Bears vs. Ravens takes place Sunday at noon, with Chicago coming off the bye week. The beloved are currently 6.5 point home dogs. This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams, with the Bears leading the series with a record of 4-2 against the Ravens.
While these two franchises are known for their blue-collar style of football with impressive ground games and ferocious defenses, that is a little bit different this year. Both defenses are currently struggling to find their footing. The Ravens are coming off a major upset at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. Before the bye week, the Bears lost a heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bears vs. Ravens Betting Lines
In the above graphic, I have noted the spread and the projected spreads according to my two models, PFF, and 538’s two models for Bears vs. Ravens. Why use two models from one source? I like to use multiple models to crosscheck each other. The more models that say something is a good bet, the more assurances you get. That’s what all of us gamblers want, assurances.
Bears vs. Ravens Cover History
In the graph above, the blue line represents the expected point differential based on the spread. For example, if the spread is CHI +7, the blue line will have a data point at -7, since the Bears are expected to lose by seven. The orange line represents the actual result. Therefore, any data point above the blue line means that the Bears covered the spread and any data point below the blue line means the Bears did not cover.
In Matt Nagy’s tenure as head coach of the Bears, he has compiled a record against the spread (ATS) of 28-31. As an underdog, Nagy’s teams are 14-17 ATS. At home, his teams are 15-14 ATS. Combining those two factors, Nagy’s teams have a record of 6-7 ATS as a home dog. This represents a cover rate of 46%, versus the league average cover rate of 52%.
Because the Bears are coming off a bye week, their historical performance off the bye seems relevant. Matt Nagy is 0-3 ATS after the bye week. Additionally, the Bears are 0-3 straight-up in such situations during his tenure. In those three games, the offense has averaged seven points, while the defense has allowed 17 points on average. For the entire game, the offense has averaged 26 points, while the defense has allowed an average of 36 points.
“Good coaches win. Great coaches cover the spread.”
Since 2018, John Harbaugh’s team has compiled a record against the spread (ATS) of 32-29. As a favorite, Harbaugh’s teams are 21-26 ATS. On the road, his teams are 18-12 ATS. Combining those two factors, Harbaugh's teams have a record of 10-9 ATS as a road favorite since 2018. This represents a cover rate of 53% versus the league average cover rate of 48%.
Bears vs. Ravens Team Stats
The final ranking for each unit is the average of DVOA, EPA per Play (10% win probability filter), and success rate. DVOA is a metric developed by Football Outsiders that measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to the league average based on situation and opponent. Meanwhile, EPA per Play is a stat that aims to measure the value of individual plays in terms of points using historical data for down, distance, and field position. Finally, success rate measures the percentage of plays that generate positive EPA on offense or a negative EPA on defense.
By the numbers, the Ravens are far superior to the Bears. Both teams want to start the game on the ground and lean on play-action, but the Ravens are just better at it. On defense, the Ravens are also superior, but the gap is not as wide. I might even say that the Bears' defense with Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson is better than the Ravens' defense. But either way, it would be close.
Overall, the Ravens boast the 10th ranked offense, while the Bears have the 28th ranked offense. The Bears have gotten some momentum going on offense over the past few weeks, and we will see if they can continue to improve their rankings. The Ravens have the 17th ranked defense, while the Bears have the 25th ranked defense. As stated, if Mack and Jackson are back for the Bears, this is likely a top-15 unit still.
Ravens Offensive Overview
Play-Caller: Greg Roman
Personnel Groupings: RB-TE [WR]
- 1-1 [3WR]: 37% (Pass Rate = 75%)
- 2-1 [2WR]: 29% (Pass Rate = 52%)
- 2-2 [1WR]: 18% (Pass Rate = 24%)
- 2-0 [3WR]: 10% (Pass Rate = 31%)
Play Action %: 35.1% (2nd)
Screen %: 4.0% (29th)
Third Down Conversion Rate: 34.2% (28th)
Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 70% (4th)
Explosive Play / Pass / Run Rate: 12% (2nd) / 12% (3rd) / 13% (8th)
Score %: 40.2% (12th)
Turnover %: 11.2% (16th)
Ravens Offensive Scouting Report
HUGE shout out to @Ravens4Dummies and @JakeLouque for their content on Twitter and YouTube. These guys are some of the best NFL team content creators around, and they do an outstanding job breaking the game down for Ravens fans.
Power. Speed. Motion. Explosive. Conflict. These are a few words that describe this Ravens offense. This is the most run-heavy and play-action-heavy offense in the NFL, and it has lived on explosive plays in 2021. The Ravens do not run any personnel grouping very heavily. Their most common grouping is 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) which they use 37% of the time. They use 21 (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) 29% of the time. This two RB set has a ton going on for it. For example, they will often use a true RB and FB combination with Patrick Ricard in some type of split-back formation.
The Ravens have incredible ability to motion into and out of formations when using 21 and 12 personnel. They have used Ricard as a WR, TE, FB, and RB, and he is capable of moving from anywhere to anywhere. Although, he is primarily used as a blocker. Additionally, they utilize motions with their tight ends and wide receivers often. The WRs include multiple vertical threats with game-changing speed.
I reviewed the game against the Denver Broncos defense to get a feel for how the Ravens would attack a Vic Fangio two-high safety style defense. In this game, the Ravens looked to create conflict for defenders as often as possible. Lots of trapping and crackback blocks, with pullers all over the blocking scheme. Their pass protection is married to run game very well, especially on play-action. In other words, their run blocking and pass blocking are not easily differentiated within a second of snapping the football.
They are highly effective using read options and RPOs, although they do not use them all that often. When they do run RPOs, they tend to be on first down to play into their run tendency. They consistently played out of heavy sets, leading to seven- or eight-man boxes when looking to take deep shots off PA. It is not out of the ordinary to see them run a six- or seven-man protection.
When the defense is playing eight in the box, they only have four defenders remaining in the secondary. This is what the Ravens aim to create, getting Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Sammy Watkins into three on four. Their speed leads to CBs playing off coverage, and the Ravens love to eat up that cushion with short yards and YAC. Another tendency I noticed, the Ravens like to find the deepest man in coverage and motion their fastest WR to him for an in-breaking route.
I think the Ravens' tendency to pull guards and tackles on passing plays could open opportunities for blitzers. The Ravens were blitzed heavily by both Vic Fangio (64% vs BAL; 33% for the season) and Brandon Staley (52% vs BAL; 13% for the season). I would expect to see Desai follow suit here, giving Roquan and Ogletree opportunities to attack downhill.
Meanwhile, I would expect the Ravens to put Robert Quinn and Mario Edwards in conflict. Both players tend to over pursue the pass and forget about the rushing lane they need to occupy. Basically, if the Ravens can create these situations, it could be a long day.
The Ravens offensive line is a blue-collar unit that is going to try to set the tone. This is a game where the Bears' defensive line will need to punch them in the mouth from the start. Being able to disguise coverages with the (hopeful) return of Eddie Jackson will loom large, as it will help dictate what the Ravens decide to do pre-snap. He will also matter quite a bit when it comes to the Ravens attacking the middle of the field.
The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position-specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Lamar Jackson ranks ninth out of 33 qualifying QBs. This results in a percentile of 73% (MATH = 1 - (9/33)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.
Offensive Line stats represent the entire unit, rather than any individual player. I believe that it is just too subjective of a stat to place statistical blame on individuals without knowing their assignments.
Ravens Defensive Overview
DC: Don “Wink” Martindale
Blitz %: 33.2% (3rd)
3rd Down Conversion Rate: 31.8% (2nd)
Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 44.4% (1st)
Explosive Pass / Run Rate: 11% (29th) / 15% (31st)
Score %: 34.3% (8th)
Turnover %: 6.9% (27th)
Ravens Defensive Scouting Report
The Ravens defense tends to play lighter across the defensive line. With none of their defensive lineman having played more than 72% of their snaps, they do a good job of keeping their line fresh. Often, they will only send out two down linemen with four linebackers and five defensive backs.
This group has been a good defensive unit for the most part but has been bitten by explosive plays far too often. They are going to blitz a lot, and they are going to be constantly changing up their fronts to try to create confusion. Additionally, Martindale is one of the best play-callers around when it comes to scheming a free rusher with only a four-man pressure. He also believes in blitzing on first down, hoping to disrupt the timing of the play script.
Despite the high emphasis on pressures and blitzes, the Ravens have not been extremely effective at getting to the QB. This is because they lack the coverage pieces to live in a five-or-six-man rush. But their DL does not have enough juice to generate pressure with a four-man rush.
The pass defense has struggled to stop play-action passing, allowing 71% completion at 10.6 yards per attempt, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. In addition, the Ravens defense has struggled to adjust to pre-snap motion this season. Because they have lost a few starters to injuries, they have been forced to play replacements who have struggled to get on the same page in changing scenarios. In addition, the communication issues on the back end have led to the explosion of big plays allowed by the Ravens defense.
After struggling to stop the run early in the season, the Ravens brought in LB Josh Bynes to play on early downs. While Bynes has been a stout addition against the run, he is a liability against the pass when on the field and is often subbed out on passing downs. When they have played in lighter packages, they have been predictably more against the run game. Despite that, their overall run metrics still look solid.
The Ravens defense still boasts talent, and Martindale seems to remain on the cutting edge of defensive innovation. Of late, the unit has had some rough outings. However, I would trust that Martindale has some fixes up his sleeve and is able to make the best of the situation at some point in the near future.
The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position-specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Calais Campbell Ranks 10th out of 88 qualifying iDL players. This results in a percentile of 88% (MATH = 1 - (10/88)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.
Bears vs. Ravens Injury Report (as of Wednesday 11/17)
The Bears appear to be using the injury report to its full extent coming out of the bye week. However, I would expect many of the DNP's to play Sunday.
Bears vs. Ravens Summary
Justin Fields will need to put on a show, and the Bears will need to have Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson back to pull off a victory here, as far as I can predict.
The opportunities for explosive plays will be there against the Ravens defense, but the Bears have struggled with allowing explosive plays themselves. Further to that point, the Ravens are one of the top teams in the NFL at producing said explosive plays. Bears vs. Ravens could become a shootout if Chicago's offense is able to operate at a professional level, which always seems to be a fair question.