After starting the season 3-0, the 2016 Ravens lost their next four games and stumbled their way to a mediocre 8-8 season. The Ravens opened their season with eight straight games decided by eight points or less. In 2015, the Ravens opened the season with 12 straight games decided by eight points or less. If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s a lot of close games from the Ravens early on in the year. They don’t get blown out often, but they can’t always close out games when it’s within their grasp either. After an offseason full of retirements, injuries, and overall turmoil, not many see a bright future for the Ravens in 2017.
|Danny Woodhead, RB||Steve Smith, WR|
|Brandon Carr, CB||Zach Orr, ILB|
|Brandon Boykin, CB||Shareece Wright, CB|
|Jeremy Maclin, WR||Elvis Dumervil, OLB|
|Austin Howard, OT||Kyle Juszczyk, FB|
|Tony Jefferson, SS||Dennis Pitta, TE|
|John Urschel, OG|
|Ricky Wagner, OT|
|Timmy Jernigan, DT|
The pieces lost for the Ravens is only half of the story. Just in training camp, the Ravens have lost the following players to injury: Joe Flacco, Kenneth Dixon, Crockett Gillmore, Breshad Perriman, Nico Siragusa, and Alex Lewis. While some of these players are expected to return from injury, a few of them are lost for the season. It's been quite a brutal camp for the Ravens thus far, and the team will look drastically different once the season starts.
The top two pass catchers for the Ravens have departed with the retirement of Steve Smith and release of Dennis Pitta, and therefore 156 receptions are "up for grabs" in the offense. The Ravens led the league in passing attempts last year, and with their projected starting running back, Kenneth Dixon, out for the season with injury, it seems that they'll likely be a pass-happy offense again. The good news is that both Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin are good pass catchers, and should feel at home in this offense.
|1||@ Cincinnati Bengals|
|3||@ Jacksonville Jaguars|
|5||@ Oakland Raiders|
|7||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|9||@ Tennessee Titans|
|11||@ Green Bay Packers|
|14||@ Pittsburgh Steelers|
|15||@ Cleveland Browns|
The Ravens never get a chance to get comfortable this year. Their longest homestand is two games, which they get twice at the end of the season. Their first nine weeks are alternating away and home games.
The Ravens are scheduled for three primetime matchups this year, including a Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night game. On top of that, they also get a London game and a Saturday evening game, so there is plenty of opportunity for the general NFL audience to catch these Ravens in action.
Three players to watch: Danny Woodhead, running back
Woodhead is one of the best competitors in the NFL. He's short, scrappy, and a great pass catcher. He's a great asset to any team, and any Chargers fan was surely disappointed to see him leave in the offseason. The Ravens, being a pass-happy team, throw a lot to the running backs. Danny Woodhead just so happens to be one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league.
Woodhead is a great compliment to this offense. He'll be a friend to Flacco, and he should see a lot of volume in this offense. He's had some health concerns over his career, including a recent hamstring injury. His status for week one is questionable, but if he can stay healthy this year, he'll be a big part of their offense.
Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver
This is one of my favorite acquisitions of the offseason. Maclin is a great receiver who was trapped on the Kansas City Chiefs run heavy offense. Alex Smith is not one to throw deep, yet that's where Maclin did most of his damage during his time with the Eagles. Now on the Ravens, Maclin's deep ball skills will be used heavily, as Flacco is one of the most frequent bomb-artists in the league. Once a game, you can count on Flacco airing it out just for the possibility of a pass interference call.
Not only does he have the deep ball skills, but his role as a possession receiver was developed in Kansas City. Maclin is an underrated, but very complete receiver, and I see him thriving in this offense.
Tony Jefferson, strong safety
The one thing the Ravens have had historically is a dominant defense; this season is no exception. Tony Jefferson makes up one half of arguably the best safety duo in the AFC. Jefferson joins Eric Weddle, a four time pro bowler. Jefferson was a key member of the vaunted Arizona Cardinals defense for his first four seasons, and now he'll be part of another great secondary.
The Ravens also added cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency. Add in Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, and 2017 first round pick Marlon Humphrey, not only is this team deep in the secondary, but they're also very talented and set up for a big year defensively.
Just like the other 31 teams in the NFL, the Ravens have a glimmer of hope to start the year that everything will be just fine and they can make the super bowl. The reality is, there are plenty of teams with hopes more realistic than those of the Baltimore Ravens. I don't usually like teams with uncertainty and a lack of identity, and I feel like the Ravens fit that mold. They need to get healthy, they need to get their running game going, and Joe Flacco needs to put this team on his (slightly injured) back if they want to win. Flacco hasn't proved much since getting his big contract in 2013. In fact, he's on pace to break the record for most passing attempts without making a pro bowl in NFL history.
With all of the uncertainty surrounding this team, I have them going 6-10, finishing third in the AFC North. I think they have potential to be an 8-8 team at best, so I don't see playoffs in the picture for this team.
How do you think the Ravens will do this year? Let us know in the comments below!
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