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Ravens at Lions: Key matchups

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NFL: SEP 12 49ers at Lions Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Ravens pulled off an incredible upset win over the Chiefs in Week 2, despite being ravaged by injuries in recent weeks. After such a thrilling victory, Baltimore must not fall victim to the classic “trap game” this week as they head to Detroit to face the 0-2 Lions.

In this article, I will go over some of the key matchups to keep an eye on in Sunday’s game.

T.J. Hockenson vs. defensive backs and linebackers

After facing Darren Waller and Travis Kelce, the gauntlet of facing top-end tight ends will continue in Week 3 for the Ravens. Third-year tight end T.J. Hockenson has become one of the league’s better players at the position and is the focal point of Detroit’s passing attack this season.

Baltimore allowed over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown to both Waller and Kelce in back-to-back weeks. Through two games, Hockenson currently has 163 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions.

The Ravens used a combination of methods against both Waller and Kelce, including jamming him at the line with linebackers and even using cornerback Marlon Humphrey in man coverage. They will need to do so again this week in order to neutralize quarterback Jared Goff’s favorite target.

Odafe Oweh vs. Penei Sewell and Matt Nelson

With the news that several Baltimore defenders will miss Sunday’s game due being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including outside linebackers Justin Houston and Jaylon Ferguson along with defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike, the Ravens’ pass rush will be without several key pieces.

Rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh has been one of the major talking points surrounding Baltimore through the first two games. The athletic edge rusher has made play after play — including the game-saving forced fumble and recovery against running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire against Kansas City. This helped earn him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors a few days ago.

Oweh will face another impressive first-round rookie this week in the form of Lions’ left tackle Penei Sewell. With Houston out, Oweh will be needed even more in the pass rush. Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale could also move Oweh to the other side of the line to take advantage of right tackle Matt Nelson. Through two weeks, Sewell has a PFF grade of 71.0 while Nelson sits at a 45.7 grade.

Ravens’ defensive line vs. Lions’ rushing attack

Without Williams and Madubuike for Sunday’s game, as well as Derek Wolfe who is still dealing with a back injury, the Ravens are incredibly thin along the defensive line. Calais Campbell, Justin Ellis, and Broderick Washington are the only defensive linemen on the active roster that are set to play against Detroit.

Baltimore can call up players from the practice squad to fill in on gameday, but expect a heavy workload from the aforementioned three players against a good Detroit offensive line. Frank Ragnow is one of the NFL’s best centers and without Williams at nose tackle on defense, he will be looking to pave the way for running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams.

Ravens’ wide receivers vs. Lions’ cornerbacks

Just as the Ravens are thin on the defensive line, the Lions are thin at the cornerback position heading into Sunday’s matchup.

After losing starting cornerback Jeff Okudah for the season with a torn Achilles in Week 1, Detroit also placed cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu on injured reserve following a quadriceps injury suffered in Week 2 against the Packers. The Lions are now left with a cornerback room consisting of Amani Oruwariye, AJ Parker, Bobby Price, Jerry Jacobs, and Corey Ballentine. Nickell Robey-Coleman, Parnell Motley, and Daryl Worley are all on the practice squad and are eligible to be called up on gameday.

This mismatch of talent presents a big opportunity for wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Brown has started the season off strong, totaling 182 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions through the first two weeks. Veteran Sammy Watkins has already made an impact as well after being signed this offseason, totaling 140 receiving yards on eight receptions.