Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
Receivers: Make explosive plays easier
Through two games, the Ravens’ passing game doesn’t have a big-play problem. After finishing 23rd last year in explosive-pass percentage, with 12.9% of their attempts gaining at least 16 yards, the Ravens rank tied for fourth (18.2%), according to TruMedia, behind the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders.
Still, there’s room for growth. According to NGS, the Ravens are 28th in the league in average yards after the catch (4.0), a drop-off from last year, when they finished 28th with 4.8 yards after the catch per reception. With the offense’s embrace of screens and quick hitters under Monken, the Ravens are counting on more open-field production.
Jackson’s receivers can help out downfield, too. He’s a solid 3-for-6 for 101 yards on passes of at least 20 air yards this season, but few have been open-window throws; even Flowers’ 52-yard catch Sunday was caught nearly in double coverage. Jackson’s targets on deep shots are averaging just 1.2 yards of separation from their nearest defender at the catch point, according to NGS, well below the league average (2.0 yards).
Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com
In today’s fast-paced, pass-happy, spread formation NFL, Queen and Smith are proving that you can build a great defense around two inside linebackers.
“Having two inside guys like Roquan and P.Q. can create a nightmare to go against,” said Ryan, who played 15 NFL seasons with the Falcons and Colts before becoming an analyst for CBS. Ryan worked the Ravens’ victory over the Bengals in Week 2 and watched Queen and Smith firsthand.
“Versatile inside linebackers can change the look of a defense quickly on any play. You’re never certain where Roquan and P.Q. will show up. As a quarterback, they stress you in terms of pass protection, because they can both blitz. They stress your running attack because they cover so much ground. They stress your passing game because they both drop into coverage. Watching them reminds me that it’s a lot easier watching games from the booth.”
“Why couldn’t you build a dominant defense around those two?” Tannenbaum said. “Usually cornerback and defensive end are the premium defensive positions. The inside linebacker position has changed, and there’s a definite premium now on speed. The nickelback has become more important than the third linebacker.
“But, if you have an inside linebacker who never comes off the field and can play on third down, that enhances his value tremendously. On third down, you’ve got to get your defense off the field. Those two do that.”
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
Ravens running game vs. Colts run defense
The Colts have thrived against the run, allowing opponents to average just 2.6 yards per carry. Linebacker Zaire Franklin is their top tackler and a very good complement to Leonard in the middle. Buckner and 314-pound Grover Stewart are standouts on the interior. The Colts gave Texans running back Dameon Pierce (15 carries for 31 yards) little to work with, though Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne was more effective against them in the opener. They have yet to face a quarterback running threat of Jackson’s caliber.
Colts running game vs. Ravens run defense
This is where Richardson’s status will make the biggest difference. The rookie has already established himself as a significant running threat with 13 carries for 75 yards and three touchdowns. Steichen was adept at scheming up runs for Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia, so he and Richardson could form an ideal pairing. With Richardson out against the Texans, the Colts turned to running back Zack Moss, who’s filling in for injured superstar Jonathan Taylor. Moss responded with 88 yards on 18 carries.
The Ravens couldn’t feel much better after they overcame a cluster of injuries to win in Cincinnati. This could be a trap game sandwiched between important AFC North road trips. But the Colts will start either a rookie or backup at quarterback and don’t have the playmakers to keep up if the Ravens build on their strong offensive performance against the Bengals. Ravens 31, Colts 20
Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer
The rhythm that Lamar Jackson played with last week against the Bengals just felt different than what we’ve seen in the past from him. Jackson’s success rate in Week 2 was better than it was in all but one game in 2022. That’s a really encouraging sign if you’re a Ravens fan. I thought their offense would go through some growing pains in the first half of the season before hitting its stride late. But if last week was any indication, the learning curve under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken might not be that steep.
The Colts had a nice win last week, but rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol as of this writing. If he can’t go, it’ll be backup Gardner Minshew.
We’re only two weeks in, but I have to admit I’m buying the Ravens as a Super Bowl sleeper in the AFC. They theoretically should be able to win in a bunch of different ways. I think they take care of business here.
The pick: Ravens (-7.5)
Vic Tafur, The Athletic
This number is going down even though Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson remains in the concussion protocol. What, everybody loves Gardner Minshew against the Ravens defense? The Colts run defense, though impressive in the first two games, is supposed to inspire me? Lamar Jackson was hitting on deep passes and looked a lot more comfortable in the new offense than he did in the opener, and that’s good enough for me.
The pick: Ravens