We’re unlikely to see any of the Ravens' high-profile starters, but the Commanders may choose to play more first-stringers, which could give them an advantage and set them up to be the team that ends the Ravens' long-running preseason win streak.
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Commanders (8 p.m. ET)
Ravens offensive focus: Left guard battle
It looks like John Simpson firmly has the leg up in the battle to be the Ravens' starting left guard this season, earning a 68.1 PFF grade last week compared to Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu’s 42.7. He outplayed Aumavae-Laulu in both pass protection and as a run blocker, with the sixth-round rookie just not looking ready to start in the NFL. If he sees time against some of the Commanders' first-string defensive interior players, it could be ugly.
The X-factor in this battle is Ben Cleveland. After losing badly to the Eagles' Jalen Carter at the beginning of the game in Week 1, he had a solid outing at both right guard and tackle. It will be interesting to see if that has given him the opportunity to be part of this battle, and if he gets any snaps at left guard in this contest.
Ravens defensive focus: Brandon Stephens
Stephens saw 58 snaps last week, almost all at left cornerback. That was before Marlon Humphrey’s injury, and so even after the signing of Ronald Darby last week, Stephens very well could be called upon to be a starter in the Ravens' season opener against the Houston Texans. From 38 coverage snaps last week, he allowed three receptions for 37 yards on eight targets and finished the game with three tackles resulting in a defensive stop.
Commanders offensive focus: Sam Howell
Howell looked solid enough last week, earning a 70.2 PFF grade and going 9-of-12 for 77 yards and a touchdown on 14 dropbacks. He had some impressive throws based on the highlights from joint practices this week and can get Commanders fans really excited about the 2023 season if he looks good in this game. With Jacoby Brissett and Jake Fromm behind Howell on the depth chart, the Commanders have the depth to move the ball well throughout this game.
Commanders defensive focus: Emmanuel Forbes
We saw 12 snaps from the Commanders' first-round pick in his preseason debut last week, only five of which were in coverage. He wasn’t targeted on any of those five snaps, though.
Forbes will get another chance in this game to show off the ball skills that made him a top-16 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft after he came away with 14 interceptions and 17 pass breakups over his three-year career at Mississippi State.