Various thoughts on various subjects, all in 50 words or less:
Interesting how the Ravens and Steelers took divergent paths since two years ago when both teams were led by Super Bowl-winning thirty-something quarterbacks. The Ravens moved on from Joe Flacco and made Lamar Jackson their starter at age 21. The Steelers doubled down on their veteran, sticking with Ben Roethlisberger.
No one can dispute that the Ravens made the right move. They're 25-4 in the regular season since Jackson replaced Flacco, and Jackson is the reigning league MVP. But if 2020 is any indication, the Steelers also made the right move. They're 6-0 and Roethlisberger is having an excellent season.
It's bizarre that Jackson has already started opposite Patrick Mahomes three times, yet Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game will mark his first start opposite Roethlisberger. Chalk it up to happenstance. The teams had already played twice in 2018 when Jackson replaced Flacco. And Roethlisberger was injured most of last season.
Locking up Ronnie Stanley for years is a huge development for the Ravens. It's also an example of why you wait years to grade drafts. The five players selected before him in 2016 generated more buzz, but the Ravens wouldn't trade their elite left tackle for any of them now.
It remains to be seen whether Dez Bryant can help the Ravens after not playing in the NFL since 2017. But as they seek to get more out of their passing game (ranked No. 31 in average yards per game), Bryant's addition to the practice squad provides an affordable possibility.
A likelier change at receiver is more touches for rookie Devin Duvernay, whose speed could become a difference-maker as he acclimates to the NFL. Duvernay's snap count has gone up every week, topping out at 35.6 percent of the offensive snaps in the last game. I'm guessing it'll go higher.
Fascinated to see whether Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale calls fewer blitzes now that he has Yannick Ngakoue. Martindale loves being aggressive, and his players love him for it. But part of Ngakoue's appeal is his ability to win one-on-one battles, which could allow potential blitzers to stay in pass coverage.
My three keys for the Ravens Sunday: 1) win (or at least don't lose) the turnover battle, 2) defense gets off the field on third downs (Steelers convert 51 percent of their thirds into firsts); 3) the offensive line keeps the Steelers' aggressive defensive front from swarming Jackson.
It's tough for the Steelers, no doubt, that schedule adjustments are forcing them to play the Ravens this week after they took on the rugged Titans last week. But what goes around comes around. The Ravens will play the Titans and Steelers within four days later this month.
Who'll make the AFC playoffs? It isn't hard to predict, as a distinct have/have not situation is forming. Seven teams have winning records with no more than two losses. Seven teams have no more than two wins. There might be some movement going forward, but my guess, not too much.