Welcome to the 6th ever edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article about your favorite NFL team. And this article, is about my favorite NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens. See, we have done articles so far about teams like the Dolphins, Titans, Vikings and Saints who’s quarterback is the weakest link to their team contending. However, the Ravens are the opposite with former NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson! Can they finally get over the hump and win a Super Bowl? Lets, get into this!
But real quick before we do, I want to let you know that we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA if you want to check that out.
The Ravens have always been a competitive organization since John Harbaugh became their head coach before the 2008 NFL season. Since that year, the Ravens have only missed the playoffs five times, and have the fifth best record in the NFL since that time span. In 2018, the Ravens were 4-5 and Joe Flacco had gone down with an injury, putting John Harbaugh on the hot seat after what would have been four straight seasons of missing the playoffs. However, stepping in was Lamar Jackson, who led the Ravens to a 6-1 record in the seven games he started, taking Joe Flacco’s place at quarterback even when he was healthy. Despite a disgraceful playoff performance from Lamar and the Ravens, they knew they were going to be contenders for a long time under this crew.
In 2019, Lamar broke out. The Ravens won twelve straight games to end the season, putting them at 14-2. Lamar won the NFL MVP, leading the NFL in passing touchdowns while having over 1200 yards on the ground. That ranked him 7th in total yards for all quarterbacks in the NFL. The Ravens had the best Super Bowl odds a team had, had in over a decade. However, Lamar and the Ravens put up another terrible performance as the #1 seed, getting destroyed to Tennessee in the Wild Card round.
In 2020, the Ravens had gotten better. Lamar played well to begin the season, but then struggled towards the middle of the season, where Baltimore went on a three game losing streak that at one point had them at 6-5. However, with great performances from the entire team, including All Pro type play from Lamar, the Ravens won their last five games, to get the 5th seed in the AFC. And they finally won their first playoff game, getting revenge on the Tennessee Titans on their home turf. However, they did fall to Buffalo in a crazy weather, low scoring game.
Going into 2021, the Ravens were in a tricky position. In a preseason game against the Washington Commanders (Football Team at the time, about to be 2nd year running back JK Dobbins went down with a season ending ACL tear. An already big loss for Baltimore, got even worse. In practice, Marcus Peters and Gus Edwards also went down with season ending injuries. The Ravens started off the season 5-1, in some crazy showdowns. In Week 1, the Raiders-Ravens opening night Monday Night Football game went to overtime, even though the Raiders ended up winning. In Week 2, the Ravens came back from down 11 in the 4th quarter, to give Patrick Mahomes his first ever loss in September. In Week 3, Justin Tucker made a record breaking 66 yard field goal to win Baltimore the game. And in Week 5, Baltimore came back after being down 19 points in the 3rd quarter, and with a record breaking performance from Lamar Jackson, completing 86% of his passes, pushed Baltimore up to 4-1.
However, injuries continued to hurt Baltimore. Ronnie Stanley and Derek Wolfe went down with season ending injuries and things got complicated for a Ravens team that was destroyed from injuries. And the craziest thing is even with all of these injuries, the Ravens had the #1 seed in the AFC at 8-3. However, the next week, Marlon Humphrey also went down with a season ending injury, making Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith Baltimore’s #1 cornerbacks! But then the week after that was the biggest injury of the season. Lamar Jackson went down with, what ended up being, a season ending injury. And while Baltimore was competitive with Tyler Huntley at center, they ended the season 8-9, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
However, now that the Ravens are getting healthy, they are once again contenders. However, they are in the toughest division in football.The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a season where they won the AFC, and were plays away from taking down the Rams for the Super Bowl. They’re going to be a competitive team for a long time. The Browns got rid of Baker Mayfield and replaced him with Deshaun Watson, after the Texans traded him. If he’s not suspended for off the field issues, the Browns are dangerous (somewhat since they’re still the Browns lol 🤣). And the Steelers, despite losing Ben Roethlisberger to retirement, are always a competitive team under Mike Tomlin. The Steelers rank 3rd on the list I was mentioning earlier about John Harbaugh’s success. And they still won 8 games in 2019 with Mason Rudolph at starting quarterback!
To that point though, the Ravens have gotten better as well. Despite losing Deshon Elliott to Detroit, they replaced him with veteran, Pro Bowl caliber safety Marcus Williams and 14th overall pick Kyle Hamilton. They also got an upgrade at center, which has been an issue in recent years, by drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the 1st round. They also picked up offensive guard Morgan Moses on a very cheap contract for a decent offensive lineman. On the defensive line, they let Brandon Williams go and replaced him with former Raven Michael Pierce, and backing him up at nose tackle is my guy Travis Jones (learn more about that on future Cool Sports Network episodes). They also signed Kyle Fuller in free agency, giving Baltimore a trio of very good cornerbacks.
A question surrounding Baltimore is Lamar Jackson’s contract extension. Him and Baltimore have not come to an agreement yet on a contract, but he will be on Baltimore this season on a 5th year option worth over #20 million. In my opinion, Lamar Jackson deserves a fully guaranteed contract, that I may add is much larger than Deshaun Watson or Kyler Murray’s contract. Since the 2018 season, for a quarterbacks that have started at least 58 games, Lamar ranks 4th in quarterback record, only behind Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Not a bad group to be just right behind! He is a generational talent. There are only four quarterbacks in this league that have won an MVP, made an All Pro team, made 2 or more Pro Bowl appearances and been the passing touchdown leader in a season and it is the four quarterbacks I just mentioned in best records. If those players get the cash, Lamar should too.
And I know Lamar has unperformed come playoff time, but he is still a generational talent. And Lamar adds more value to this team than any quarterback does to their team since the Ravens have built their playbook, roster and style all around Lamar Jackson. And while it hasn’t worked out yet, I think they have a great chance of it working out this season.
But let me address one more issue everyone has about the Ravens: their wide receiver core. Rashod Bateman is currently their WR1, and Devin Duvernay is their WR2. While it’s worse than other wide receiving cores in the NFL, there are multiple reasons why this will work out. #1, Rashod Bateman is going to break out. Now that Marquise Brown is off the team, Bateman is the clear cut #1. And he was playing amazing football to end the season last year. He was on pace for 730 receiving yards if he played 17 games. What if I told you that Baltimore’s leading wide receiver in their 14-2 season had under 600 receiving yards. And Bateman was as a rookie. Imagine him next season with more targets and more opportunities.
Also, Baltimore has Mark Andrews to throw the ball to. Andrews is coming off of a season where he had over 1300 receiving yards and was an All Pro player. Lamar also has him as a target. Baltimore also runs a different style of offense. While they can pass the ball, they have an amazing rushing game. Since 2019, Baltimore has had a league best 8800 rushing yards, and the next best Titans have only 7300 rushing yards. And when you look at total yards since this time span, Baltimore ranks 4th. They have also had an amazing defense, which ranks 3rd in total points allowed since 2019, with under 1000 points given up in this time span. This is also including the season that Baltimore had all of those injuries.
Baltimore has a talented roster. The playoffs has just been the issue. However, with the improvements Baltimore made, and the more comebacks and experience under their belt, Baltimore has a serious chance of contending for a Super Bowl this season!
My prediction: Baltimore wins the AFC North as a top 3 seed, and makes it all the way to the Super Bowl! Will they win?! Find out on my season predictions coming out in a little over a month!
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