I’ll cut right to the chase. The Ravens should finish no worse than a 13-win team. Expectations at the beginning of the season should have been at a minimum playing in the AFC Championship game. It would be the next step that Lamar Jackson and company haven’t taken yet, and they have the talent to do it. A team of this caliber should be foaming at the mouth over their upcoming schedule.
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Baltimore is coming out of their bye and will have played one game in the last 23-days when they take the field at home against Carolina. Not just getting healthy from major injuries. But just getting to rest those aches, bumps, bruises for a decent amount of time should give them a little extra giddy up with a few sub-par opponents on the horizon.
This Sunday they host the Panthers at 3-7 and all three of those wins, oddly enough, came in the division. They aren’t exactly great in any unit on the field. Ravens were favored by -12.5, and that line has since moved to -13, so even more money is coming in on the Ravens by nearly two touchdowns. We should not be sweating this game in the 4th quarter. Even with our old foe Baker Mayfield getting the nod again. Carolina is 31st in weighted DVOA which is kind of a “what have you done for me lately” stat. The Ravens are 4th behind Buffalo, Philly, Dallas, and one spot ahead of Kansas City.
In week 12 they will head to Jacksonville, another team currently at 3-7 who may not as bad as the Panthers despite having the same record. Even with Travis Etienne hitting his stride of late, they still have lost six of their last seven games, including games against the Colts and Texans. The line might not be -13, but maybe -10.5 with the hook and the Ravens should still win this one.
The Ravens come back home for week 13 and find themselves in an interesting matchup against the currently 3-6 Broncos who sports the league’s worst offense, and the league’s best defense, with regards to points scored and allowed. I think the defensive numbers aren’t telling the whole story as their schedule has been quite easy so far. Against the Raiders, Colts, Chargers, Jaguars, Jets, and Titans, the Broncos are 1-5. They have the Raiders up again, and the Panthers before coming here. Denver’s defense ranks 4th in defensive DVOA. Meanwhile the Ravens have played five teams in the top-ten in defensive DVOA, and are 4-1 against them. The “1”, Buffalo, ranked number one, a game the Ravens led 20-3 at one point. The Ravens should present quite a challenge to their defense that they have yet to see, and given the Denver offense, maybe only 17 points wins the game anyway.
Week 14 is our first look at the rival Steelers. I don’t really have much to say other than, forget what you think you know in these rivalry games. We don’t have the whole book on rookie Kenny Pickett yet, but some lopsided quarterback matchups have led to head scratching victories in this rivalry game, on both sides. Ryan Mallet in the mustard pants anyone? He beat the Steelers in a week 16 game that ended their playoff bid. The Steelers needed a win in week 17 of 2019 to go the playoffs as well. The Ravens with a first-round bye locked up played the second stringers and Robert Griffin III won that game. Charlie Batch came to Baltimore and recorded a win against a Ravens team that went on to win the Super Bowl, and cost Cam Cameron his job as offense coordinator. It’s always going to be who wants it more, and who makes less mistakes.
The Ravens will host the Steelers in week 17. Both games the Ravens will be very much favored. There was a time when the Ravens defense would absolutely embarrass rookie quarterbacks. Let’s do that.
The Ravens head to Cleveland for week 15, and all signs point to DeShaun Watson going from under investigation to under center for his third game of the year at that point. He hasn’t played football in two seasons. We’ll see how he looks. This is where an addition like Roquan Smith is so important to slow down a guy like Nick Chubb, the only other real weapon they have. Weather could obviously play a factor in mid-December out there. But again. The Ravens are clearly the better team.
On Christmas Eve the Ravens host the Falcons. Take that team out of the dome and into the potential cold, wet elements? Ravens all day. The Falcons are one of the league’s worst defenses, and as an NFC team, that doesn’t see Lamar Jackson enough to even kind of prepare properly, it’s another game the Ravens ought to roll.
We talked Steelers, and then the season wraps up with a trip to Cincinnati. The Ravens won round one of this divisional feud back in week 5, 19-17. The Bengals are caliber of divisional team that you hope to split with. A ton can change between today and January 8, 2023. But today this game is a toss-up. If the Ravens are 13-3 entering the game, it’s possible that this game doesn’t matter for playoff seeding and they rest players. Or it’s possible that the AFC’s number one seed is up for grabs as the only team with less than three losses in the AFC is the two-loss Chiefs and maybe they have dropped another game or two by then.
Bottom line is, the Ravens are fortunate right now, all things considered. The offensive line is in its best shape in two years. Rashod Bateman will be missed, but the Ravens don’t rely on their wide receivers as much as other teams. They are a running team and Kenyan Drake doesn’t look like the retreads of 2021. Gus Edwards is on his way back, and a J.K. Dobbins free of scar tissue may return during that stretch run of divisional games in December and be back to his 2020 self. Or at a minimum be fresh legs against tired teams. Roquan Smith was a missing piece that makes others on the defense around him better. Kyle Hamilton is getting better each week. Just like Bateman, we miss Michael Pierce, but Broderick Washington has stepped up big time on the defensive front. Marcus Williams will make a return a few weeks and we’ve seen him force turnovers at a nice rate before the wrist injury. They just got Tyus Bowser back, and rookie edge rusher David Ojabo may debut soon. Given how good Justin Houston has been and the attention he’ll command, Ojabo may be in the best position to shine.
If the Ravens can avoid major injury to major players, they will be heading into the home stretch with the roster in peak form, minus Bateman and Pierce, who are nowhere near the impact absences that Ronnie Stanley had been, or Lamar Jackson missing the last five games of 2021 had been, frankly all the injuries in 2021.
With the roster as constructed, if you can’t go 7-1 in these next eight…I’ll even give you 6-2 incase the rival Steelers surprise you in what will be their Super Bowl this season, then we have a problem. This team is that good and has reinforcements coming back. Mark Andrews, Gus Edwards, Dobbins and Williams I mentioned. Cross your fingers for good health, and we should be in for a fun ride.
You got to love that fourth-place schedule. The Ravens get the Jaguars and Broncos instead of the Titans and Chiefs. It also got them the Giants instead of Cowboys, but we saw how that one turned out.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]