Baltimore Ravens 2017 Preview

 

I love how the Baltimore Ravens are named after a character, more of like a mad vision inside the head of a character, in one of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. Sort of makes sense. Doesn’t the AFC have the better names, anyhow?

Think about it. What’s more interesting? Bears, Lions, Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons? Or, Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers, Raiders, and, yes, Ravens?

Baltimore Ravens 2017 Preview

Nothing I’ve written so far has anything to do with whether the Ravens can win Super Bowl LII or not. That’s okay. The reason I’m thinking so much about Baltimore’s nickname is because unlike so many of my fellow NFL fans, I’m just not that hot on Baltimore doing much this season.

I was. I really was before the NFL Draft. Then, the Ravens made a suspect decision. I also question some of the veterans on the team, and whether they can step it up.

Let’s get to the Baltimore Ravens 2017 preview!

Baltimore’s Round 1 Draft Pick:  Cornerback Marlon Humphrey

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess if Marlon Humphrey starts practicing in pads. So far, Humphrey’s only been on the sidelines, cutting and running with a trainer. That’s not a good sign. Humphrey had a hamstring injury while at Alabama. That’s the first issue.

The second issue is that I believe Humphrey is incredibly overrated. I’m not sure why the Ravens spent their Round 1 pick on Marlon Humphrey. Sure, he was flashy while playing corner for the Crimson Tide, but I’m not sure his flash translates to production in the NFL.

In any case, Humphrey’s pro career hasn’t started out all that well. I believe if you’re a Ravens’ fan, you must worry that Humphrey isn’t injured. Baltimore didn’t disclose why Humphrey is on the sidelines, running, and cutting instead of practicing in pads.

If Baltimore doesn’t want anyone to know that Marlon Humphrey hasn’t developed his cornerback skills enough to start in the NFL, that’s bad news for Ravens’ fans. Heck, that’s bad news for the entire organization.

The Baltimore Ravens’ Vanilla Offense

Every sports fan in North America should know what the word vanilla means when describing a football team’s offense. Just in case you don’t, let me explain. Vanilla is your basic, ice cream, flavor. It’s not exciting. Vanilla ice cream is wildly boring until you turn vanilla ice cream into vanilla bean ice cream.

I can’t think of a more vanilla offense than the Baltimore Ravens’ offense. Baltimore averaged 21.4 points per game last season. That ranked 21st in the NFL. The Ravens, surprisingly since John Harbaugh remains their coach, only averaged 91.4 rushing yards per game. That ranked 28th in the NFL.

QB Joe Flacco threw for 256.2 passing yards per game last season. Not bad, but since it only translated to around 21 points per, Baltimore had trouble winning football games.

Did Baltimore improve at all on offense?

If Baltimore’s goal was to improve the rushing attack, they made no moves in free agency to do so. The same rushers they had in 2016 are their rushers for 2017. Sure, Kenneth Dixon, or Danny Woodhead could turn into an RB1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

The wide receiver position did get a nice upgrade when Jeremy Maclin, whom Kansas City unexpectedly cut, signed with the Ravens. When healthy, Maclin is one of the most sure-handed wide receivers in the NFL. He made Alex Smith look good while at KC. He was often hurt last season. Also, he’s been in the league for a while now.

The problem Maclin might run into at Baltimore is playing with QB Joe Flacco. Flacco signed a massive contract after he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl win in 2012. 2012 is some time ago. Flacco’s been living off the Super Bowl win since then.

Let’s go over Flacco’s QB ratings since that magical 2011-2012 Super Bowl win. I’ve listed them by NFL Seasons.

2012 NFL Season 87.7

2013 NFL Season 73.1

2014 NFL Season 91

2015 NFL Season 83.1

2016 NFL Season 83.5

I get it. I understand that some things, many things, are out of a quarterback’s control. But, Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl winning quarterback. What it means is that he’s supposed to be better than an 83.5 QB rating.

That’s the problem I see with Baltimore’s offense. It doesn’t matter what they do. Unless QB Joe Flacco can improve upon his decision-making, change something up to improve, it’s difficult to see Baltimore’s offense getting much better than 21 points per game.

Can Baltimore’s Defense Carry the Ravens?

This is a tough question to answer. The Ravens’ defense is loaded with talented players. Many of them are also young. The defense only allowed 20 points per game last season. That’s not bad in today’s NFL where an emphasis is on putting points on the board.

But, I still keep going back to Humphrey running up and down the sidelines instead of practicing in pads. To me, the fact that Baltimore spent their Round 1 pick on Marlon Humphrey, instead of drafting DE Jonathan Allen from Alabama when Terrell Suggs just played in his 13th season, gives me no confidence.

So, yes, the Ravens’ defense should be good. I don’t think it can carry the entire team, though. It’s going to be good just not good enough.

Baltimore Ravens 2017-2018 NFL Regular Season Schedule

The Ravens must battle teams from the NFC North. With the exception of the Chicago Bears, teams in the NFC North this season should be competitive. What it means is that Baltimore most likely splits by losing 2 of their 4 games versus Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago. Baltimore could lose all 4. They could lose 3. But, I believe they lose at least 2 out of their 4 games versus the NFC North.

Baltimore battles Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati twice just like they do every season. How many AFC North Division games will Baltimore win? I believe the Ravens win 3 out of 6. Baltimore is now up to 5 losses.

3 road games that aren’t going to be easy for Baltimore are against Jacksonville, Oakland, and Tennessee. Baltimore is lucky if they can win 1 of the 3 road games. Oakland could be a loss. I don’t believe Jacksonville and Tennessee are easy wins. Baltimore is now up to 7 losses.

Will the Ravens lose another game to go 8 and 8 on the season? My gut tells me yes. Here are the choices:  Miami on Oct. 26, Houston on Nov. 27, or Indianapolis on Dec. 23. I can see Baltimore losing to either Houston on Nov. 21, or losing to Indy on Dec. 23. Both Houston and Indianapolis project to have a better offense than Baltimore has this season.

Houston’s defense should be better than Baltimore’s. Indianapolis’s defense won’t be great, but it should have no trouble keeping the Ravens’ to 21 points or so while QB Andrew Luck tears up Baltimore’s D.

Best case scenario for the Baltimore Ravens? 8 and 8. Worst case scenario? 6 and 10. Likeliest scenario? 7 and 9.

Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl LII Odds

Baltimore is at 40 to 1 to win the 2018 Super Bowl. The odds imply that although many NFL analysts and fans believe the Ravens will be competitive, NFL Super Bowl Future handicappers don’t. I’m one of those NFL handicappers who doesn’t believe a lot in the Baltimore Ravens.

I believe the Baltimore team that won the 2012 Super Bowl is long gone. Terrell Suggs has 1, maybe 2, seasons left. I doubt he plays at his optimum level in 2017. Not only that, I’m not sure Joe Flacco has what it takes to improve. Flacco’s been in the league since 2008-2009. He’s never recorded a QB rating higher than 93.6. I doubt he does this season.

The NFL has changed a lot since 2012. You must score to win football games in the NFL. The days of only relying on your defense are over. Ask Atlanta how that worked in Super Bowl 51. I just don’t see Baltimore winning the big game this season.

No matter the odds, Baltimore is a pass in my book.