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Eyeing Colts opponents: Baltimore Ravens 2018 season preview

Baltimore Ravens v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Each SB Nation NFL writing team examined their respective franchise and put together a brief season preview. These stories are intended to help explain to fans of other teams some of the most important topics and issues facing each NFL team as the 2018 NFL Season approaches. Today, we focus on the Baltimore Ravens, who the Colts will meet Monday night for their second preseason game.

All answers were provided by Baltimore Beatdown.

Notable free agent additions

WR Michael Crabtree, WR Willie Snead IV, WR John Brown, QB Robert Griffin III

Over / under: 8 wins -- Over

John Harbaugh’s Ravens have only gone under eight wins once in ten years. The one outlier was Joe Flacco suffering a season-ending ACL-tear. The team’s roster looks stronger than in recent years, also.

Rookie I’m most excited about

Hard to not say Lamar Jackson due to his position and play from college, but I’ll go with TE Hayden Hurst. He’s a massive target for Joe Flacco and Hurst’s hands are trustworthy. Joe often works tight ends into the system as we saw with Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson. I see no change coming with the first-round pick.

Best position battle heading into camp

The right tackle position is up for grabs after the Ravens declined Austin Howard’s option. Both James Hurst and Orlando Brown Jr. are capable of winning the starting job and I’m excited to see the battle unfold.

Biggest storyline heading into camp

No contest, it’s the ‘quarterback competition’ between Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson. It’s not really a story though, as Joe is ahead of Jackson in quality of play and from the owner to the coaching staff they’ve all stated Joe is the starter.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp

How can the offensive line replace key losses at both center and right tackle? The Ravens declined Austin Howard’s option and Ryan Jensen signed a big deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both were quality starters.

Notable injuries heading into training camp

I was planning on this being centered around Jimmy Smith and his Achilles tear, but he’s already participating in practice only seven months after the non-contact injury. Instead, the most notable is Marshal Yanda, but even head coach John Harbaugh said, “If we were playing a game, he probably could play -- as tough as he is.”

A Colts Perspective

The Colts don’t face the Ravens during the 2018 regular season. This likely played a role in getting both franchises to agree to practice together prior to Monday night’s game. Still, there will always be a rivalry between the two team fan bases rooted in the circumstances that led to the Colts departing Baltimore.

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome has started to show signs of fallibility. Baltimore’s long run as one of the most dominant teams in the NFL, with one of the most physical defenses of the 2000s, faded five years ago. The dominant running game that previously featured Ray Rice, has struggled to find a new bell cow back who can consistently carry the load.

Joe Flacco was unable to use his Super Bowl MVP nod and performance as a springboard for his career. He remains an average NFL signal caller who is known for hitting on some deep plays but lacking in consistency. His TD to INT ratio has been really bad other than his 2014 season — 71:62 in years 2013, 2015-2017 | 27:12 in 2014.

Flacco’s uncertain future and inability to live up to the monster contract offer he received after the Ravens won the Super Bowl has finally resulted in some real pressure at the spot. Baltimore brought in RGIII via free agency and traded up to draft Lamar Jackson at the bottom of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft. If Flacco gets the Ravens off to a slow start, Newsome might start looking toward the future and give others a chance.

Could we see another Eli Manning “situation” where a veteran quarterback gets benched in the middle of the year?

Of course, the bigger news as it relates to Monday night’s game is that the Colts and Ravens got into an altercation during group practices over the weekend. It will be worth watching how the teams respond during a night game in live game action. We always hope for both teams to play a clean game and to escape the week injury free so hopefully the extra adrenaline doesn’t lead to retaliation or cheap shots from either team.

It will also be worth seeing a lot of the Colts young players after another week of training camp practice. This will be their first chance to face opponents who they have already had a chance to work against in practice. Which team and coaching staff will use those repetitions to come out on top?