Since being crowned Super Bowl XLVII champions five years ago, the Baltimore Ravens have posted one winning season and one one playoff victory. No one has clamored for John Harbaugh’s head, but a slow start in 2017 could prompt the sharpening of the guillotine.
An organization that has historically done well hand-picking its future stars, Baltimore has fallen behind in recent years thanks to some subpar choices in the NFL Draft. This year, the Ravens hope to rejuvenate their defense with their first two picks, Marlon Humphrey and Tyus Bowser. But from our vantage point, there wasn’t enough invested into an offense that ranked No. 21 in scoring last season.
We’ll never fault anyone for picking the Ravens in our NFL Pick ‘Em Contests, but realistically, this probably isn’t much more than a .500 team.
Why the Ravens Will Overachieve in 2017
The AFC North turns into a bloodbath in 2017, just the way the Ravens like it. Nine wins ultimately wins the division, and the way Baltimore gets there is by asking Joe Flacco to turn in career numbers at the age of 32.
Flacco does it, notching his first season with 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions. Breshad Perriman finally evolves into a legitimate No. 1 threat on the outside, and that paired with Mike Wallace’s raw speed opens up enough holes for the ground game to improve upon last year’s dismal 91.4 yards per game.
Terrell Suggs has one more incredibly productive season at defensive end, and the pressure the Ravens get on the quarterbacks each week sees them lead the NFL in sacks. A 4-0 start? It’s not out of the question with games against the Bengals, Browns, Jaguars and Steelers. Sure, things slow down after the bye when Baltimore has a tough stretch at Green Bay, home against Houston and Detroit, then at Pittsburgh, but enough is done in the first month of the season to push this team into the postseason.
Why the Ravens Will Underachieve in 2017
Flacco feels Father Time creeping up behind him. He plays timid and frustrated. He struggles to reach 20 touchdown passes, and in an offense that is still counting on Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro to run the ball, that’s not good enough.
For the second straight season, Baltimore slumps to a 2-6 road record. Remember that the Ravens have to visit the Bengals, Raiders, Vikings, Titans, Packers and Steelers this season, and all of those games end up in the loss column.
True to the form of one of the grittiest teams in the NFL, the Ravens buck up at the end of the year and beat the Colts and Bengals at home to knock both out of the playoffs. A three-game winning streak to end the season gives Baltimore something to build on for 2018, but it’s not good enough for more than 7-9, and Harbaugh is shown the door.
2017 Baltimore Ravens Schedule
Week 1: at Bengals
Week 2: vs. Browns
Week 3: at Jaguars
Week 4: vs. Steelers
Week 5: at Raiders
Week 6: vs. Bears
Week 7: at Vikings
Week 8: vs. Dolphins
Week 9: at Titans
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: at Packers
Week 12: vs. Texans
Week 13: vs. Lions
Week 14: at Steelers
Week 15: at Browns
Week 16: vs. Colts
Week 17: vs. Bengals
Ravens Pick ‘Em Contest Best Bet: Week 9 at Titans
It’ll take some fortitude to lock in the Ravens to our NFL Pick ‘Em Contests in Week 9, knowing that they’ll be underdogs in all likelihood. But the Titans just don’t have a great matchup in front of them. Sure, Tennessee will be coming off of its bye, but Marcus Mariota still can’t really stretch the field as a passer unless Corey Davis proves to be a stud. The ground and pound game? It’s the one thing that has never really worked against Baltimore. The two teams that tried that strategy against the Ravens last year were the Bills and Dolphins. They were defeated 13-7 and 38-6, respectively.
Ravens Pick ‘Em Contest Top Fade: Week 11 at Packers
The exact opposite game. And yes, again it’s going to take some gumption to bet against the Ravens off their bye. But this Green Bay team is something else entirely, especially playing at Lambeau Field. Teams don’t just waltz into the Frozen Tundra and walk out victorious all that often, and with the way Aaron Rodgers is going to spread the ball around in that game, that could slow down an aging pass rush led by Suggs. This is the type of matchup Baltimore historically plays tough in, but we still think the Pack are the right pick.