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Ravens at Broncos: Key matchups

What matchups are most important heading into Sunday?

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New York Jets v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Ravens (2-1) enter Week 3 on a two-game winning streak after an NFL record 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker allowed them to escape the Detroit Lions (0-3) with a narrow victory. The team will remain on the road this week as Baltimore heads to Denver to face the currently undefeated Broncos.

Von Miller vs. Patrick Mekari

Patrick Mekari has performed admirably at right tackle thus far, but he will face his biggest test yet on Sunday against future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller.

Miller missed the entirety of the 2020 season after suffering a dislocated peroneal tendon in his ankle just before the start of the season. At 32-years old, there were questions about whether the once-dominant edge rusher would return to form. So far, the answer is yes. Through three games, Miller has been one of the best defenders in the NFL with a PFF grade of 89.5 and four sacks. Baltimore cannot afford to leave Mekari one-on-one with Miller in straight passing dropbacks.

Ravens’ passing attack vs. Broncos’ secondary

Quarterback Lamar Jackson is coming off a good passing performance against Detroit Lions that was unfortunately plagued by drops from his receivers. Baltimore’s passing attack will need to be sharp this week against a strong Denver secondary. In particular, Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown must bounce back after dropping multiple passes — one or more of which were potential scores.

Broncos’ first-round rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II has been incredible thus far. Alongside Surtain, cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan will present a much tougher challenge for the Ravens’ receivers this week. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL on the backend.

Broncos’ passing weapons vs. Ravens’ secondary

On the flip side, Baltimore’s secondary will also be tested against Denver’s passing attack. Though they are without wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, the Broncos still have a litany of weapons on offense, including wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick as well as tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam.

The Ravens had several members of the secondary appear on Friday’s injury report, including cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett, Tavon Young, and safeties DeShon Elliott, Chuck Clark, and Geno Stone. Elliott and Averett were the only two that did not participate in practice in some capacity, however. Rookie safety Brandon Stephens would likely see the field in place of Elliott while veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith could replace Averett.

Teddy Bridgewater vs. The Blitz

It is no secret that defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale loves to blitz opposing quarterbacks. Through three weeks, Baltimore has blitzed on 29.1% of opposing dropbacks — seventh in the NFL. This stat is misleading, however, as Martindale dialed back his aggression in Week 2 against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is off to an impressive start to the season. One area where Denver’s new quarterback has shined is against the blitz.

Bridgewater’s efficiency could be a product of facing three of the NFL’s worst teams to start the season, but it is something worth noting nonetheless. Martindale likely won’t restrain himself this week as he did against Kansas City.