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Ravens News 10/3: Best team in the AFC, First quarter grades and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

First-quarter grades: Ravens offense gearing up, defense solid - Mike Preston

Receivers

Few people, even the coaches, knew what to expect from this group. Brown, Willie Snead IV and Michael Crabtree were all new to the team, but they were also hungry in trying to prove they could play in this league again. Brown has been the biggest surprise with 15 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He has shown he is more than just a vertical threat. Snead has 18 catches for 198 yards, and comes up with a clutch catches in crucial situations. Crabtree has 18 catches for 184 yards but has dropped several passes. The Ravens have gotten good production out of backup tight ends Maxx Williams and Mark Andrews. They aren’t big, flashy players, but they find holes in defenses and punish opposing tacklers. Grade: A-

Secondary

There was expected to be some drop-off in play when Smith was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating league policy. The Ravens struggled against Cincinnati, but have rebounded well against the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh. The Ravens might be playing more press coverage than any other team in the NFL, so that means they have two physical ones in starters Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey. Carr played extremely well against the Steelers on Sunday night. Cornerback Tavon Young has had occasional lapses but has been a key player in nickel coverage. Tony Jefferson is playing more like a strong safety and leads the team in tackles with 24. Free safety Eric Weddle has 16, and even though he is more of a strong safety, he has done well wrapping up players after catches. Anthony Levine Sr. is the hybrid safety-linebacker who can cover a tight end or running back close to the line of scrimmage. Grade: A-

Preston graded Joe Flacco’s performance through four weeks as an A. Besides the first half of Week 2, Flacco has been nearly flawless this season.

Ravens To Collins: Just Do Not Drop That Ball - Jeff Seidel

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is aware of Collins and his fumbling issues. Collins fumbled eight times in just over two seasons in the NFL and lost five of them. That’s not unheard of as Adrian Peterson fumbled 20 times and lost 13 of them in his first three complete seasons.

Peterson eventually got a handle on things, so to speak, which is what Harbaugh wants to see from Collins.

”One thing about Alex is his style lends itself to that a little bit, and I think that’s been kind of an issue through his entire career, because he’s such an elusive guy,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “And, he tries so hard to make big plays all the time, and it’s why he gets yards. It’s one of the reasons. He runs very hard, but sometimes you expose the football when you do that. Yes, fumbling is always troublesome, and it’s just … You can’t have it, and it’s not worth it.”

Harbaugh said he has no doubt that Collins, who has run well in tough situations during his two seasons with the Ravens, will be very careful about not fumbling.

”He’ll focus on it,” Harbaugh said. “One thing I know about Alex is he’ll make it his job No. 1 to hold on to the football, and he knows that’s the expectation.”

Despite Harbaugh’s confidence that Alex Collins will correct his fumbling issues, expect Buck Allen to shoulder most high leverage touches going forward.

Week 4 NFL Team of the Week - Gordon McGuinness

FLEX DEFENSE

Anthony Levine Sr., Baltimore Ravens – 93.8

Normally our FLEX spot goes to a cornerback, but this week it is Levine who gets the honors after coming up with a huge play for the Ravens defense on Sunday Night Football. Live often plays in a linebacker/strong safety role in the Ravens defense. It was from here where he effectively sealed the game on Sunday night, dropping into coverage from his spot next to C.J. Mosley and picking off the Ben Roethlisberger pass.

PUNTER

Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens – 74.1

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense got a lot of the credit, but punter Sam Koch was key too, putting the Steelers offense in tough positions. Three of his four punts landed inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line and his punts yielded just three return yards.

It was a genuine team win in Pittsburgh.

Debrief, Week 4: Handing out 2018 NFL first-quarter award - Gregg Rosenthal

The best team in the AFC award: Baltimore Ravens.

Style points are silly to argue about at this time of season. A case could be made for the Chiefs, Jaguars, Titans or even the Bengals as the AFC’s best thus far, but the Ravens are the most complete team. The defense is greater than the sum of its parts, with second-year cornerback Marlon Humphrey making the leap backed by a terrific safety tandem in Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. They may be the toughest team to pass on in football, and that was before cornerback Jimmy Smith returns from suspension this week.

The offense is versatile, with Joe Flacco playing better than he has in at least four years. The expected return of first-round tight end Hayden Hurst next week adds to the number of weapons Flacco can dial up on any given play. The Saints could really use slot receiver Willie Snead. The Cardinals could really use deep threat John Brown. The Raiders could use Michael Crabtree. It appears that outgoing general manager Ozzie Newsome finally found the right mix of pass catchers, just in time to ensure that coach John Harbaugh gets off the hot seat.

The Ravens are one of only two teams with a top rated scoring offense (5th) and scoring defense (3rd). The other team is the Super Bowl favorite Rams.