With the NFL season kicking off, the hope that manifests from the last several months of the offseason still exists for most of the 32 teams. This is the case until each of them begins their season and certain realities begin to set in, which ultimately expose the potentially fatal flaws of of these squads.
Until then though, a case can plausibly be made for many of the teams in the league to hoist the Lombardi trophy in Atlanta. In an article for ESPN, Bill Barnwell lays out a blueprint for every single team to do so, including the Baltimore Ravens.
While even the most optimistic fans of the purple and black probably aren’t especially hopeful for a title run this season, Barnwell notes that no national media members picked Philadelphia to do so a year ago. As a result, none of the scenarios laid out in his article are especially crazy, including Baltimore’s, who he writes up at 10th likeliest based upon their Super Bowl odds:
The Ravens are a swirling vortex of quantitative indicators. Baltimore went 9-7 last season with the point differential of a 10.4-win team, suggesting that it is likely to improve in 2018. An offensive line that lost multiple would-be starters before September ended should also be healthier. On the other hand, the Ravens faced the league’s easiest schedule by opponent point differential, recovered the league’s highest percentage of fumbles, and had the NFL’s best turnover margin, all of which is difficult to count on in 2018. Naturally, the most important number of all is eight, which is the jersey rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson will be wearing on the Baltimore sideline to start the season. Will Jackson take over for Joe Flacco after years of uninspiring play? And if he does, will the former Heisman Trophy winner inspire the Ravens to a higher level of play of offense, or will he struggle through growing pains in what amounts to a transition season? It certainly seems like the Ravens have a higher ceiling with Jackson under center.
His point about Jackson possessing a higher ceiling than Flacco is interesting. While Jackson has a ton of potential to be a great quarterback, he still has some growing to do, which may keep the team from a deep playoff run should he take over as the starter.
This isn’t to say it couldn’t be done, as Flacco himself nearly put Baltimore in the Super Bowl as a rookie in 2008. However, the veteran’s postseason experience would likely give them a better shot of winning a ring this season, even if Jackson presents more upside down the line.
Instead of focusing on the offense though, it’s the defense and special teams that look especially Super Bowl caliber. Jimmy Smith’s suspension certainly hurts, but the same strong defense returns with a hopefully more aggressive coordinator to unleash them.
Justin Tucker and Sam Koch are among the best at what they do, led by Jerry Rosburg who is a criminally underrated coordinator in the national landscape. If everything comes together as expected, Baltimore could be a surprise team in the hunt for a Lombardi trophy this winter.