The Ravens roller coaster 2018 season will continue when the undefeated Broncos travel to Baltimore in Week 3. It will be Denver’s first road test following comeback wins over Seattle and Oakland. This early season contest could eventually have AFC postseason implications.
The Broncos have won both meetings since the Ravens epic 2012 divisional round marathon victory and lead the all-time series 7-6. Denver is 1-5 as a medium sized underdog and 5-11 on the road since 2016. Over the same span, Baltimore is 7-3 as a medium sized favorite and 12-5 at home. Both teams have fared well early in the season recently with a combined 13-3 September record.
After a letdown in Week 2, and coming off a mini-bye, this is an important home game for the Ravens. Despite being forced to play shorthanded due to several impactful injuries, Baltimore can right the ship by prevailing in these five key matchups:
RT James Hurst vs OLB Von Miller
The Ravens could possibly reconfigure their line before the game. However, blocking Von Miller would be an arduous task for rookie tackle Orlando Brown. The much maligned Hurst was arguably Baltimore’s best lineman against Cincinnati.
After allowing a handful of pressures to Carlos Dunlap, Hurst’s assignment will not be any easier this week. The perennial All-Pro Miller has not shown any signs of slowing down, he has already notched four sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in 2018. With Bradley Chubb and Shaq Barrett rushing off the opposite edge, the Ravens must give both of their tackles plenty of help in order to give Joe Flacco a chance to push the ball downfield.
CB Tavon Young vs WR Emmanuel Sanders
In his second game back from a torn ACL, Young predictably struggled to cover A.J. Green in the red zone last week. More concerning were his difficulties marking Tyler Boyd. However, with Jimmy Smith still suspended and Maurice Canady injured, Tavon is probably still the best option to man the slot.
Sanders could do some damage against the the Ravens defense. The emergence of rookie Courtland Sutton across from Demaryius Thomas has allowed the veteran to find mismatches on the interior. Through the first two weeks of the season, Manny has amassed 231 yards and a score on 14 receptions.
RB Alex Collins vs ILB Todd Davis
Due mostly to game script, Collins has received only 16 rushing attempts this season. Fortunately, he has improved as a receiver, averaging over 15-yards per catch in 2018. Alex’s extraordinary tackle breaking ability will challenge Denver at the second level.
Late blooming linebacker Todd Davis currently leads Denver in tackles and was recently promoted to defensive captain. Better against the run than the pass, Baltimore can find success in the short passing game by isolating Collins and Buck Allen on Davis. If coordinator Mornhinweg is able to keep the Broncos off-balance with his playcalling, this matchup favors the Ravens.
ILB Kenny Young vs RB Phillip Lindsay
Kenny Young finally saw extensive playing time with the starters after C.J. Mosley was sidelined last Thursday. The rookie did not disappoint, racking up seven tackles, one tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and contested several passes in coverage. With Eric Weddle expected to relay the play calls, coordinator Martindale should use Young as the Ravens three-down ‘backer against Denver.
Undrafted rookie Lindsay has stolen the spotlight from fellow rookie Royce Freeman. He has eclipsed 100 all-purpose yards in each of his first two games and is a dynamic playmaker both on the ground and after the catch. Assuming the Ravens can force the Broncos into passing situations, Lindsay will be featured, but Young’s speed gives Baltimore the means to counteract the scatback.
WR Willie Snead vs CB Chris Harris
Snead followed up his impressive debut by hauling in five of eight targets for 54 yards against Cincinnati’s rugged defense. If the Broncos roll coverage to Baltimore’s top playmaker John Brown, Snead will be heavily relied upon. His ability to create quick separation and maximize yards after the catch will be crucial against Denver’s top-5 pass rush.
Harris has earned a reputation as perhaps the best slot corner in the game today. The multi-time Pro Bowler brings the skills to limit most slot receivers. Most of Amari Cooper’s 10 catches for 116 yards last week came against Adam Jones and Tramaine Brock, but Harris did allow a 20-yard touchdown reception to Seth Roberts. The battle in the slot will loom large on third down.