’ confidence continues to build with each passing week, and you’re starting to see the same from his teammates and coaches. Fields has shown his ability to best defenses with some beautiful deep-ball accuracy or with his legs, and it’s something that puts defenses on notice. With the Bears’ playoff hopes all but dashed, the rest of the season is about Fields’ continued development, which means we could see Chicago’s offense continue to open things up in the passing game and give him more chances to shine.

Ravens Wire: Lamar Jackson was expected to take a huge leap in his fourth NFL season, and he’s done just that. He looks more calm and collected in the pocket, and his confidence continues to shine through when he’s given time to throw. He is also working with the best group of pass catchers that he’s ever had, which does nothing but help a young quarterback like Jackson. He isn’t a perfect player, but the signal caller has shown time and time again that he can throw at an extremely high rate, and can lead comeback victories with his arm. His season has been impressive so far, and he could even be placed in the MVP conversation at this point.

Advantage: Ravens

Line of scrimmage

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Bears Wire: Chicago’s defensive line has been one of the best in the NFL over the last few years, but they’re going to face an uphill battle without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury. That means they’re going to need guys like nose tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Bilal Nichols to step up in his absence, especially when it comes to stuffing the run against the NFL’s best run game. The Bears offensive line has been rough at times this season, but they’re coming off a decent game against a good Steelers defense. They’re going to need another strong game to give Fields time to take his shots downfield and protect the most-sacked quarterback in the league.

Ravens Wire: Baltimore has stars on their defensive line. The problem is that two of them will be out in Derek Wolfe (who has now been ruled out for the season and did not play a game in 2021) and Brandon Williams. Calais Campbell is playing at an All-Pro level, while Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington and Justin Ellis are also contributing. The Ravens’ offensive line has been extremely inconsistent, and it’s hard not to look at injuries as one of the reasons why. Baltimore is missing All-Pro offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, who won’t play another game this year after opting for another ankle surgery. Tackle Patrick Mekari was playing well on the right side, but suffered a high-ankle sprain. The Ravens’ line is stretched extremely thin, so it has sometimes been a struggle to move the ball.

Advantage: Draw

Turnovers

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Bears Wire: Protecting the football on offense and taking the football away on defense have been points of emphasis for the Bears this season, and it’s something that’s been a struggle of late. The Bears have a -4 turnover differential through nine weeks, where they have 9 takeaways and have turned the ball over 13 times. Chicago’s defense hasn’t mustered a takeaway since Week 7 against the Bucs, which continues to be a problem for this defense since 2019. Back in Week 9 against the Steelers, the Bears committed two turnovers – a Fields interception that was a heck of a play by the defensive lineman and a special teams fumble on a kickoff return by Jakeem Grant. Still, if Chicago stands any chance of pulling off an upset, they need to play mistake-free football – and have their defense take advantage of opportunities to take away the football.

Ravens Wire: Baltimore ranks in the bottom-five in the league in forcing turnovers, mustering just seven takeaways through nine contests (.78 takeaways per game). Losing a player like Marcus Peters certainly hurts the defense’s big-play ability, but they need to get the ball back for their offense more consistently. The Ravens are tied for 26th in the league with a -5 turnover differential. However, their offense isn’t turning the ball over at an overly excessive rate, as they’ve only given the ball away 12 total times.

Advantage: Draw

Situational

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Bears Wire: The Bears defense has been decent in the red zone this season, whether it’s holding teams to a field goal or forcing a turnover on downs. They’re allowing teams to score a touchdown on 57.14% of trips inside the red zone, which ranks 14th in the NFL. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the league’s worst offenses has struggled to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, as Chicago has scored a touchdown on 54.17% of trips inside the red zone, which ranks 24th. Third down conversions remain a struggle for the Bears offense, where they’ve converted just 34.58% of third downs, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Meanwhile, Chicago’s defense has done a decent job getting teams off the field on third down, allowing teams to convert on third down 39.82% of the time, which ranks 14th.

Ravens Wire: Baltimore’s defense has been great in both third down and red zone situations. They currently have the 2nd-best third down defense in the NFL, only allowing teams to convert 31.8% of the time. In the red zone, they’re allowing just a 44.4% conversion rate, which gives them the top spot in the league. However, on offense it’s a different story on third down, as the Ravens’ offense has the fourth-worst third down conversion rate in the NFL at 34.2%. In the red zone, Baltimore’s offense is converting 70% of their attempts, which is tied for third in the league.

Advantage: Ravens

Injuries

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Bears Wire: The Bears have been battered by injuries this week, and there’s not much good news. Not only is outside linebacker Khalil Mack done for the season, as he’s being placed on injured reserve to have season-ending foot surgery, but Chicago will be without two other key starters on Sunday. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has been ruled out with an ankle injury suffered back in Week 9 against the Steelers while wide receiver Allen Robinson is doubtful with a hamstring injury suffered in that same game. The only piece of encouraging news is safety Eddie Jackson stands a decent chance of returning to the lineup after battling a hamstring injury for a few weeks.

Ravens Wire: Baltimore’s final injury report spanned 17 players on Friday, which is an astronomical number. The team ruled out three players in wide receiver Miles Boykin, defensive tackle Brandon Williams and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, while a plethora of others are questionable. Quarterback Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Rashod Bateman and center Bradley Bozeman all participated fully in practice after missing time on the field during the week and are all in line to play. The Week 11 injury report doesn’t even talk about the key players that the Ravens have lost for the season, which include running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, inside linebacker L.J. Fort, cornerback Marcus Peters and safety DeShon Elliott. Baltimore has been the most injury-riddled team in the NFL in 2021, and unfortunately it’s not particularly close.

Advantage: Ravens

Verdict: Advantage Ravens

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The Ravens have been a bit of a mixed bag this season, where they’ve shown they can be beaten. But if the Bears want to pull off an upset and break their four-game losing streak, they’re going to need a near flawless performance against Baltimore. While there’s plenty of excitement about the potential of this franchise with rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who is coming off the best game of his young career, there are plenty of concerns on defense, especially now that they’re without outside linebacker Khalil Mack for the rest of the season. But with Chicago likely down Akiem Hicks and Allen Robinson, it’s not encouraging heading into a matchup where they need their best players available. While I don’t envision this being a blowout, where Fields should be able to keep pace, the Ravens will ultimately be too much to overcome, especially coming off a brutal loss to the Dolphins.

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