With the Ravens aiming to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2016 as they host Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. With seven starters missing the entire practice week, injuries continue to be a story despite a strong start. It’s a credit to the likes of Geno Stone and Patrick Mekari that Baltimore hasn’t missed a beat, but you’d prefer not testing your depth so hard this early.
2. We’ll see whether Kenyan Drake picks up Todd Monken’s offense quickly enough to be elevated for Sunday’s game, but his skills more closely resemble those of the injured Justice Hill to complement Gus Edwards. It doesn’t hurt that Drake spent the preseason with Indianapolis and can offer some intel.
3. Ar’Darius Washington landing on injured reserve renews questions about the nickel spot. Mike Macdonald expressed confidence in Arthur Maulet “if and when his opportunity comes along,” but he’s yet to be active. Kyle Hamilton moving to the nickel — with Daryl Worley serving as the third safety — wouldn’t be surprising.
4. Indianapolis rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson remains in the concussion protocol, opening the door for Gardner Minshew to start after he played well off the bench in Houston last week. Though not the same running threat, Minshew is a quality backup and got the ball out quickly and efficiently.
5. Last week, Lamar Jackson threw for 200 yards and rushed for 50 yards for the 22nd time in his career, which trails only Cam Newton (28) and Russell Wilson (25) for the most career “200-50” games. We should just rename that accomplishment a “Lamar Jackson” at some point.
6. Jackson must deal with a strong Indianapolis front seven that includes standout defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart and a healthy Shaquille Leonard at linebacker. In other words, this week won’t be any easier for an undermanned offensive line that performed so well in Cincinnati.
7. On the flip side, the Colts offensive line may be without three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly, who is also in the concussion protocol. That underrated group also includes perennial Pro Bowl left guard Quenton Nelson, but not having Kelly could spell trouble for a backup quarterback on the road.
8. Despite injuries in the secondary and at outside linebacker, Macdonald has this Ravens defense playing at a high level, especially to start games. Baltimore has allowed just 23 yards in the opening quarter this season. Of course, pointing that out probably guarantees an Indianapolis touchdown drive to open Sunday’s action.
9. With more focus on veterans like Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin, Brandon Stephens played 100% of the snaps at cornerback and did a fine job covering Ja’Marr Chase last week. Not bad for someone who wasn’t even practicing as an outside corner until injuries began piling up in August.
10. Rashod Bateman is off to a quiet start, but he has caught all six of his targets and saw a higher snap count and route participation rate in the wake of Odell Beckham’s exit last Sunday. The third-year wideout breaking out wouldn’t be surprising, especially against an underwhelming Indianapolis secondary.
11. Two weeks is a small sample, but it’s still strange seeing Baltimore rank dead last in special teams DVOA. Allowing a punt return touchdown will do that, but special teams also committed three penalties in Week 1. Given John Harbaugh’s background, it was a long week for Chris Horton’s group.
12. When did buzz for the Colts coming to town fade to the point that it’s barely even mentioned? I’d say Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis departure played a major part in the fizzle, but this was always inevitable with the Ravens now being in Baltimore nearly as long as the Colts were.
Prediction: Indianapolis showed marked improvement under new head coach Shane Steichen in Week 2 and the potential impact of a tropical storm is something else to monitor, but the Colts lack the skill talent on offense or defense to seriously threaten an upset in Baltimore. It’s fair to wonder how the banged-up Ravens will respond on the heels of an emotional AFC North road win, but playing at home would help offset a slow start. The Indianapolis front seven is more than capable of creating problems after Jackson and the offense were nearly flawless in Cincinnati last week, but even at less than full strength, Baltimore is the better team and too talented for the Colts to handle for a full 60 minutes. The Ravens will beat Indianapolis for the fourth straight time to remain undefeated with a 24-13 win.