WHO: Baltimore Ravens (6-5) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, 1 p.m. EST
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens to two straight wins as a starter, and the Ravens need to keep that momentum going against a Falcons team that has plenty of offensive firepower but ranks 28th overall defensively and has been hit hard by injuries on that side of the ball.
Here are three key matchups to watch as the Ravens hope to win their third straight and retain their current grip on the sixth and final AFC playoff spot:
Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones
Humphrey had one tackle and a team-high two pass breakups against the Raiders last week, and he is the Ravens' most physical cornerback, which should be a good matchup for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones. Humphrey has 24 tackles and six passes defensed this season but is still looking for his first interception.
Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale wouldn't tip his hand regarding whether Humphrey will shadow Jones, or whether the Ravens will just defend Jones with whoever is lined up on that side of the field.
The Falcons have, in the words of Martindale, "three legitimate Pro Bowl receivers," but Jones tops the list. He leads the league in receiving yards (1,305) and targets (125), so however the Ravens match up against Jones, the ball figures to be going his way a lot.
Ravens OLB Matthew Judon vs. Falcons RT Ryan Schraeder
Judon has taken over the Ravens' lead with six sacks, three of which came on consecutive defensive plays in the win against the Raiders last week. The first of those was a strip-sack that linebacker Terrell Suggs returned for a touchdown. Judon ranks fifth on the team with 36 tackles, and Harbaugh said that Judon is "playing his best football the last three weeks."
Coaches note all the time that a strong pass rush helps the secondary, and that could be especially important against quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Schraeder (6-foot-7, 300 pounds) went undrafted out of Valdosta State but is now a six-year veteran who has made 71 starts for the Falcons. The Falcons have allowed 33 sacks, 12th-most in the league.
Ravens RB Gus Edwards vs. Falcons ILB Deion Jones or Duke Riley
Assuming Jackson starts, the Ravens are likely to use Edwards as a hard-running complement to Jackson once again. That duo has been outstanding in Jackson's two starts, with the 238-pound Edwards powering for back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, doing most of his damage between the tackles. Led by Edwards and Jackson the Ravens have rushed for 509 yards in the past two games, the most over a two-game span in team history.
Jones (6-foot-1, 227) was placed on injured reserve after Week 1 with a broken foot and is just working back to form. He has been limited in practice this week but is on the active roster again and could return against the Ravens. Jones was a second-round draft pick in 2016 who made the Pro Bowl last season, when he led the Falcons in tackles with 138. Riley has started in Jones' place and has 57 tackles.
The Ravens will try to control the clock and limit the time the potent Falcons offense is on the field, and they should be able to have some success against a defense ranked 28th overall and 25th against the run. But the Falcons can strike quickly, and the Ravens' defense will need to be on top of its game. In his first road start, Lamar Jackson comes up just short. Falcons 27, Ravens 23.