The Ravens lost their season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 but rallied to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs to even their record at 1-1. Now Baltimore heads to Detroit to face the winless Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday. Here’s who has the edge in each phase of the game:
Ravens passing game vs. Lions pass defense
Quarterback Lamar Jackson put the Ravens in a hole with two interceptions in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs but recovered to complete 18 of 26 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who’s dealing with an ankle injury, caught six passes for 113 yards and has been one of the top wide receivers in the league through two weeks. Tight end Mark Andrews recovered from a poor performance in Week 1 to catch all five balls thrown his way for 57 yards. Jackson has targeted Brown, Andrews and Sammy Watkins a combined 41 times compared with 13 for the rest of the team’s pass-catchers. The Ravens, unsurprisingly, rank 27th in pass attempts, but they’re ninth in yards per attempt — a notable improvement over last season.
They’ll be going against one of the league’s weakest pass defenses as the Lions allowed Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers to average 9.4 yards per attempt over the first two weeks. The Packers patiently attacked Detroit’s two-deep coverage with their running game, and Rodgers opened up with downfield strikes later in the game. Defensive end Charles Harris managed a sack and two quarterback hits against the Packers. The Lions lost cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft, to a ruptured Achilles tendon and placed rookie corner Ifeatu Melifonwu on injured reserve.
Lions passing game vs. Ravens pass defense
Quarterback Jared Goff has delivered mixed results in his first two starts for the Lions, producing one solid half in each game. Goff has completed 68.8% of his passes but has averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt with two interceptions. He’s one of the league’s most prolific play-action throwers. The former No. 1 overall pick is short on gifted downfield targets; only tight end T.J. Hockenson (16 catches on 20 targets, 163 yards, 2 touchdowns) has stood out. Running back D’Andre Swift (12 catches on 16 targets, 106 yards, 1 touchdown) has been a consistent threat out of the backfield.
The good news for Goff and the Lions is that the Ravens have given up 752 passing yards in their first two games, worst in the league. With Marcus Peters out for the season, Chris Westry on injured reserve and Jimmy Smith working his way back from an ankle injury, the Ravens are alarmingly thin at cornerback. Starters Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey can’t leave the field, and the Ravens are limited in their ability to shift matchups against productive tight ends such as Hockenson. They dealt with further injuries coming out of the Kansas City game as cornerback Tavon Young (knee) and starting safety DeShon Elliott (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Against the Chiefs, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale adapted by pulling back on his blitzes, but he might feel more inclined to attack the less talented Lions. Rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh has been an immediate pass-rushing force for the Ravens. His hit on Mahomes off a delayed rush, which led to a Young interception, was one of the most important plays in the Ravens’ 36-35 win over the Chiefs.
Ravens running game vs. Lions run defense
The Ravens dominated the Chiefs on the ground, rolling up 251 rushing yards and controlling the clock. They’re the NFL’s top running attack again despite season-ending injuries to their top two backs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. As long as they have offensive coordinator Greg Roman designing the plays and Jackson (193 yards, 6.9 yards per carry) orchestrating, it seems the rest will fall into place. Ty’Son Williams has averaged an impressive 6.5 yards per carry as the new No. 1 running back. The Ravens adeptly mixed up their blocking schemes against Kansas City, using pulls and going to heavy sets with as many as eight blockers on the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations such as the fourth-down run by Jackson that sealed the game. Tackle Alejandro Villanueva has excelled as a run blocker.
The Lions have held up fairly well against the run, holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry, but they ranked 28th in run defense last season. Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. has graded as an effective run defender, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Lions don’t have an elite interior run stuffer.
Lions running game vs. Ravens run defense
The Lions don’t have a showy running game like the Ravens, but they have averaged 5.2 yards per attempt, creating surprising opportunities for Goff (60 yards, 8.6 yards per carry), who was never a threat before this season. Running backs Swift and Jamaal Williams have split carries almost evenly, and both have provided solid results.
Opponents haven’t tested the Ravens on the ground, averaging just 3.7 yards on 39 attempts. Oweh has played the run even better than the pass. He forced and recovered the fumble that ended the Chiefs’ final drive Sunday night. Veterans Calais Campbell and Justin Houston have also done admirable work keeping opposing backs from getting outside.
Ravens special teams vs. Lions special teams
The Ravens botched their blocking on a third-quarter punt by Sam Koch against the Chiefs, forcing long snapper Nick Moore to take a holding penalty to prevent disaster. The mistake ultimately gave the Chiefs an extra 23 yards of field position. Otherwise, they’ve played well on special teams. Kicker Justin Tucker has made all three of his field-goal attempts, and Devin Duvernay has averaged 16.6 yards on five punt returns.
Lions kicker Austin Seibert, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns last season, has made two of three field-goal attempts. Detroit excelled on returns last season, but their top threat, Jamal Agnew, plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars now.
Ravens intangibles vs. Lions intangibles
The Ravens are coming off one of their most uplifting wins with Jackson at quarterback. They’re still dealing with an inordinate number of injuries that have made them vulnerable in traditional areas of strength, such as pass coverage. But they’ve generally dominated lesser opponents in recent seasons, with coach John Harbaugh insisting they turn the page quickly after high-profile victories.
The Lions played well at times in the first two weeks, but they’re a familiar 0-2 and have yet to put together a complete performance under new head coach Dan Campbell. They had a short week to prepare for the Ravens after losing to the Packers on Monday night.
The Lions have run the ball well and flashed signs of becoming a competent offensive team with Goff at quarterback. But they’re ill-equipped to keep up with the Ravens’ run-first juggernaut for four quarters. The Ravens have not slipped up against lower-tier opponents with Jackson at quarterback, and they won’t start in Detroit. Ravens 30, Lions 17.