There’s no more difficult win in the regular season than a road game in your division. The Ravens passed their first test in impressive fashion, beating the Bengals on Sunday, 27-24.
Offensively, Baltimore was steady. Moving the ball in the run game and finding key spaces in Cincinnati’s defense with relative ease, the Ravens scored 27 points—the most points the Bengals have allowed in their last 10 home games. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined for over 100 yards rushing, filling in nicely for the injured J.K. Dobbins.
In the passing game, Lamar Jackson spread the ball around to multiple receivers. Working through the fog of some missed opportunities on downfield throws, he finished strongly with a 73 percent completion percentage, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
On defense, Mike Macdonald’s men did a really nice job containing and pressuring an extremely talented offense. Baltimore allowed 24 points in the end, but realistically were in control for most of the afternoon. Ja’Marr Chase was held to 31 yards receiving–the 3rd-lowest yardage total of his career. That’s huge. Tee Higgins had a great game, catching eight passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, but those receptions came when the Ravens were forcing the Bengals to chip away instead of gaining yards on chunk plays.
As far as special teams go, Baltimore was okay besides the punt that was returned for a touchdown, but allowing special teams scores is never acceptable in Baltimore. That needs to be fixed.
Looking ahead to this week, the 2-0 Ravens face the 1-1 Colts in Baltimore. Indianapolis could be without Anthony Richardson, their stud rookie starting quarterback, after he suffered a concussion against the Texans and did not return. So far, he’s scored four total touchdowns in his first two games, so despite his inexperience, he’s a threat.
If he can’t go, Gardner Minshew is likely to get the start in his stead. He’s only played against the Ravens once, losing 40-14 in a Week 15 of 2020 matchup. Needless to say, Baltimore will be favored against the Colts—more so if Richardson can’t go.
There’s not much that worries you about the Colts. Even with the current injuries the Ravens are working through, they figure to be superior at every position. That said, football is not played on paper.
Here are some specific matchups to watch this week:
- Travis Jones vs. Ryan Kelly
- You can always make an argument for disrupting the pocket leading to a win for the defense. Especially, though, a pressured pocket is effective against a new quarterback. Whether it is Richardson or Minshew, the time they have playing as a Colt isn’t much. Ryan Kelly is one of the better centers in football, but Travis Jones is an up-and-coming nose tackle with impressive size and strength. If he can put Kelly on his heels and push the pocket from the inside, that will only make things harder on Indy’s quarterback.
- More pressure, more potential turnovers.
- Brandon Stephens vs. Michael Pittman, Jr.
- Stephens was one of four defenders to play 100 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps last Sunday, and he played often against Chase. Therefore, it’s likely to think he will draw Michael Pittman, Jr. this week. Pittman has four inches and 20 pounds on Chase, so it’ll be a different kind of challenge for Stephens, should he end up being assigned to Chase.
- Another element of the defense’s plan that would aid Stephens (or whoever lines up against Pittman) is its pass rush. The Ravens are tied for 3rd in the league in sacks (5), and you have to think that success continues against a team like the Colts who, let’s face it, aren’t known as an offensive juggernaut.
- Lamar Jackson vs. Shaquille Leonard
- Jackson and Leonard won’t likely be matched up directly on one another, but it’s going to be a dual of “best on best.” It remains to be seen if Leonard will spy Jackson, though I doubt he will as spying hasn’t proven to be an effective plan against No. 8 in the past. Calling zone coverages could enable Leonard to remain in the vicinity of Jackson. At the same time, zone coverages would allow Zay Flowers and Devin Duvernay to eat up space and be in line for big yards after catch totals.
- Leonard, a 3-time All-Pro, leads a defense that’s tied for 19th in points allowed per game (25.5) and 25th in yards allowed per game (365.5). There’s all kinds of opportunities for Jackson to score and score quickly against this defense. As good as Leonard has been, it’s going to be a tall task for him and his men to contain Jackson and his men.
- Jackson’s best game of his career, you could argue, came two years ago…at home against the Colts. He completed 86.1 percent of his passes (career best with a minimum of 20 attempts), threw for 442 yards (career best), and threw for four touchdowns (4th-best of his career). This offense has only improved since then, so Indianapolis could be in real trouble this Sunday.
After looking at the players and coaches involved in this game, I’m predicting a 31-14 Ravens win. I’m also predicting the following fantasy football outputs from these key players:
Lamar Jackson: 25/33, 308 yards, 2TD, 1 INT; 6 carries, 77 yards, 1 TD (43.0 fantasy points)
Mark Andrews: 6 receptions, 95 yards (9.5 fantasy points)
Michael Pittman, Jr.: 7 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD (12.0 fantasy points)
Zack Moss: 12 carries, 33 yards; 4 receptions, 18 yards (5.1 fantasy points)
Born in Baltimore, Mike had long been drawn to sports of all kinds. Growing up watching Cal Ripken play ever day gave him a great example for which to attack every endeavor he undertakes.
When the Ravens came to town, though, that’s when Mike found his passion. Since that time, he’s tried to gain every bit of knowledge he could. Now as a high school coach, Mike is able to take his film study and appreciation of the game to a new level.
To engage with Mike on social media, follow him on Twitter @MikeFastNFL.