In this article, I will detail key matchups to watch for Monday night’s game.
Mo Alie-Cox vs Ravens’ safeties and linebackers
The Ravens have had mixed results against opposing tight ends so far this season, giving up 336 yards and three touchdowns against tight ends through four games. Both Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs had success against Baltimore in back-to-back weeks to start the season. Since then, though, the Ravens were able to contain T.J. Hockenson of the Detroit Lions and Noah Fant of the Denver Broncos. Mo Alie-Cox presents another challenging test this week.
At 6-foot-6, Alie-Cox is a tough coverage assignment for both safeties and linebackers with his ability to go up for passes, particularly in the red zone, where he scored two touchdowns last week.
Wentz throws it up to Mo Alie-Cox for their second TD connection! #ForTheShoe
— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2021
Safety Chuck Clark is off to a strong start this season for Baltimore and could see his name called against Alie-Cox on Monday. The Ravens cannot afford to leave any inside linebackers in man coverage against Alie-Cox, as coverage continues to be a weakness for the unit.
Nyheim Hines vs. Ravens’ linebackers
On the topic of linebacker coverage, Baltimore’s linebackers will have their hands full with running back Nyheim Hines in the passing attack against the Colts.
While Jonathan Taylor is the team’s lead running back, Hines is a weapon as a pass-catcher. The Ravens had their issues with pass-catching running backs, most notably against De’Andre Swift in Week 3 against the Lions. Swift had 107 total yards with 60 coming through the air against Baltimore.
Screens and other quick passes to Hines against the Ravens’ blitzes should be expected.
Carson Wentz vs. the blitz
As usual, expect defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to bring the house on blitzes this week. According to pro-football-reference, through four games, Baltimore has blitzed on 32.9% of plays — fifth-most in the NFL. This number is slightly misleading, however, as Martindale dialed back the blitz against quarterback Patrick Mahomes against the Chiefs — blitzing only 12.9% of the time according to Next Gen Stats.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has faired well against the blitz in his three games played so far this season. However, his average time to throw of 2.88 seconds — ninth-highest in the NFL according to Next Gen Stats — could make life easier for the Ravens rush to get home, especially with the injuries Indianapolis is currently dealing with along the offensive line.
With the Colts facing the most blitz-heavy defense this week, I charted Carson Wentz vs the blitz through the first 3 games (excluding PA and screens):
10-18 for 102 yards (5.6 YPA) and 2 TDs. 3 sacks on 21 dropbacks
Avoiding mistakes but could be quicker with his hot reads
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 4, 2021
Ravens’ edge rushers vs Colts’ offensive tackles
On paper, Baltimore should have a massive advantage in the pass rush. The Ravens’ edge rushers made life difficult for both Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock last week against the Broncos, with the unit totaling four sacks. The Colts are without starting right tackle Braden Smith and veteran left tackle Eric Fisher has struggled in his return from a torn Achilles.
Indianapolis has rotated between Julien Davenport and Matt Pryor at right tackle in Smith’s absence. Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, and Tyus Bowser should have favorable matchups against any of the aforementioned tackles when rushing the passer. Oweh in particular has flashed early as a rookie, notching two sacks and demonstrating deadly speed with 10 pressures on the season.
Baltimore’s deep passing attack vs Indianapolis’ secondary
Baltimore’s offense has undergone a transformation following the injuries to running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Instead of boasting the best rushing attack in the NFL, like they usually have in the Lamar Jackson-Greg Roman era, the Ravens have become one of the most aggressive passing attacks in the league.
Jackson currently leads the NFL in average intended air yards (12.1) and average completed air yards (9.3) per Next Gen Stats. According to NFL.com, the Colts have surrendered 13 plays of 20+ yards through the air and four plays of 40+ yards. Indianapolis’ four plays of 40+ yards allowed through the air are currently tied for second-most in the NFL. Meanwhile, Baltimore has completed 29 plays of 20+ yards and four plays of 40+ yards through the air.
The Colts are also dealing with injuries in the secondary with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin ruled out for Monday’s game and safety Khari Willis listed as questionable. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in particular has routinely gotten behind defenses this season with seven catches of 20+ yards.