Week 1 of the 2018 NFL pre-season kicks off this Thursday night with 12 games on the schedule, including the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Los Angeles Rams. The Ravens got their first taste of exhibition play with a 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame game with their backup players seeing the bulk of the snaps. That will be the case again this week with quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III back in the spotlight as they battle for the backup job behind starter Joe Flacco. Baltimore is dealing with a number of key position battles this pre-season as they attempt to get back to the post-season in 2018. Meanwhile, the Rams don’t have the same level of competition with a number of veterans set to lead a team that is expected to contend for a Super Bowl this season.
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Los Angeles won’t have much to play for this preseason. The key for the Rams will be staying healthy in advance of the regular season. LA went 2-2 under head coach Sean McVay last pre-season but they had much more to prove then. Now they know who they are.
Meanwhile, the same can’t be said for a Baltimore side that is led by John Harbaugh, who has placed a significant emphasis on picking up wins in exhibition play over the last few years. Harbaugh’s Ravens have won nine straight pre-season games dating back to 2016. Harbaugh owns a 29-12 all-time record in exhibition games. His teams are an impressive 10-1 in Week 1.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams added Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh to an already impressive roster this offseason. None of those veterans is expected to see the field this week as the countdown continues to the games that actually count in Los Angeles.
At quarterback, we’re likely to see a lot of Sean Mannion and Brandon Allen, which isn’t exactly inspiring. At running back, we’ll see some Malcolm Brown and Justin Davis with Gurley likely out. The Rams don’t have much to get excited about here.
The urgency will be a lot higher for Baltimore thanks to last year’s disappointment and an intriguing quarterback battle. Flacco is the incumbent starter, but he could be pushed by the rookie first-round pick Jackson or the veteran former first round pick in RGIII. Jackson went 4-of-10 for 33 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Hall of Fame game and he’ll be looking to play better. Meanwhile, RGIII went 7-of-11 for 58 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Chicago and should all see significant snaps. The quarterback battle should boost the level of play we see from the Ravens offense this week.