Eliot Harrison explains his 23rd place ranking for the Baltimore Ravens:
Puzzling free-agency period for the Ravens -- not necessarily in a bad way...interesting. They lost Kelechi Osemele to a big bidder while adding veteran Benjamin Watson. Mid-30s Watson seems like an odd fit, be we'll see how he tandems with Maxx Williams. Baltimore didn't have the money to compete with the Raiders to sign the talented Osemele, but the team did carry the buck to go out and snatch Eric Weddle, in a somewhat unforeseen move. As for the Mike Wallace signing? I'll get excited if/when it pay off. Indirectly throwing your former QB under the bus sure is an ominous start.
The top five of the power rankings include the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos fall to #6 after sustaining heavy free agency losses. Other notable AFC competitors include the Chiefs at #8, Texans at #12, Raiders at #13, Bills at #14 and Indianapolis at #17.
As for the AFC North rivals, Pittsburgh is #4. Harrison pumps up the Steelers as a potential Super Bowl championship team. He talks up the return of injured cornerback Senquez Golson and running back Le'Veon Bell while downplaying the season long suspension of explosive wide receiver Martavis Bryant. The Cincinnati Bengals check in at #9 on his power rankings. Harrison claims the Bengals are still one of the strongest teams in the AFC, even after losing both of their free agent wide receivers. He predicts the Bengals will have difficultly getting wide receiver A.J. Green open without Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu, but retaining corner Adam Jones was crucial. The Cleveland Browns are rank dead last among all 32 teams. New head coach Hue Jackson will have his work cut out for him after the Browns roster was pillaged in free agency and they lost four of their best six or seven players on a roster that was already under talented.
Harrison's rankings do not treat players returning from injury consistently. He boosts the Steelers prospects because Golson and Bell will return from injury but does not believe the return of Breshad Perriman, Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr. will have the same positive effect on the Ravens. He also downgraded the Ravens for losing Osemele in free agency, but the Bengals free agency losses are not equally accounted for.
On the bright side, these rankings are completely meaningless and have no bearing whatsoever on how the 2016 season will play out. Even better for the Ravens hopes, the Baltimore franchise has always been most comfortable and played their best football when considered an underdog. After lofty expectations preseason expectations for the Ravens before last season, the Ravens are underdogs again and all is right in the NFL universe.