Back Ravens Over Lions As Joe Flacco Makes 2016 Debut

Joe Flacco

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 9:07 PM GMT

The Ravens are one of eight unbeaten teams entering Week 3 of the preseason, and they close their home portion of it against Detroit on Saturday night. Baltimore is -3 NFL odds with a total of 43. 

Lions: What To Watch For
Detroit opened the preseason with a 30-17 win in Pittsburgh and then lost last Thursday at home to Cincinnati 30-14 -- so the Lions will play every AFC North team this preseason other than Cleveland. The Lions have played the entire preseason without No. 1 tight end Eric Ebron and top running back Ameer Abdullah. Ebron has been out since early August with a major ankle sprain but should be ready for Week 1 of the season.

Abdullah is coming off shoulder surgery this offseason but finally has been allowed to shed the no-contact red jersey in practices and could make his preseason debut Saturday. Part of the reason the Lions started so slowly last year was the running game, which averaged a league-worst 3.8 yards per carry overall. That group is averaging only 3.1 yards per attempt in the preseason.

This will be a homecoming for three Lions: head coach Jim Caldwell is a former Baltimore offensive coordinator; defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was an anchor on that excellent Ravens defense for nine years before being traded to the Lions for draft picks last offseason; and receiver Anquan Boldin, who only signed with the Lions in late July, spent 2010-12 in Baltimore.

The Lions are 1-1 ATS on NFL odds this preseason and 2-0 O/U.

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Ravens: What To Watch For
Easily the biggest thing in this game will be the season debut of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. He last played in a game on Nov. 22, 2015, against the Rams. Flacco tore ligaments in his left knee in the closing seconds yet didn't ever leave the game. However, his season was over. In the same game, top running back Justin Forsett also suffered a season-ending injury, which pretty much sums up Baltimore's 5-11 season last year. Flacco has been practicing fully and said he plans to play against the Lions because surely Coach John Harbaugh won't let him in the utterly meaningless preseason finale.

While it's not clear how long Flacco will go, keep an eye on the backup battle between Ryan Mallett and Josh Johnson. Mallett was assumed to be the No. 2 guy because he worked with the first team all summer with Flacco out. But Mallett has struggled in the preseason and the journeymen Johnson could steal the job.

Baltimore opened the preseason with a 22-19 home win over Carolina. Mallett was 11-for-15 for 91 yards with a touchdown and interception. Johnson was 8-for-11 for 83 yards with no turnovers. Last week in a 19-18 win In Indianapolis, Mallett was 6-for-8 for 47 yards and a TD. But if the Colts weren't called for a special teams penalty to extend the Ravens' first drive of the game, Mallett and the No. 1 offense would have had three-and-outs on three of their first four drives. Johnson was 11-for-16 in the game for 72 yards and a TD while rushing for 40 yards on five carries. Johnson was a 2008 fifth-round pick by Tampa Bay who hasn't appeared in an NFL regular-season game since 2013 with Cincinnati.

One guy you may or may not see Saturday is Baltimore's 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman. The receiver from Central Florida missed all of last season due to a partially torn ligament in his right knee, and then hurt his left knee in mid-June and hasn't played this preseason. But Perriman was participating in full practice Tuesday and Harbaugh hasn't ruled out finally getting him game action this week.

The Ravens' No. 1 defense has left plenty to be desired in the two preseason games. That unit has allowed Cam Newton and Andrew Luck to go a combined 13-for-14 for 107 yards and allowed long scoring drives on the opponent's opening possessions.

Baltimore is 2-0 ATS on NFL picks this preseason and 1-1 O/U.

Series History
This is the fourth preseason meeting between the teams, with the Ravens leading 2-1. The last meeting was in 2012 and Detroit won 27-12 in Baltimore. Matthew Stafford had two touchdown passes and threw for 184 yards in four possessions. Since-retired Calvin Johnson had five catches for 111 yards. The Lions had a whopping 507 yards offense. Flacco was 7-for-12 for 79 yards and led the Ravens to a pair of field goals before leaving in the second quarter. The teams last played when it mattered in Week 15 of the 2013 season on a Monday night in Detroit and the Ravens won 18-16. Justin Tucker made six field goals, including a team-record 61-yarder with 38 seconds remaining. Flacco threw for 222 yards. Stafford threw for 235 and a TD but also three picks.

Betting Advice
Few coaches have a better all-time preseason record than Baltimore's Harbaugh at 22-12 so the Ravens are the pick. Go under.

Free NFL Pick: Ravens -3 (-127)
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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