The 5-2 Ravens travel to Indianapolis this week to face the 5-2 Colts. Baltimore is looking to rebound after a close divisional loss at home. Both teams have been affected by COVID-19 this past week and the Ravens will be without All-Pro CB Marlon Humphrey because of it. In this article, I will detail five keys for a Baltimore victory over Indianapolis this Sunday.
1) Continue to run the ball
The Ravens haven’t been as dominant running the ball so far this season. That wasn’t the case last week against the Steelers, however, as they rushed for 265 yards against what was the top-ranked run defense entering that game. The Colts are the league’s best run defense now entering this week, giving up the fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
With All-Pro LT Ronnie Stanley out for the season, Baltimore’s offense would greatly benefit from rushing the ball effectively and avoiding long passing situations.
2) Disrupt the quick passing attack
Similarly to QB Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers has been getting rid of the ball quickly in the passing game this season, presenting a similar challenge to what the Ravens faced last week. The loss of Humphrey makes this an even tougher challenge this week. Baltimore must disrupt the quick passing attack and throw Rivers off rhythm by any means necessary, including clogging passing lanes and batting down passes as well as quick unblocked pressures.
3) Keep DeForest Bucker in check
While Indianapolis doesn’t present the same challenge as Pittsburgh’s pass rush did, they still have several quality players on the defensive line, most notably DT DeForest Buckner. The Colts traded a first-round pick to the 49ers in exchange for Buckner, and halfway through the season, he has proven to be worth the investment. Although he only has 2.5 sacks so far this season, Buckner is one of the league’s best pass rushers at his position and is also a huge reason for Indianapolis’ top-ranked run defense.
The Ravens remain vulnerable at right guard, with Patrick Mekari most likely starting this week in place of the injured Tyre Phillips. Buckner against Mekari would be a huge disadvantage for Baltimore, so they must pay extra attention to where Buckner is at all times and take steps to minimize his impact on every play.
4) Cut down on mistakes
The reason the Ravens lost to the Steelers, despite outperforming them in almost every statistical category, was due to the four turnovers committed by QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson hasn’t been as protective of the football this season compared to last, and that was on full display against Pittsburgh as he threw two back-breaking interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and lost two fumbles. Jackson must do a better job of seeing the field and avoiding costly turnovers.
Another reason for the loss last week was the insane amount of penalties committed by Baltimore. The Ravens committed nine penalties for 110 yards. This is a trend now for Baltimore and must be corrected in order to be top-level competition.
5) Keep track of Nyheim Hines in the passing game
RB Nyheim Hines presents a potential mismatch in the passing game for the Ravens, especially with ILB L.J. Fort expected to miss the game. Rookie ILB Patrick Queen has improved in coverage over the course of the season, but he still makes rookie mistakes and has been beaten by RBs in coverage on several occasions so far this season. Hines has 200 yards and three touchdowns through the air so far this season, so Baltimore must make it a priority to keep him in check and to tackle him immediately after the catch.