Traditionally, Week Three of an NFL preseason schedule is as close as it gets to regular season action. It’s the second to the last week before the games really count toward the wins and losses record so most teams play starters for two or three quarters to get them prepared for the real thing. Hardly any team will play its starters in Week Four, the preseason finale, so if a fan wants to see their favorite team’s star players one last time in exhibition, Week Three is the time to do so.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws to a receiver in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Baltimore Ravens rolled out their starters in Week Three on Aug. 27, beating the Detroit Lions, 30-9, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Not every starter played, as some are still sitting out, whether for precautionary reasons or because of injuries. But Baltimore fans were able to see their star quarterback, Joe Flacco, for the first time in 2016. Flacco didn’t play in the first two games of this year’s preseason; he had fully recovered from his season-ending knee injury and was participating in all training camp practices, but the Ravens coaching staff still decided not to play him in Week One and Two. He was unleashed, however, on Saturday against the Lions and played well, completing 11-of-16 passes for 94 yards. Flacco didn’t have some of his best weapons to throw to, including receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, both of whom are still recovering from injuries. But he made the best of what he did have, connecting on passes to receivers Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace. Flacco didn’t throw a touchdown during his limited playing time, but he did lead the Ravens on a scoring drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken, right, rushes against Detroit Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Both Smith Sr. and Perriman are expected to be back from injury in time for the start of the regular season, along with one of Flacco’s favorite targets, tight end Dennis Pitta. Unfortunately, he won’t have veteran tight end Benjamin Watson as a catcher. Watson suffered a torn achilles during the Ravens’ opening drive against the Lions, Saturday, ending his 2016 season before it even started. Watson is a 13-year veteran who was acquired by the Ravens this offseason and was expected to start at tight end for Baltimore this season. Now the team will have to rely on other options like three-year tight end Crockett Gilmore and second-year tight end Maxx Williams. Pitta, who hasn’t played much over the last three seasons due to consecutive hip injuries, may also be an option for Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon, center, rushes the ball in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Watson wasn’t the only offensive player to go down with an injury Saturday. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon sprained his knee during a pile up at the goal line in the second quarter. Dixon was having a very impressive game before the injury, running for 41 yards on six carries. He also caught a pass and ran it for 9 yards. The rookie was becoming a fan favorite in Baltimore because of his explosive style of running, so his injury had Ravens Stadium gasping when he went down. But head coach John Harbaugh said it doesn’t appear to be a serious injury so there’s hope he’ll be playing again soon. Dixon will have an MRI of his knee on Monday.

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs gestures to fans as he is introduced before a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

No defensive players for the Ravens suffered injuries. Instead, the defensive unit received a jolt of energy as its captain, star linebacker Terrell Suggs, played for the first time this preseason. Like Flacco, Suggs hadn’t played in Week One and Two, as he continued to recover from a torn achilles suffered in 2015. Suggs didn’t play for long on Saturday, but he did record two tackles during his short moments on the field. Most importantly, his leadership and passion for the game was contagious, rubbing off on his teammates as the Ravens played its most defensively dominant game of the preseason this year.

Next: Baltimore will close out the 2016 preseason with a Sept. 1 matchup against the New Orleans Saints at the Super Dome in New Orleans, La.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor