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ESPN predicts a big year for Joe Flacco

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season begins in earnest on Sunday, meaning we’re close to the end of speculation season. Pundits make picks and predict matchups all offseason long up until the arrival of this weekend renders these forecasts almost entirely irrelevant.

Despite this, there’s a reason why experts are called upon to give their opinions - they know what they’re talking about, at least most of the time. ESPN recently called upon each of their 32 NFL team writers to give one bold prediction for the team they cover for 2018.

Jamison Hensley has been on the beat for the Baltimore Ravens for a long time now, and he knows a thing or two about the team and it’s players. Based on that, he’s making a bold prediction about a polarizing player who is entering the most pivotal season of his career, quarterback Joe Flacco:

“Joe Flacco will surpass his single-season passing mark of 4,317 yards and reach 30 touchdowns for the first time in his career. Teammates say the drafting of Lamar Jackson has lit a fire under Flacco, who’s also healthier than he has been since 2014. All signs point to Flacco delivering a career year.”

All signs pointing to a career year may be a bit optimistic of a statement, one sign that wouldn’t necessarily do so is his last three years playing football. While Flacco has flashed at times in that span, he’s been mediocre or worse for the majority of it.

There are obvious factors in play that mitigate his poor play, including health and subpar surrounding casts, but the fact remains that Flacco hasn’t carried the torch for the franchise that’s been paying him a large amount of money to do so. The excuses simply can’t continue for number five any longer; the receiving corps has a ton of fresh blood from both free agency and the draft, and he’s as healthy as he’s been since 2015 when he tore his ACL and saw his consecutive starts streak end in an already lost season.

As for the actual prediction, it’s not necessarily crazy even though they would be both be career highs for the veteran. This is because of aforementioned factors working in Flacco’s favor, as well as the fact that those numbers are industry standard for a franchise quarterback in 2018.

Regardless, it’ll be a positive development for all parties involved if Hensley’s bold prediction on Flacco comes to fruition this year. That way, the team can either decide to keep him if they still think he can get it done, or move on from him when his value is the highest it’s been in years.