It’s Underdog Week here at SB Nation and for the first time—possibly in franchise history, the Baltimore Ravens are not considered an underdog or dark horse entering the regular season.
For most of franchise history but certainly in the 2000’s, the Ravens would be mentioned by the national media as a plausible Wildcard contender, though they were in the back seat fellow AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was mostly accurate, too. From 2003 to 2011 the AFC sent only the Patriots, Steelers or Colts to the Super Bowl. If not for Joe Flacco and the 2012 Ravens, the cycle of AFC starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl would have continued on with only three representing the conference. Those being Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.
But even that small blip of Flacco lasted only a single season. After the Ravens 2012 championship, Brady and Manning returned to represent the AFC through 2018.
2013 - Manning
2014 - Brady
2015 - Manning
2016 - Brady
2017 - Brady
2018 - Brady
So, to my point, the Ravens were deservedly labeled underdogs. Now? Not so much.
Baltimore sports one of the most marketable pro athletes in America. The 2019 offense led by QB Lamar Jackson, was the highest scoring offense last season, averaging 33.2 points per game. Jackson was benched in five games and didn’t play in Week 17 due to blowing out the opponent and sealing up the number one seed in the playoffs early. He missed over two full games of playing time in 2019 as a result of the teams’ success and the national media took notice.
The spotlight is now firmly fixated on the Ravens. Early gambling odds place Baltimore as the favorite in every 2020 matchup, with four of the point spreads in double digits.
It’s a bit foreign, hearing pundits heralding the Ravens and dedicating full segments to discuss the team. So often, fans of the Ravens relished the lack of attention, just as it felt the players thrived on being underestimated. The lack of media attention gave off an appearance of fewer distractions. But as I said, that’s in the past.
Just as fans enjoyed the shadows some are welcoming the buzz. I asked Ravens fans some questions, including if they had any reaction when considering the Ravens are no longer an “underdog team?”
“It certainly feels weird,” Stephen said. “But at the same time, it is nice that the team is getting the respect it deserves. I love Peter Schrager comparing the Ravens offseason to the one where the Bulls spent so much time in the weight room to finally beat the Pistons. Ultimately, I believe Harbaugh is the type of coach who can have the team ready to handle success the way Belichick, Tomlin and Dungy always had the Patriots, Steelers and Colts ready in the mid-2000’s.”
I also asked if they like the idea of the Ravens receiving more national media attention.
“Yes,” Kevin said. “[the Ravens have] the continuity in both the front office and the coaching staff to handle being one of the big franchises in the league, and a young, exciting team that football fans will really enjoy watching,”
A new era in Charm City brought on by the team’s quarterback with the aptly on-the-nose Instagram handle of, “new_era8,” comes with a national audience in tow. Fortunately, with a roster full of players laser-focused on a championship paired with a fan base passionate and supportive of the team, the absence of the underdog title is quickly forgotten and the limelight will suit them nicely.