Kevin Eck Ravens Are Unanimous Pick to Beat Colts
With the Ravens one of only two undefeated teams in the AFC and hosting a young Indianapolis Colts team, it's not surprising that all 55 pundits we looked at predicted a Baltimore victory in Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens (2-0) are 7.5-point favorites, but to quote Elvis (Presley, not Grbac), could they be caught in a trap (game)?
It's a logical question considering the emotional high the Ravens are on after last week's impressive road win over the two-time defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals, not to mention the any-given-Sunday volatility of the NFL.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked this week if he addressed the team about avoiding a letdown.
"I've never used that word. I'm not even sure how it applies, really, in that sense," Harbaugh said. "I think we have a mutual understanding right now - a vision - for how we want to approach wins and losses and everything else in between. We talk about that. It's not just all of a sudden we have to come up and say, 'Hey, we won a game. Now what?'
"It's one week at a time. You have to be 1-0 every week, and that's what we're trying to do - really 1-0 every day, 1-0 every drill, period, play. That's what we shoot for."
The Colts (1-1) are coming off a victory over the Houston Texans. In Week 1, they held a lead late in the fourth quarter over Jacksonville before the Jaguars rallied for the victory.
First-round quarterback Anthony Richardson has gotten off to a good start, but he suffered a concussion in the Texans game and has not practiced this week. Veteran Gardner Minshew, who played well in relief of Richardson last week, will get the start if Richardson is unavailable.
Here's what the pundits are saying about Sunday's game:
The Ravens will show why they're a Super Bowl contender.
The Ringer's Sheil Kapadia: "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."
Lamar Jackson will pick up where he left off last week.
The Baltimore Banner's Aron Yohannes: "Even with the injuries the Ravens have on both sides of the ball, they still have their most important player: Lamar Jackson. After a rusty start in Week 1, Jackson made everything go in Week 2. The Colts' defensive front is loaded and should give this offensive line a few challenges, but I don't see any reason for Jackson to regress."
The Ravens defense will thrive in a convincing win.
USA Today's Jordan Mendoza: "The Colts offense looks promising with Anthony Richardson, but it will be tough to compete against Baltimore if he's unavailable. The Ravens defense makes it tough for Indianapolis and has a dominant home win."
The Ravens will win regardless of whether it's Richardson or Minshew under center.
The Baltimore Sun's Tim Schwartz: "The Ravens have feasted on rookie quarterbacks over the years, but it could be the scrappy Gardner Minshew under center for the Colts. It won't matter who is starting because there is a significant talent discrepancy between these teams. Even without Justice Hill or Odell Beckham Jr., assuming he misses the game with an ankle injury we don't know much about, Baltimore's offense has proved it's capable of a balanced, big-play attack. Lamar Jackson is too good and too locked in to lose to these Colts."
The Colts will keep it close.
Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski: "With or without Richardson, who's currently in the league's concussion protocol, Baltimore should expect a heavy dosage of Zack Moss. Moss isn't Jonathan Taylor, of course. But he helped turn a horrific running approach in Week 1 into an effective one. If Gardner Minshew is in the lineup, the veteran backup will dink and dunk his way to a few long drives and enough points to keep this within a one-score game."
Storyline to watch: Jackson vs. Colts pass rush.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley: "Indianapolis ranks second in the AFC with eight sacks, including six last Sunday against the Texans. Last week, Jackson wasn't sacked for the first time since September 2022 and faced a career-low 9.1% pressure rate, despite missing injured starting center Tyler Linderbaum and left tackle Ronnie Stanley."
Bold prediction: The Colts will hold the Ravens to fewer than 75 rushing yards despite Baltimore's average of 144 yards through two games.
ESPN's Stephen Holder: "The Colts rank first in rushing defense, allowing just 2.6 yards per carry entering Week 3. That's not to say Jackson can't beat the Colts through the air. But an effective performance against the run will make Baltimore's offense a bit more one-dimensional and easier to defend."
Pundits Praise Coordinators Todd Monken and Mike Macdonald
The Ravens' new-look offense took a big step forward in Week 2 and the defense has been solid in both games. The Ringer's Kapadia and Ben Solak gave credit to Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald for their units' performances.
"Monken is so good, so impressive over the course of his career - and we're already seeing this with the Ravens at saying, 'What exactly do we do well? And we're going to make sure we get it done,'" Solak said on "The Ringer NFL Show." "We have ways to scheme a touch to Zay Flowers. We have ways to get Odell Beckham Jr. isolated. We have ways to make the running game work without putting Lamar in jeopardy.
"The offense makes sense. And they've gone up against [Texans Head Coach] DeMeco Ryans and [Bengals Defensive Coordinator] Lou Anarumo They've seen two very different defensive approaches and good defensive game-planners, and they've come out on top with successful passing performances."
Kapadia added: "I said before the season I expect this Ravens offense, once we get to Thanksgiving we're going to be saying to watch out for them down the stretch. I thought it was going to be bumpy in September, October. If they're doing this in Week 2 against a good defense, if you're a Ravens fan you're thrilled with this development. ... Again, to do that in Week 2 with this new offense, with new wide receivers, to rush for 178 and not give up a sack when you're down your left tackle and your center, that is really impressive."
Regarding Macdonald and the defense, Solak said: "They let a good defensive coordinator go in Wink Martindale to bring in a guy in Mike Macdonald who ran a different defense, a different philosophy. The goal - this hasn't been explicitly said but I'm positive it's the case - was that if we live on blitzes we're going to lose to [Bengals quarterback Joe] Burrow every single time, this guy who's in our division and we have to play twice a year and we have to beat him, but we're not going to because he's going to carve us up.
"Mike Macdonald has coached four games against Joe Burrow's Bengals. If you took Burrow's numbers against the Ravens and marked them against Burrow's numbers against every other defense that he's faced, he would've been ninth in EPA per dropback against non-Ravens opponents, 31st against the Ravens; fifth in success rate to 40th; 23rd in explosive-play percentage to 44th. Mike Macdonald's got his number."
Kapadia noted that like the Ravens offense, the defense is playing well under Macdonald despite missing key starters such as cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams.
How the Ravens Offense Can Stay Ahead of Defenses
While the Ravens offense is ahead of schedule, The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer said it's too early to draw conclusions. He pointed out potential pitfalls and how the unit can stay on track.
Here are some excerpts:
Running backs: Stay healthy.
"Easier said than done, right? J.K. Dobbins suffered his second season-ending injury in three years in Week 1 when he tore his Achilles tendon. Keaton Mitchell is out until at least Week 5 with a preseason shoulder injury. Now Justice Hill is dealing with a toe injury that could keep him out of Sunday's game. Edwards maintained throughout the preseason, and again after practice Wednesday, that he's playing at full strength, but the Ravens will need to be careful not to wear him down."
Offensive line: Keep the pressure off Jackson.
"The Ravens' pass protection in Cincinnati was a master class, and all the more remarkable considering the offensive line was without injured left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum. Jackson took no sacks, was hit on just one drop-back and faced a career-low 9.1% pressure rate, according to Next Gen Stats.
"Every quarterback fares better with a clean pocket, and the difference for Jackson has been stark over his career. When pressured, he has a passer rating of 77.9, a success rate of 35.5% and an EPA per drop-back of minus-0.24, according to NGS - worse efficiency levels than the New York Jets' Zach Wilson this year. When not pressured, Jackson has a passer rating of 104.8, a success rate of 54.3% and an EPA per drop-back of 0.29 - close to his efficiency levels during his NFL Most Valuable Player season in 2019."