Last Sunday, the Ravens went on the road and beat a Cincinnati Bengals team widely considered a Super Bowl contender. This Sunday, the Ravens come back to Baltimore as touchdown favorites over a rebuilding Indianapolis Colts team preparing to start its backup quarterback.

Easy work, right?

“Anytime you want to accomplish a goal as a team, you can’t get complacent,” Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen recalled telling teammates this week. “Be your biggest critic. Don’t get complacent. The things that you’re good at, be great at. The things that you need to work on, improve on, and just strive for excellence.”

With injuries mounting on offense and defense, the Ravens would be happy to notch their fourth straight win over Indianapolis and first 3-0 start since 2016. Here’s what to watch in their Week 3 matchup.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

1. When the Ravens’ schedule was revealed in May, their Week 3 game against the rebuilding Colts did not register as especially important. But the quarterback matchup? At least that was intriguing.

Over five-plus seasons, Lamar Jackson has been arguably the most athletic quarterback in every game he’s played. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has otherworldly passing ability and nifty mobility, but he lacks Jackson’s open-field dynamism. The Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen has a golden arm and brute-force power, but he ran only a 4.75-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. The Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields has impressive arm strength and speed, but neither translates as functionally as Jackson’s natural gifts.

In Anthony Richardson, the Colts’ No. 4 overall pick, Jackson was set to meet his athletic match. In some respects, he might’ve even been overmatched. After running the 40 in 4.43 seconds and posting a vertical leap of 40.5 inches at the NFL combine in March, the 6-foot-4, 244-pound Richardson graded out as the most athletic quarterback prospect in modern NFL history, according to his Relative Athletic Score. (Jackson did not participate in combine workouts when he went through the predraft process in 2018.)

View post on Twitter

But after two promising starts by Richardson — four total touchdowns, better-than-expected accuracy (63.8%) — a showdown between Jackson and “Cam Jackson” will have to wait. Indianapolis has ruled Richardson out.

2. Jackson and the Ravens, if their pass protection holds up, should have a clear advantage over an underwhelming Colts secondary that’s allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (28th in the NFL) and a 5.1% touchdown rate (25th).

The Ravens’ secondary should have the upper hand on a Gardner Minshew-led passing attack, too. But they’ll have to make Indianapolis uncomfortable in a way that Houston could not after Richardson’s first-half exit.

Minshew, one of the NFL’s best backup quarterbacks, went 19-for-23 (82.6%) for 171 yards and a touchdown Sunday. He was accurate when he had a clean pocket (12-for-13 for 68 yards and a touchdown) and dangerous when he was pressured, too (7-for-10 for 103 yards).

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Rarely, though, did Minshew look downfield. Much like Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow in Week 2, he focused primarily on quick-strike targets, throwing just four passes of at least 10 air yards and completing three.

View post on Twitter

If the Ravens can limit Indianapolis’ success on screens and run-pass options, Minshew could be forced into a more aggressive approach. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald probably wouldn’t mind. The Texans’ C.J. Stroud and Bengals’ Burrow went a combined 9-for-24 for 142 yards and an interception on intermediate and deep throws against the Ravens, averaging a poor minus-0.26 expected points added per drop-back, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

3. With injuries along their offensive line and in their backfield, the Ravens didn’t seem equipped to run wild against the Bengals. And yet they did, finishing with 178 yards and 4.8 yards per carry.

Lamar Jackson hands off to running back Gus Edwards in the opening game of the season. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Now comes another stiff test — probably a tougher one, too. The Colts lead the NFL in yards per carry allowed (2.6) and rank behind only the Cleveland Browns in yards allowed before contact per attempt (0.28), according to TruMedia. They’ve stopped nearly a third of opponents’ carries for no gain or negative yardage.

Their schedule has certainly helped. According to Pro Football Focus, Indianapolis has faced two of the NFL’s four worst offensive lines: the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Texans. Houston was missing four of five projected starters in its 31-20 loss Sunday, when it averaged a whopping 2 yards per carry on 26 attempts.

Still, the Colts’ defensive front is rock solid. Starting defensive end Kwity Paye and reserve end Dayo Odeyingbo rank first and ninth among edge rushers in ESPN’s run stop win rate, while tackle Grover Stewart leads all interior defensive linemen in PFF’s run defense grade. DeForest Buckner is one of the NFL’s most productive interior pass rushers.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“The two tackles are two of the best in the league,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday, calling Indianapolis’ front “outstanding.”

They make life easy for a strong linebacking corps. Shaquille Leonard, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is healthy after an injury-shortened 2021. Next to him are Zaire Franklin, who leads the NFL with 30 tackles, and E.J. Speed, whose three tackles for loss are tied for the team high.

4. By the end of Sunday’s game, the Ravens should have a pretty good idea of cornerback Arthur Maulet’s fit in their defense.

The Colts have lined up in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) on 76% of their offensive snaps this season, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. The Ravens typically match three-receiver sets with nickel personnel: four defenders at the line of scrimmage, two off-ball linebackers and five defensive backs.

Brandon Stephens is a sure-thing starter at one outside-cornerback spot. Rock Ya-Sin and Ronald Darby could continue their rotation at the other. But with nickel back Ar’Darius Washington’s chest injury relegating him to injured reserve, Maulet is the likely replacement inside.

The late-July signing missed a couple of weeks in training camp with a hamstring injury and was a healthy scratch in the Ravens’ first two games. Now Maulet could be as busy as he was for stretches last season, when he played over 60% of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive snaps in seven games.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I haven’t seen anything different than what we saw when we wanted to sign him versus when he first got here,” Macdonald said Thursday of Maulet. “Obviously, he had the setback during camp, but he’s right there. If and when his opportunity comes along, just like [safety] Geno [Stone] last week, let’s roll. Very confident in him coming in and doing a great job when asked.”

5. Sunday’s game could be a wet one. As of Thursday night, steady rainfall was expected to arrive in the Baltimore area starting late Friday or early Saturday, and it’s not expected to taper off until Sunday afternoon.

That could pose a challenge to both teams’ offenses. According to TruMedia, Jackon has started five games in his career with rainy conditions at kickoff, winning four. But he’s completed just 54% of his passes with seven touchdowns and three interceptions, registering an 82.7 passer rating. As a runner in the rain, he’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns, but he’s also fumbled four times, losing two.

Minshew has less experience in wet conditions. The one rainy game he’s started was just the second start of his career. Four years ago, in a 20-7 win for the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Tennessee Titans, Minshew went 20-for-30 for 204 yards and two touchdowns and added four carries for 18 yards.

jonas.shaffer@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

More From The Banner