With the Ravens hoping to move to 6-2 in a challenging Week 9 trip to Indianapolis, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Though the term “adversity” is overused in sports, the Ravens are coming off a defeat to their biggest rival, lost their second-best offensive player for the season, won’t have their best defensive player, and were without almost half of their defense at practices all week. I’d say that qualifies.
2. We’ll see another clash between two strong defenses, but their styles couldn’t be much different. While the Ravens own the NFL’s highest blitz rate at 44.9 percent, the Colts rank 29th at 18.8 percent, per Pro Football Reference. Baltimore is fourth in pressure rate and Indianapolis ranks 10th.
3. Per SharpFootballStats.com, Pittsburgh had used four wide receivers on just four plays over its first six games before having some success spreading the Ravens defense out. The Colts have used a four-wide set twice all year, but it’s a copycat league. Indianapolis doesn’t have the same receiver talent, however.
4. Colts running back Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor have combined to make 44 receptions for 371 yards this season while three Baltimore inside linebackers have missed the entire week of practice. Those matchups will definitely be something to watch.
5. After encountering Ben Roethlisberger’s quickest time to throw in the NFL, the Ravens face Philip Rivers, whom Next Gen Stats tracks as the fourth quickest. Indianapolis ranks 20th in third-down offense, but Rivers’ third-down passes with six to nine yards to go are converting at a league-best 70 percent.
6. Performances like last week’s career-worst four turnovers have been extremely rare for Lamar Jackson, but Pro Football Focus has tracked him as already having 12 turnover-worthy plays this season after just nine all last year. He needs to take better care of the football.
7. Acknowledging that, I wish we’d move away from making every game a referendum on a 23-year-old who’s a joy to watch. In the same way last season didn’t mean he’s destined to be the greatest of all time, his 2020 struggles do not mean his critics were right all along.
8. As Greg Roman said, there’s “no silver lining” losing Ronnie Stanley, but Baltimore has the chance to again impose its will against a strong run defense. Surrendering just 3.4 yards per carry, Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard and the Colts will have their first real look at this Jackson-led offense.
9. Seeing how much trouble Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt gave the Ravens doesn’t inspire confidence in the interior line’s ability to handle Indianapolis defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The former San Francisco 49er has made a big difference for that front.
10. With some special-teams contributors among those forced to isolate this week, the Ravens cannot allow Hines — the Indianapolis punt returner — or kick returner Isaiah Rodgers to burn them. Colts special teams have been sound, and a lapse there is a recipe for the nine-game road win streak to be snapped.
11. The Ravens have rushed for at least 200 yards 16 times in their last 30 games, the most over a 30-game span since Philadelphia had 16 from 1948-51. That’s a great note from the team’s public relations staff and another reminder not to take this unique era for granted.
12. It struck me how there’s been no buzz about playing the Colts beyond acknowledging Indianapolis as a formidable opponent. We haven’t forgotten and won’t “get over it,” but that void has been filled by something special these last 25 years. Robert Irsay’s move came 13 years before Jackson was born.