In 110 days, the Baltimore Ravens will begin their 28th season in the NFL.
Just over three months from now, after vacations have concluded, we will emerge from the hot summer months for a season of Ravens football that brings with it immense expectations. The Lamar Jackson contract saga is mercifully over, the team is built to win now, and the sense of urgency is as high as it’s been since Baltimore’s 2012 campaign.
Speaking of this summer, each week we will preview one of Baltimore’s 2023 opponents. We will take a look at what you can expect from the Ravens and their opponent given each roster’s current makeup, recent games played (last five years), pertinent film clips, and of course a prediction.
It’s clear from the outset that the Ravens have Super Bowl aspirations. All the key boxes—veteran coaching, dynamic quarterback, good offensive line, fast defenders, ball-hawking secondary, clutch kicking—are checked. As much as it depends on them, the Ravens look to be on the short list of contenders.
The second part to the equation is their opponent, and that’s where we look to now.
Week 1, Baltimore, 1:00 pm ET
2022 record: 3-13-1 (.206)
Ravens record against them since 2018: (2-0, 84-23 total score)
Key returning players: LT Laremy Tunsil, CB Derek Stingley, Jr., RB Dameon Pierce
Key draft picks: QB C.J. Stroud (Round 1, Pick 2), Will Anderson (Round 1, Pick 3)
Film clips (9/20/2020):
- 1:10-1:40 – Ravens fail to convert in the red zone with congested route concept
- 1:58-2:05 – Ravens stop Texans on 4th and 1 w/ great awareness in man coverage
- 4:25-4:35 – Texans catch Ravens ball watching on PA deep shot near midfield
- 10:45-10:55 – Ingram scores 30-yard TD to seal win for Baltimore
Analysis: When these two teams played in 2020, the Ravens got the victory, but not without navigating key issues. In the clips listed above, they made 3rd down and goal line offense much harder on themselves than they needed to. Particularly regarding protection, Baltimore broke down on 3rd downs much too often.
This time around, their protection is shored up, but they will face 3rd overall pick Will Anderson off the edge. Houston’s defensive strength lies in their secondary but rest assured Anderson will be ready to go in his first professional game. Though Anderson is a rookie, Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses need to be ready.
Much of Baltimore’s offensive identity will be defined by their ability (or lack thereof) to convert 3rd and 4th down and 2 or less. The last thing the team wants, after extending Jackson and bringing in a new offensive coordinator is to fall short in key situations and have to rely on Justin Tucker. The Texans will likely have to deploy run blitzes to neutralize the Ravens’ advantage in short yardage situations. That said, as long as the Ravens have a plan for that, they should be able to start 2023 scoring more touchdowns than field goals.
For a franchise that has done so much losing, the Texans’ acquisition of DeMeco Ryans to be their new head coach was a big win. Ryans brings with him tremendous football IQ, as well as hometown energy. He was Houston’s 2nd-round pick in 2006 and was a 2-time Pro Bowler during his decade with the Texans. He knows what they need.
Specific to this year and this matchup, there’s a lot of unknown to try and process. We’ve never seen a DeMeco Ryans staff call a game before, so we don’t know what exactly to expect. His first game will also be quarterback C.J. Stroud’s first pro game, on the road in Baltimore, no less.
On the surface, the initial thought is that the Ravens should win handily. They’re a diversely talented, veteran group playing at home. They’re a team that’s been together for a while that will be going against a dynamic, yet inexperienced, group.
Houston’s signing of tight end Dalton Schultz in the offseason gives them the capability to compete, as he’s a very good player at a position the Ravens have struggled to defend, even on their home field. However, Baltimore now has Roquan Smith and Trenton Simpson on the roster. I have to think the Ravens went after those guys to directly combat the likes of Cleveland’s David Njoku and Houston’s Schultz.
From Antonio Gates to Gary Barnidge, we’ve seen tight ends run roughshod over Ravens defenses in Baltimore. Thankfully, I think those days are over.
The biggest reason for optimism in this game is Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Zay Flowers. I know Houston’s defensive backs are young, fast, and hungry for the football, but much of winning in the NFL is knowing when to throttle down as much as when to grit your teeth. I have to think Todd Monken comes out of the corner swinging in his Baltimore debut. I see no way the Texans defense competes with Baltimore’s offense for more than a quarter.
Don’t plan on seeing a finished product in Week 1, but you should be able to enjoy the beginning stages of what Todd Monken envisioned when he took the offensive coordinator position in February.
Assuming everyone is healthy through training camp, the Ravens figure to beat the Texans handily in Week 1. They will be an overwhelming favorite, which is good for them, as four of their following five games will be played on the road.
Prediction: Ravens 34, Texans 16
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.