The Ravens have defeated Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in their last two games – Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.
This weekend they face a rookie quarterback, Ryan Finley, making his first NFL start for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Facing Finley presents a different challenge in preparation because there's no NFL regular-season game film on him to study, no previous matchups against Finley that the Ravens can draw from.
Since 2011, facing the Bengals twice a season meant facing Andy Dalton at quarterback 16 times. The Ravens knew his strengths and his tendencies, just as he knew theirs. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said it would be different not to see Dalton under center for Cincinnati. Dalton has an 8-8 career record against Baltimore with 21 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions.
"We got drafted in the same class. He was my first interception," Smith said with a laugh. "It is going to be strange, because obviously, our careers have kind of been mirrored. So, it's going to be crazy not to have him back there, but we're excited for the challenge of Finley coming in."
Finley brings the unknown, but Ravens inside linebacker Josh Bynes said the unfamiliarity won't drastically change the defense's approach. Bynes thinks the Ravens have found a rhythm defensively during their four-game winning streak and he wants that trend to continue.
"It's about us going out there and executing our thing," Bynes said. "We can't worry too much about what he's going to do specifically. We don't know him, but we know some of the things they do best. We're going to do what we do on defense and get after them, like we'd do against any quarterback."
The Ravens have watched game video of Finley from preseason and from his college career at North Carolina State. The fourth-round pick was a drop-back passer in college and accurate thrower who completed 67.4 percent of his passes in 2018 for 3,928 yards and 25 touchdowns.
"I personally YouTube-ed him yesterday, just to see what he's like, see how he throws," Smith said. "I've heard what our coaches tell us and watched a little bit of the preseason."
Whatever the Ravens have learned, they are not eager to share.
"I've seen the tape, I've seen all the plays that he played and we looked at number of college plays," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm not really feeling like giving you the scouting report on him right now."
There was plenty of scouting done on Finley before the draft and a host of pundits praised the Bengals for the selection.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said Finley reminds him of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who first-year Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor groomed in Los Angeles.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Finley has the talent to start in the NFL in his second year.
"He has very fast eyes and reads the defense better than any of the other quarterbacks in the draft," McShay said this spring. "But even if he doesn't materialize into a franchise guy, this pick was still very good. The worst case here is the Bengals drafted a good backup quarterback at No. 104 overall. The best case? Finley has the potential to win the starting gig as soon as 2020."
With the Bengals at 0-8, Taylor decided to make the quarterback change heading into the bye. That gave Finley extra time to prepare for his first start and Cincinnati extra time to mold the offense to fit his strengths. There is also a chance that star wide receiver A.J. Green will play his first game of the season against the Ravens, returning from an ankle injury. Green's presence would definitely help Finley.
Beating Wilson and Brady in back-to-back games was an impressive accomplishment for the Ravens' defense. However, the season is only at its midpoint and the team has lofty goals. Baltimore has no plans to take Finley lightly in his first start.
"The minute you get complacent, you become an enemy of yourself," Bynes said. "We're trying become a defense that's better than we are now."