14-2, 1st AFC North
Can Defense Carry Them To Playoffs? - The Ravens went 9-7 last season, and it was really no thanks to their offense. While they should be better this season, the defense has been the key component to winning in Baltimore over the last decade. The Ravens were keen on turnovers, leading the league in 2017. They were also top ten in points per game allowed. They have plenty of talent to repeat this season, and with a little help on the offensive side they can break past that nine win season and potentially sneak into the playoffs. The division is a tough task to ask with Pittsburgh being a more complete team.
Revamped Wide Receiver Core - Baltimore has had major issues with putting weapons in place for Joe Flacco over the last few seasons, but this season things are looking better. Baltimore signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, and also landed John Brown. Both are huge upgrades from failed draft moves, and Jeremy Maclin not working out last season. Crabtree is likely looking at top targets in the offense, while Brown has been dominating in preseason. If injury luck is on his side, Brown is looking like a very serviceable number two. Willie Snead is the other name, but after failing to get anything going in New Orleans the last season or two, it is hard to get excited.
What To Expect From Joe Flacco - Sure, Baltimore traded up for Lamar Jackson, but this is still Joe Flacco’s team. Flacco has been a bottom tier quarterback over the last five seasons or so, while we can give him some benefit of the doubt. Flacco has had mediocre pass-catchers the last few seasons, and a running game that had not done much. 2018 expects to be an upgrade in both categories, which can give Flacco the bump he needs. Flacco was reportedly not happy about the Jackson trade-up, which can give him an edge after that massive contract gave him some comfort. Volume has been no issue for Flacco over the last few seasons, so a tick up in efficiency could be a big thing.
Healthier Offensive Line - The offensive line definitely had played better than expected despite the injuries to Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda. They both return this year, and this gives a bump to the running game, and pass protection for Flacco. While you won’t see this team cracking any top ten lists for offensive lines, they will still be on the positive side if they remain healthy. Yanda was a pro-bowler, and Matt Skura will shift back to his normal spot. It is likely we some possible rotations beforehand just given they have plenty of depth and can ride the hot hand.
Pump The Breaks On Lamar Jackson - Lamar Jackson was a phenomenal college player, putting up 50 rushing touchdowns and 69 passing touchdowns in his three year college career at Louisville. Jackson was disrespected coming into the draft, as analysts recommended him coming in as a wide receiver over a quarterback. Baltimore traded up to get Jackson, and of course with Flacco struggling of late, many are buying into him jumping in if Flacco struggles. Jackson has looked decent in preseason, but we are still not ready to see Jackson lead this team. Baltimore is expected to be competitive, and unless they somehow drop five or six games in the first eight-nine weeks, Flacco is going to remain the starter.