The Ravens can't erase their stunning loss to the Miami Dolphins, but they can learn from it.
Watching the Ravens give up 28 points in the fourth quarter in Week 2 was evidence that their revamped defense is a work in progress, not as strong in September as they hope to be in December.
We'll learn more about the Ravens (1-1) on Sunday, when they visit the Patriots (1-1) in a matchup that could have AFC playoff implications down the road.
Here are my thoughts heading into the game, all in 50 words or less:
Bill Belichick is a masterful game-planner who will strategically challenge Lamar Jackson. But Jackson's throwing accuracy, command of the game plan and overall patience have gone next level since the last time Belichick faced him two years ago. Jackson is harder to frustrate and even more difficult to contain.
I love hearing stories about how much Jackson impressed other coaches, like Belichick, when they met with him before the 2018 draft. None of them were impressed enough to draft Jackson before the Ravens did, which has worked out very well for Baltimore.
Sunday is a golden opportunity for Baltimore's defense to get back on track. New England is averaging 12 points per game and its longest play from scrimmage is 44 yards. If the Ravens give up big plays Sunday it will raise more concerns, but I don't expect that to happen.
The Patriots will pay plenty of attention to Mark Andrews, who they've held to nine catches for 82 yards in his two games against New England. But that could leave one-on-one matchups for Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay to exploit for splash plays.
Even if the Ravens' run game doesn't improve dramatically Sunday, it needs to be better in short yardage situations. That's part of their identity, especially converting on fourth-down and short. When they're stopped, it's a huge momentum swing for their opponents.
I'm eager to see J.K. Dobbins as much as anyone, but if he doesn't play Sunday, don't fret. Having him healthy down the stretch is more important. As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins didn't have 10 carries in a game until Week 7, then took off late in the season.
Jason Pierre-Paul could be a key acquisition for the Ravens. Justin Houston has been excellent, but Pierre-Paul can take some of the load off Houston and Odafe Oweh, who have played heavy snaps with Tyus Bowser still out of action.
Marcus Williams' career-high in interceptions is four, which he's done twice. With three picks already, it's safe to say Williams will top that this season if he stays healthy. His takeaway ability is already paying dividends.
A key matchup in this game will be right tackle Morgan Moses against former Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who had a career-high 12 ½ sacks in his first season with the Pats. Judon already has two sacks and he'd love to wreck the Ravens' day.
The Ravens' defensive line was dominant Week 1 against the Jets, and rookie Travis Jones (knee) could make his debut Sunday. Jones wasn't on Friday's injury report and had a promising training camp prior to his injury. Jones is a rookie to watch moving forward.