Baltimore Ravens (2-1, 1-2 ATS) at Denver Broncos (3-0, 3-0), 4:25 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Ravens 22, Broncos 23
Spread/Total Movements: 1.5 to 1, 44.5 to 45
Weather: 74 degrees, 10% chance of rain, 5 mph
Ravens Injuries to Watch: QB Lamar Jackson (back, questionable), WR Rashod Bateman (core, could be activated), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle, out), OT Ali Villanueva (knee, questionable), S DeShon Elliott (quad), DE Derek Wolfe (hip/back, out), CB Anthony Averett (ankle, questionable)
Broncos Injuries to Watch: WR K.J. Hamler (ACL, IR), OG Dalton Risner (foot, questionable), C Graham Glagow (knee, out), RB Melvin Gordon (ribs, questionable), CB Marlon Humphrey (knee, questionable)
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
The Ravens are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games.
Baltimore is 4-1 toward unders in its last five road games.
In a rare move, OC Greg Roman abandoned the run and gave his backs 15 total touches against the Lions in Week 3. Ty’Son Williams once again hovered at a backfield-best 50% of the snaps but he saw just 5/22 rushing and one target. Latavius Murray posted a backfield-best 7/28 rushing on 33% of the snaps while Devonta Freeman had 3/8 rushing. We’ll see if Roman continues to skew more to the pass than we’ve become accustomed to, but the Broncos have allowed just 3.3 YPC and a league-low 13.7 receiving yards per game to RBs.
Lamar Jackson hasn’t thrown for multiple scores in a game but he’s still reached 20+ FP in every game thanks to his 83.7 rushing yards per game in the early going. He had a season-high 40 dropbacks last week, which was one more than he had in their Week 1 overtime shootout with the Raiders. The Broncos are allowing a league-low 11.9 FPG to QBs through three weeks, but they have yet to be challenged against Zach Wilson, Trevor Lawrence, and Daniel Jones
Marquise Brown finished with 3/53 receiving on seven targets (26% share) but he could’ve had a massive day with three drops when he was behind the defense that could’ve gone for touchdowns. If he catches one of those passes for a touchdown, it would’ve given him three straight games with 19+ FP. The Broncos are giving up just 6.3 YPT to WRs in the early going.
Mark Andrews has steadily improved his fantasy production (5.0<10.7<15.9) and target share (11%<20%<23%) each week and Lamar missed an open Andrews on an wayward end-zone target. The Broncos are giving up the third-fewest FPG (4.2) to TEs but they’ve gone against all-time greats Kyle Rudolph, James O’Shaughnessy, and Tyler Kroft so far.
Sammy Watkins has exactly four catches with 7+ targets in each of his first three games with the Ravens. First-round pick Rashod Bateman is trending toward seeing his first NFL action after he was activated off the IR this week. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens divvy up snaps between their top three WRs moving forward. Corey Davis posted 5/41 receiving on 10 targets in this matchup last week.
Brolley’s Broncos Stats and Trends
Teddy Bridgewater has covered the spread at an incredible 75% clip in his career with a 39-13 ATS record.
The Broncos have opened as favorites in each of their first four games after they were the only team not to be favored in a game last season.
Denver is 4-1 toward unders in its last five games.
They were gifted the easiest opening stretch in the league against three teams (Giants, Jags, Jets) that are a combined 0-9 to open the season. They at least own a 3-0 ATS record with an average cover margin of 10.2 points through three weeks.
Teddy Bridgewater topped 20+ FP in each of his first two starts before the lowly Jets’ offense failed to push the Broncos’ offense in Week 3. He completed 19/25 passes for 235 yards without any touchdowns or INTs against in their shutout victory, but he still averaged 9.4 YPA and he added 4/24 rushing. The Ravens have given up the third-most passing yards per game (331.7) to QBs through three weeks, but they did hold Jared Goff to 9.1 FPG last week after a slow start.
Courtland Sutton has seen Jerry Jeudy (high ankle) and K.J. Hamler (ACL) fall off around him so he’s locked in as the top target for now. He exploded for 9/159 receiving against the Jags in Week 2 but he managed just 6/51 receiving on eight targets in his other two games. He still saw a 21% target share last week in a low-volume attack, and the Ravens should push this passing attack more in what should be a competitive gamescript. The Ravens are giving up the 13th-fewest FPG (35.4) to WRs through three weeks.
Tim Patrick has casually posted 12+ FP in each of the first three games after catching all five of his targets (20% share) for 98 yards to lead Denver’s passing attack against the Jets in Week 3. Patrick has eight TDs in his last 15 games and he has 4+ catches in eight games in that stretch too. His role is pretty locked in now with Hamler (ACL) going down for the season. The Ravens have given up three scores to WRs through the first three weeks of the season.
Noah Fant has seen his targets (8>6>3), catches (6>4>2), and receiving yards (62>33>15) fall every week despite seeing his snap share rise to a season-high 87% last week. The Ravens went out of their way to shut down T.J. Hockenson (2/10 receiving) last week, but they’re still giving up the most FPG (21.3) to TEs after facing Travis Kelce and Darren Waller in Weeks 1-2.
Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams were deadlocked in touches through the first two games with 29, but Gordon edged ahead last week (19 to 15). He also has a significant edge in routes (58 to 34), which could finally matter more this week in a more competitive gamescript than the Broncos have seen through two weeks. Williams did have his best game as a receiver with 3/33 receiving on four targets and he scored a rushing touchdown, but he did lose a fumble in their victory. The Ravens are giving up just 3.1 YPC to RBs but they’re been gashed a bit by RBs in the passing game with 7.0/65.7 receiving allowed.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-3 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.2 (20th)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 68.0 (5th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 52.0% (30th) | Run: 48.0% (3rd)
Week 1-3 – Pace: 34.4 (32nd)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 68.7 (9th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 53.4% (29th) | Run: 46.6% (4th)
Denver has the extremely good fortune of the easiest schedule in the NFL so far with their dates against the Giants, Jets, and Jaguars all amounting to double-digit victories. Credit where it’s due: The Broncos have taken care of business and Teddy Bridgewater has taken this offense to new heights, but they really haven’t been tested yet. We’ll get to see what this team is truly made of and whether or not they are legit contenders over their next four games when they take on the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns. Getting past Baltimore is first, though. Denver has been able to play slow and run the hell out of the ball because they’ve gotten out to halftime leads in all three games and salted the contest away with the run in the second-half. The Broncos have led on a whopping 61% of their total plays (fourth-most) and are 53.2% run-heavy when leading (10th-highest rate). And, even though the Ravens backfield resembles the final scene of The Hateful Eight, they’ve remained very run-heavy so far and are second in run rate over expectation (+7.9%) behind only the Titans (+10.4%). Denver will have to pick up the pace a bit if this game is tight throughout, but this is still the slowest game of the week, by far, in adjusted combined pace between these two offenses.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Next to James Bradberry, no other CB that has struggled during the early season is as surprising as Marlon Humphrey. One possible explanation for Humphrey’s struggles could be the pretty drastic scheme shifts the Ravens have employed under DC Wink Martindale to perhaps account for some of their secondary injuries. Another could be from lingering effects from one of those injuries — the back ailment that landed Humphrey on the injury report over the first couple weeks.
For Tim Patrick, after KJ Hamler was lost for the season with an ACL tear, he and Courtland Sutton are the last men standing from what had the appearances of a deep group early in the season. Patrick will likely be provided with all the volume he can handle until Jerry Jeudy returns in a few weeks. And it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out against a Baltimore defense that has surrendered the eighth-highest FPG to receivers out of the slot, and the sixth-fewest from outside. Patrick has played a bit more out of the slot than Sutton.
It’s a tough matchup for Hollywood Brown — coming off a three-drop dud — with Kyle Fuller in a tough Broncos coverage shell.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Thanks in large part to a massive game by the Lions’ lethal backfield last week, the Ravens have allowed the 5th-most FPG to opposing RBs thus far, but we still don’t have a great grasp on what Denver is going to do… especially after Javonte Williams fumbled late last week against the Jets. It was a meaningless fumble overall — a 26-0 game stayed 26-0 — but will hardass defensive-minded coach Vic Fangio choose to discipline Williams?
Williams didn’t play a snap after his fumble. And evidently Melvin Gordon dinged his ribs on his first carry after Williams left the game. So Fangio decided to put Damarea Crockett into the game. Moreover, the Broncos could activate Mike Boone (quad) from IR at any point, as he’s returned to practice. It’s possible I’m reading way too much into the Broncos’ final drive, but we pushed Williams hard this off-season and are big fans of his. I need to note when something might go awry with his rookie season. I think he’s still looked great as a runner, but I’m a little more skeptical to play him this week. Of course, there’s a chance he functions as the lead back if Gordon is playing through pain. He’s a volatile FLEX option, as is Gordon.
This will be Bronco QB Teddy Bridgewater’s stiffest test of the young season so far. He’s played what I think is the best football of his career, but he’s played the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets so far. The Ravens did give up big games to Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes before stymieing Jared Goff last week… but everyone gives up big games to Carr and Mahomes. We have Teddy ranked as a low-end QB2 this week given he’s down yet another receiver in KJ Hamler (ACL).
That said, I’m willing to go back to the well, taking Wes’ advice, on Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton. Sutton is the WR17 and Patrick the WR29 in two games without Jerry Jeudy, and I think that’s about where I’d rank ‘em this week, perhaps with a little bit extra skepticism built in because of the Broncos’ paper-thin schedule so far. And the Ravens downgraded CB Anthony Averett midweek with an ankle injury.
The Ravens, after getting dumped on by Darren Waller and Travis Kelce in the first two games of the season, held TJ Hockenson to just 2 catches for 10 yards last week. I don’t think they’ll have the luxury of bracketing someone like Noah Fant given the Broncos have actual outside receivers. Fant is a low-end TE1.
The biggest news for the Ravens this week is that QB Lamar Jackson missed Wednesday and Thursday practices with a back injury. It is, apparently, not really a concern for this week (OC Greg Roman downplayed it on Thursday), but missed practices are never a good thing, and you wonder if it will limit his mobility against a Bronco defense that will be his toughest challenge of the year. If he goes, you can’t sit him, but understand there might be some downside here. The Broncos have given up the second-fewest FPG to opposing QBs thus far, but those QBs are Daniel Jones, Trevor Lawrence, and Zach Wilson.
The Broncos are also giving up the second-fewest FPG to RBs so far. Again, the schedule really helps (and they faced a limited Saquon Barkley in Week 1), but the Raven backfield has been a mess. Ty’Son Williams had a 50% snap share against Detroit last week but had just 5 carries, while Latavius Murray might be Baltimore’s goal-line back of choice after Williams fumbled in that situation in Week 2. Neither is anything more than a prayer FLEX option.
Let’s say the three drops Marquise Brown had last week were all caught, and all for TDs. They would have been worth 35.6 FP to him, and 17.8 FP to Lamar. Yikes. He had been off to a sizzling start, but it wasn’t the best of times for his dropsies to return given Rashod Bateman (groin) can be activated at any time in the next three weeks. Lamar threw words of encouragement to Hollywood, but this is a tough matchup, as Wes pointed out. He’s a WR3 this week, and I’m stashing Bateman where I can get him.
Lamar Jackson on WR Marquise Brown, who struggled with drops vs. the #Lions: "We're not worried about the Detriot game. It's over with. He caught passes during that game. ... Mishaps happen sometimes to the best. We aren't worried about it."— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) September 29, 2021
One guy who will be just fine is TE Mark Andrews, who probably earns more looks as Lamar’s #1 this week. Andrews has seen a steady increase in fantasy points (5.0<10.7<15.9) and target share (11%<20%<23%) in three games this year. The Broncos have not been tested by an opposing TE yet this season.