2016 Record: 8-8 – 2nd in AFC North
Passing: Joe Flacco – 4,317 yards, 20 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Terrance West – 774 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Mike Wallace – 1,017 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Zach Orr – 132
Sacks: Terrell Suggs – 8.0
Interceptions: C.J. Mosley/Eric Weddle – 4
RB Danny Woodhead
WR Jeremy Maclin
CB Brandon Carr
CB Marlon Humphrey
SS Tony Jefferson
FB Kyle Juszczyk
WR Steve Smith
TE Dennis Pitta
DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil
OLB Zach Orr
– Assuming Marlon Humphrey transitions well to the NFL, the Ravens’ secondary looks strong. Jimmy Smith is a great #1 corner and their safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson is terrifying.
– Special teams matters, and the Ravens have it. Justin Tucker is the best kicker in football, which Sam Koch makes a living pinning teams inside the 20. Say what you will about specialists, they make a huge difference.
– John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome form an elite management tandem and the Ravens have built a home field advantage that is tough to crack. 6 of their 8 wins in 2016 came at M&T Bank Stadium.
– The Ravens have a weak early schedule. With the exception of Oakland and Pittsburgh, none of their first 9 foes went to the playoffs last year. A good start can make all the difference, and they have a chance to get rolling early.
– Health. The Ravens have failed to stay on the field since 2012. They’ve already lost Kenneth Dixon and Tavon Young for the year and have several notable players like Danny Woodhead and Ben Watson returning from major injuries. You have to wonder about the health of their older guys like Suggs and Weddle too; nothing can stop father time.
– Joe Flacco was not good in 2016, and the year before he went down to a major injury. He’s already been hurt in the preseason and you have to wonder if he’s just holding the Ravens back with that massive contract of his. Something needs to change at QB, whether it’s just better play or a new man behind center.
– Baltimore has a severe lack of playmakers. Terrance West and a 32 year old Danny Woodhead don’t exactly put fear in defenses, and there is a severe lack of a reliable guy in the passing game. If the Ravens are going to rely on Breshad Perriman’s health for the passing game to be effective, they might end up disappointed. The team’s leading sack man is 34 year old Terrell Suggs and their leading tackler Zack Orr “retired” due to injury. The Ravens need someone to step up, badly.
Projection: 9-7, second in AFC North.
The Ravens just don’t jump out as a legitimate threat to the Steelers. It is the AFC so they could sneak into the postseason, but with the AFC West being so loaded I don’t see that happening.
At the end of the day, Baltimore will go as far as Joe Flacco can take them, but that doesn’t seem to be very far based on recent results – I see their absolute peak being at 10-6. The good news is I can’t see them dropping below 7-9 at worst. They’re not a terrible team, they just don’t have the pieces to make anything above average happen.