The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 21 on our rankings are the injury-ravaged Baltimore Ravens.
2016 in a nutshell: An average team posted an average record (8-8) behind an average quarterback (zero-time Pro Bowler Joe Flacco and his 84.5 career passer rating, which is down to 83.5 in his age-31 season). The team’s best player was probably kicker Justin Tucker, which is all you really need to know.
What’s different: Almost nothing, although Baltimore is arguably worse now than they were at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Why they could be awesome: The Ravens once won the Super Bowl with John Harbaugh on the sideline and Flacco under center. If this team can sneak into the playoffs, it always has a chance to do something special.
Why they could suck: Flacco is overrated and continues to live off that one anomaly of a playoff run from 2012, there’s still no clear-cut answer for a running game that ranked in the bottom five in the league last year and the offense lost several key players in the offseason.
— Tony Jefferson (@_tonyjefferson) May 6, 2017
Major additions: Rising safety Tony Jefferson, over-the-hill cornerback Brandon Carr, injured offensive tackle Austin Howard and geriatric running back Danny Woodhead.
Major losses: Veteran receiver Steve Smith and interior offensive lineman John Urschel retired, linebacker Zachary Orr was forced to walk away due to a neck injury and won’t likely be back, tight end Dennis Pitta was cut after another hip injury, and right tackle Rick Wagner and potential Swiss Army knife fullback Juszczyk left in free agency. Yeah…
— NFL Deutschland (@NFLDeutschland) November 12, 2016
Breakout watch: There are two guys to keep an eye on here, both on that transitioning offense. Left tackle and 2016 No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley has a chance to explode after coming on late last season, and they really need top 2015 pick Breshad Perriman to do the same after missing his rookie season and catching only half of the 66 passes thrown his way as a sophomore. Unfortunately, he’s hurting again.
Position to watch: The offensive line and receiving corps aren’t in good shape, but the running back position is probably the most intriguing midway through the preseason. Woodhead missed virtually all of his last season in San Diego due to a knee injury and is 32, but is a hell of a pass-catching back. Beyond that, Terrance West is battling Buck Allen for more of a standard role. Who will emerge? It’s a mystery. Fantasy peeps might want to stay away.
Prediction: I don’t like Flacco, the line outside of Stanley and Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, the running game or the receiving corps. But that D was still a top-10 unit last year, and with Jefferson joining Eric Decker, D.J. Mosley, Brandon Williams and Terrell Suggs, that crew should at least keep the Ravens in enough games to put together an average record yet again.
7-9, 2nd place in the AFC North