Are the Ravens just trying to get by?
The Ravens may have had a slightly better record in 2017, but Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh just finished their 10th season in Charm CIty, and it’s left us wondering: are the Ravens just trying to get by?
Another Season, Another Second
The Ravens finished 2017 at 9-7. That’s an improvement from their 2016 record when they went 8-8. However, they still finished in second place in the AFC North. Second to Pittsburgh and its Steelers. Second to Ben Roethlisberger & Co.
But it’s likely not the second place conference finish that sat as a bad taste in mouths of Ravens fans during the offseason. It’s that the Ravens again failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Except it seemed like they were going to have a 10-win season and a trip to the playoffs. In fact, 45 seconds stood between the Ravens and the postseason. Then with 44 seconds remaining in the final game of the season vs. the Bengals, Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd hauled in a 49-yard pass from Andy Dalton for the go-ahead score, the game-stinger, the season-ender. The Bengals upset Baltimore 31-27.
The rest is, well, the offseason.
From Flacco to Jackson
You could argue the Ravens 2017 one of two ways.
No. 1: That the Ravens improved to above .500 and if only the offense could score a bit more and the defense could hold the other guys from scoring and dang it, Andy Dalton.
All of Baltimore’s offensive woes can’t be blamed on the 33-year-old quarterback.
No. 2: The Ravens have been in a steady decline since that 2013 Super Bowl title but have kept the same coach and QB, despite less than Super Bowl-worthy performances from the latter.
But the front office may be trying to make some not-so-subtle changes because John and Joe are pretty beloved in Charm City, but Flacco is also starting to show his QB age with knee and back issues.
So what did the Ravens execs do? They traded some picks and drafted the 2016 Heisman trophy winner—Lamar Jackson, Louisville—with the very last pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Jackson’s numbers (and remember, he was a dual-threat): 9,043 passing yards, 4,132 rushing yards, 2x ACC Player of the Year (2016 and 2017).
We’re not thinking Jackson walks out there for the first snap of the season, but we do think after three declining years under Flacco, he is the Ravens’ best shot at a steady future.
All About Offense
All of Baltimore’s offensive woes can’t be blamed on the 33-year-old QB, though. Baltimore lacked a wide range of offensive options. But the Ravens took care of that too in the offseason.
They picked up Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown as free agents. They also drafted South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with their first pick in the draft, then snagged Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews in the third round and New Mexico State WR Jaleel Scott in the fourth round.
So all eyes will be on the offense and its playcallers to see if there needs to be a changing of the guard or its to the postseason the Ravens go.
Pray for the Postseason
The Steelers are a top three favorite to win the Super Bowl. Since Baltimore is in the same division, we think your safe bet is to take them again finishing second in the conference. And if you really wanna see Joe and John in Baltimore for the 11th year, then put your money on a trip to the postseason.
Week 1: Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo Bills
This is like a college football game where you play your cupcake in the first two weeks. But even teams you think you’ll dominate can pull out the upset. Just not today.
Week 2: Sept. 13 at Cincinnati Bengals*
This is a rematch from the final game of last season where the Bengals caused the Ravens to miss the postseason because of a touchdown in the final 44 seconds of the game. Even if it’s at Cincinnati, we think the Ravens will be playing for revenge.
Week 3: Sept. 23 vs. Denver Broncos
Two middle-of-the-road teams. Two recent Super Bowl champs. Two fan bases wondering what the heck happened.
Week 4: Sept. 30 at Pittsburgh Steelers*
There’s not much to say here other than: Steelers.
Week 5: Oct. 7 at Cleveland Browns*
We’d love to see Baker Mayfield do something in Cleveland, but that just has never been the case with No. 1 QB picks that go to Cleveland. Therefore, in Joe We Trust.
Week 6: Oct. 14 at Tennessee Titans
Baltimore’s larger range of offensive weapons vs. Tennessee’s defense? A must watch.
Week 7: Oct. 21 vs. New Orleans Saints
Want to see a quarterback who won a Super Bowl and still has us scratching our heads about how he can compete like a 24-year-old? Yes, ok go to New England, but then head to NOLA.
Week 8: Oct. 28 at Carolina Panthers
We’re going to go ahead and pick an upset here based purely on Carolina’s schedule. The Panthers will be coming off back-to-back weeks against Alex Smith and Washington and then the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. They could be ready to go for a home game. Or they could be a complete mess.
Week 9: Nov. 4 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers*
Big Ben > more consistent > Joe Flacco
Week 10: Bye Week
Week 11: Nov. 18 vs. Cincinnati Bengals*
Don’t expect a repeat from last year. It’s too early in November for it to be that cold and the same dramatics aren’t there.
Week 12: Nov. 25 vs. Oakland Raiders
This is about as even a match-up as you’re going to find this season, so we’re going to go with the home-field advantage for Baltimore.
Week 13: Dec. 2 at Atlanta Falcons
This is not your Super Bowl-winning Joe Flacco and squad. And Atlanta’s Steve Sarkisian shows off Atlanta’s offensive talent.
Week 14: Dec. 9 at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City made the playoffs last season. Even though their starting QB was traded away, their new QB could be a franchise type or a total flop.
Week 15: Dec. 16 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The teams meet for the first time in four years. Baltimore took the last one by more than 30 points to give them their third consecutive against TB. Make it four.
Week 16: Dec. 23 at Los Angeles Chargers
The first meeting between the two teams since the Chargers moved to LA and it’s in LA. LA All The Way?
Week 17: Dec. 30 vs. Cleveland Browns*
The Used-To-Be-Browns vs. The Browns in Balti? Oh, NFL, we see what you did with this schedule. If, for any reason, Baker Mayfield’s name somehow tops the number of times Clevelanders still mention Johnny Manziel, change this pick.
*denotes AFC North game