The Ravens have made noise the last few offseasons about bringing in an up-tempo, fast-paced offense and stretching the field while “opening it up” for Joe Flacco to make plays. Last night, in from of a National TV audience, it looked like they finally have implemented their plan.
Joe Flacco threw for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the most important stat was his 21 completions on just 29 pass attempts. He was extremely efficient and connected on several deep balls as well as using his tight ends effectively underneath and over the top for a nice TD “jumpball” pass to Dennis Pitta. Although still not be an elite option, Flacco showed he can be servicable and with a wide-open playbook and could be a top backup or part of a rotation even in single-QB leagues. Before we go nuts though, let’s remember he’s shown flashes before. The key will be if he can perform this way on a weekly basis.
Ray Rice, who usually stars in fantasy football, didn’t disappoint in the opener either despite only getting 10 carries. He did rush for 68 yards and added 25 yards on three catches, but most of his points were from a pair of rushing touchdowns. He’ll be elite whether the Ravens open it up or pound it to him with the run. Your first round pick is safe if you went with Ray.
Dennis Pitta was the most targeted Raven last night with nine passes coming his way which he converted into five catches for a team-leading 73 yards and a nice TD. Pitta isn’t Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but the Ravens like to use their tight ends in a similar way and it looked last night that Pitta has passed Ed Dickson in pass-catching opportunities and could be a nice backup or TE2 for the rest of the season.
Anquan Boldin also looked good in the passing game catching four of his five tartes for 63 yards and a 34 yard touchdown on a nice catch in the end zone to put Baltimore up 17-3. He isn’t an elite option but could end up finishing way above his preseason ranking making him a flex option and a solid fill-in to have when we get to bye weeks.
Torrey Smith was the receiver getting all the love coming into the season and got off to a fast start catching a 52 yard bomb early in the game, rushing for 13 yards, and then mostly disappearing. He was only targeted two more times and finished with two catches for 57 yards. He did draw a pass interference penalty early in the fourth quarter which set up Ray Rice’s final one-yard plunge to ice the game at 41-13 and set up Rice’s touchdown celebration which included trucking the ESPN cameraman. Smith should get chances moving forward and I would still start him over Boldin since his upside is much higher. I see Smith as a borderline WR2 and definitely worth starting in three WR leagues or in a flex-type position. His points will come especially if the Ravens stick to the up-tempo offense.
In summary, we’ve seen games like this before from Baltimore. Last year they dominated Pittsburgh week one before going on the road to Tennessee and losing by double-digits. I’m not all in yet on the Ravens, but there is definitely some fantasy potential to be realized if they play with the efficiency and tempo they played with last night. There’s plenty of reason for Ravens fans and fantasy owners to be pumped up.
Next week Baltimore heads to Philadelphia in a fascinating matchup against an Eagles team that barely escaped Cleveland. Then in week three, a huge rematch of the AFC Championship game looms as the Patriots come to town in a Sunday Night Football showdown. After that game, we’ll have a much better idea of whether the Ravens just had a great opening game or if their really ready to let Joe Flacco throw the ball all over the field and play with a much more agressive offense.