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Ravens-Lions Week 13: Three Key Matchups

December 1, 2017
WHO: Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
WHERE: M&T Bank Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 3, 1 p.m. EDT

The Ravens look for a season-best third straight win and try to maintain a grip on the sixth and final AFC playoff spot when they host the Lions -- all with an AFC North showdown at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck.

Here are three key matchups to watch as the Ravens try to move two games above .500 for the first time since they opened the season 2-0:

1. Ravens OLB Matthew Judon vs. Lions T Rick Wagner

Judon has emerged during his second season, with five sacks in his past six games. He is also a decent edge-setter against the run and has developed more range with a lighter body, allowing him to cover backs out of the backfield. He joked recently that he's still looking for his first interception.  

Judon is likely to square off against Wagner, the former Ravens starter who bolted in free agency this past offseason. Wagner has started all 11 games and has improved after some early struggles. Wagner will be trying to keep the pocket clean for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who directs the league's 10th-ranked passing offense. 

2. Ravens CBs Maurice Canady, Lardarius Webb vs. Lions WR Golden Tate 

The Ravens have been using Brandon Carr in the slot at times, but with Marlon Humphrey slowed by a hamstring injury, Carr is more likely to stay outside. That would leave Canady and Webb as the top slot corners. Canady, who has played the past three games after returning from injured reserve, has averaged 33 snaps the past two games.

Tate is a dangerous slot receiver who has 63 catches for 698 yards and three touchdowns this season, and Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees called Tate "an exceptional run-after-catch guy." The Ravens will need to be sure to wrap him up and tackle well. 

3. Ravens C Ryan Jensen vs. Lions DT Akeem Spence

The Ravens are likely to try to pound away on the ground against a Lions defense ranked 24th in the league against the run. Alex Collins missed Wednesday's practice with a calf injury, but he was back on the field the next day and could be in line for a big game. If the Ravens get ahead, expect a heavy dose of the ground game. It might not be exciting, but it's what quarterback Joe Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh have called "winning football"  this season.

Spence, a fifth-year player out of Illinois, has taken over as a starter after former Raven Haloti Ngata was lost for the season with a biceps injury, and the Lions' run defense has struggled in Ngata's absence. In six games since Ngata was placed on IR, the Lions have allowed 150.8 rushing yards a game.

PREDICTION

The Ravens' defense this week faces one of the best quarterbacks it has seen all season and an offense that ranks among the top five in the league in scoring. Nothing the Ravens have done on offense this season suggests they can win a shootout, so they have to hope the defense is up to the challenge presented by a quality quarterback and dangerous receivers. To be sure, the Lions are a flawed team, but so are the Ravens, and with their offensive inconsistency, three wins in a row seems unlikely.

Lions 20, Ravens 19.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox