Team Capsules: Baltimore Ravens
August 9, 2023
A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season
The Ravens enter the 2023 season with eyes wide open and limited distractions following a second-place finish in the AFC North last season. Baltimore finished with a 10-7 record, which was good enough for a wild card spot, although they wound up losing to the division rival Bengals 24-17 in the first round of the big dance.
That said, the Ravens were without former MVP Lamar Jackson down the stretch last season. Jackson got hurt during the Ravens matchup against the Broncos in early December. He did not return for the remainder of the season, likely to protect himself from further injury due to his impending contract negotiation. While the Ravens managed to grind out some wins down the stretch and make the playoffs, they were nowhere near the same team without Jackson.
After a lengthy contract dispute during the offseason, both sides agreed on a five-year, $260 million extension that keeps Jackson in Baltimore for the foreseeable future and, presumably, motivated to return to his MVP form. The Ravens also gave Jackson some help at the wide receiver position by signing free agent Odell Beckham Jr. to a deal. OBJ is easily the most skilled wideout Jackson has ever played with.
With a happy and paid QB, Baltimore will look to contend for a Super Bowl in 2023. As it stands, Baltimore is +230 to win the AFC North, +1000 to come out of the AFC and +1800 to win the Super Bowl.
What to like about the Ravens…
- Part of the reason Baltimore flamed out last season was because Lamar Jackson was not secure entering the season. When he got hurt, he essentially waved the white flag to protect himself and his health to facilitate his payday during the offseason. Nobody knows how last season would have played out had Jackson come back for the playoffs, but the distraction is in the rearview mirror, no more contract thoughts in the back of everyone’s head. All Lamar, and the organization, need to worry about is winning football games. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
- Adding Odell Beckham Jr. is a big win for the Ravens. While he is coming off yet another major injury, Beckham took all of last season to get right mentally and physically. Still only 30 years old, Odell should be able to come in right away and contribute in Baltimore. The Ravens like to utilize Jackson in various ways, but they have never had a threat quite like OBJ to mix into their playbook. They’ll still be able to run the ball, use Lamar as a runner, and find Mark Andrews over the middle, but adding OBJ opens up a whole new dynamic for the Ravens’ offense and new coordinator Todd Monken.
- John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the NFL. Harbaugh is 147-95 for his career as an NFL head coach, and the Ravens have only had two losing seasons under his command since 2015. While the AFC looks like a gauntlet this season, Harbaugh is no stranger to grinding out wins in the most challenging conditions.
What not to like about the Ravens…
- The AFC is loaded with talent this season. In the AFC North alone, the Ravens will have to deal with the Bengals and seemingly improved versions of the Browns and Steelers. Deshaun Watson should be much better after he got back on the field last season and has an entire offseason to prepare. Plus, if there is any coach in the NFL better than Harbaugh, it’s his rival Mike Tomlin. Three of the top favorites to win the Super Bowl are from the AFC in the Chiefs (6/1), Bills (9/1) and Bengals (9/1). Keep in mind the Dolphins are still good, the Jets are much improved, and there are a handful of other teams in the AFC with tremendous upside. Steep climb for the Ravens in the AFC.
- There is no questioning Lamar Jackson is a dynamic QB. That said, when he was first drafted, Baltimore featured a massive offensive line and utilized Jackson as a runner. While his completion percentage has floated around 63% each of the last three seasons, his QBR has been a bit up and down. A 83 QBR in 2019 got him the MVP award, but he’s posted a QBR of 67.3, 50.7 and 59.1 in the following years. The Ravens put their eggs in the Lamar Jackson basket. The success of the team has a lot to do with how he performs.
- The Ravens have a solid secondary, but their pass rush needs to improve. Justin Madubuike led the team in sacks last season at 5.5 of returning players, not exactly the cream of the crop. The Ravens had hurry percentage of 6.3%, which is around the middle of the pack in the NFL. They must be better at putting pressure on the QB, especially in that division.
Steve Quinne’s Pick: Ravens to make the playoffs (-150) or win the AFC North (+230)
Baltimore will be one of the better teams in the crowded AFC. With Jackson healthy and taken care of financially, this Ravens squad enters the season with sky-high expectations. Plus, Jackson will have his guy Mark Andrews ready to rock at tight end, along with OBJ on the outside. We have seen Jackson thrive with much less talent to work with. This is easily the best pool of talent he’s had to work with since joining the Ravens organization. If they can generate pressure on the QB and continue to play solid defense against the pass, Baltimore should be right in the thick of the AFC playoff push. While the price for them to make the playoffs is a bit juiced, it is worth the squeeze in this instance.
Furthermore, with Joe Burrow hurt at the moment, how good might the Bengals be out of the gate? Is there some regression in store for Cincy after a Super Bowl and conference championship game appearance in consecutive seasons?
The Ravens, when healthy, are pretty close to the Bengals across the board. They have a better coach and a QB that can impact a game in his own way. Heck, they almost managed to beat the Bengals in the playoffs without Lamar. Plus, Baltimore should be better than the Browns and Steelers. Let’s look for the Ravens to return to the postseason and shoot a dart on them to win the division.