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Ravens News 10/1: Toughest Test and more

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Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

After traveling similar paths to NFL, Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson set to face off for first time - Aric DiLalla

“It means a lot,” Bridgewater said Wednesday of their connection. “It’s a unique bond. We’re both from South Florida — 32nd pick in the draft. [We] both have strong mothers. [We] have so much in common, and I’m happy for all the success that he’s had in his career. I’ve been following him since he got to Louisville. … It’s great that he’s made all the strides that he’s made throughout the course of his career. I’m looking forward to just watching him compete against our defense. I’ll be rooting for him, but at the same time, rooting for us to come away with the victory.”

“The first three seconds of the play necessarily won’t be the problem,” safety Justin Simmons said Wednesday. “It’s the next three, four, five, six seconds afterwards that creates a big problem for any defense. Nine times out of 10, you’ll be able to handle concepts and be able to communicate those things — especially with our defense — but it’s what he creates afterward. Then it gets to that backyard football. The receivers are so good at finding ways to get open for him, and he’s good with extending plays with his legs. If it’s not there, he can run easily for 20-, 30-, 40-plus yards to get what they need. It’s going to be a big challenge for us this week in rushing the passer and defending the pass as a secondary in general. If we’re going to win on Sunday, the defense is going to have to be extraordinary.”

Ravens DC Don ‘Wink’ Martindale expects bigger role for CB Jimmy Smith; OC Greg Roman ‘starting to get a feel’ for running backs - Jacob Calvin Meyer

“Thank god Jimmy’s back,” Martindale said about Smith. “I’m waiting for more guys to come back.”

“I think the numbers showed the job that he did with [tight end T.J.] Hockenson,” Martindale said. “He played a big role on third down for us, and that’s going to be expanded this week.”

“It feels great to be back out there,” Smith said Thursday. “I hate sitting on the sideline with an injury. Story of my career, right? It felt good to get out there, especially to get a ‘W’ and get my feet wet again.”

“[The running backs] have all been kind of learning our system,” Roman said. “The first game, [Murray and Freeman] got here a couple days before the game. We like what we see with all of them. We want to keep them fresh and ready to roll and [go with] whoever’s got the hot hand.”

Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of Week 4 trip to Denver - Luke Jones

Though Alejandro Villanueva and Patrick Mekari did a commendable job against Kansas City’s rush two weeks ago, Von Miller is a different breed and has nearly as many sacks (four) as Baltimore’s entire defense (five). The 32-year-old doesn’t look like he’s skipped a beat after last year’s ankle injury.

Greg Roman and Broncos head coach Vic Fangio were previously on the same coaching staffs for Carolina, Baltimore, Stanford, and San Francisco. That should make for quite a chess match between an offensive coordinator and defensive-minded head coach very familiar with one another.

NFL Week 4: Key matchups and storylines for all 16 games - Ben Linsey

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ DENVER BRONCOS

Matchup to watch: Ravens rushing attack vs. Broncos run defense

The Ravens roll into Denver with a potent rushing attack, averaging the second-most yards per run play (4.9) in the NFL this season. This dominance on the ground is nothing new for Baltimore. They are the only franchise to average over five yards per run play since 2019.

Sunday is their toughest test so far this season in that facet, as the Broncos have allowed an average of just 3.1 yards per run play in 2021 (sixth-lowest in the NFL). The unit is led by interior defender Dre’Mont Jones, who has collected four run stops on just 16 run-defense snaps en route to the highest run-defense grade of any interior defender in the league.

Biggest Storyline: How real has the Broncos’ undefeated start to the season been?

The Broncos have surprised this season, entering Week 4 as one of just five undefeated squads. While Denver’s three wins have come against three of the five lowest-ranked teams in PFF’s power rankings, there are a number of reasons to believe in what Vic Fangio and company are building.

Along with one of the NFL’s most complete defensive units, the Broncos can attribute a great deal of their success to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Owner of the league’s ninth-highest passing grade, Bridgewater has been accurate when pushing the ball downfield. He ranks seventh in accurate pass rate on throws 10-plus yards downfield. As the quality of competition heightens, how Bridgewater responds will almost certainly dictate the outcome of Denver’s season.

Week 4 NFL game picks: Bengals roll past Jaguars; Rams top Cardinals in battle of unbeatens - Gregg Rosenthal

Denver Broncos 23, Baltimore Ravens 21

I am so fascinated to see this game. Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens on a three-week roller coaster in which it’s been difficult to establish much about this team. The defense got back to blitzing last week in Detroit, and Baltimore could feel more confident about one-on-one matchups against Denver after K.J. Hamler joined Jerry Jeudy on the sidelines. This Broncos defense is begging to be run on. Usually, Baltimore would be up for the task. But this does not feel like that Ravens team — at least not yet.

2021 NFL Week 4 Odds, Picks: Three undefeated teams go down, Bucs thrash Pats in Belichick vs. Brady game - Will Brinson

Ravens at Broncos

The Broncos look like a legit playoff contender, with a strong roster, a great defense, a good running game and Teddy Bridgewater playing the best football maybe of his career. But — and this is a big but — all of these platitudes are borne out of Denver slapping around the Jets, Giants and Jags. That’s maybe the three worst teams in football. Baltimore is not a bad team and should be able to run on a Broncos front seven dealing with a bunch of injuries. The defensive injuries for Denver are so bad (DL, LB) against this Ravens offense. It could be a big breakout day for Mark Andrews via Lamar Jackson.

The Pick: Ravens 28, Broncos 24