Breaking Down the AFC After the Cam Newton Signing - Danny Heifetz
Super Bowl Favorites
1a. Baltimore Ravens
Picking between these teams requires splitting hairs, and the Ravens win the tiebreaker because (cliché alert) they are hungrier. That is not a knock on the Chiefs. Kansas City is the defending Super Bowl champion with the rare distinction of returning all three coordinators, 20 of 22 starters, and 22 of 23 assistant coaches from their championship squad. That’s rad. Also, Patrick Mahomes still exists.
But the Ravens get the nod after also returning all of their coordinators, all 17 assistant coaches, and every starter except future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda, who retired after the season. They improved their defense significantly by adding Calais Campbell, and they have an entire offseason to tinker with the offense that set the record for rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt in the Super Bowl era. Also, the Ravens had one of the best four defenses in football, and that combination is why they went 14-2 and earned the 1-seed last year. In 2020, Baltimore has one of the four easiest schedules, according to Warren Sharp. Only one AFC team is getting a bye in 2020, and the Ravens look like the most likely candidate.
2019 ranking on long plays: 3rd
2019 ranking on intended long developing plays: 1st
Starters lost: RG Marshal Yanda (84.9)
New starters: RG Ben Powers (70.9)
We don’t know much about Ben Powers’ future in the NFL, but it’s very unlikely that he can do what Marshal Yanda did for 13 years in Baltimore. However, Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. are one of the best offensive tackle duos in the league, and both have been exceptional at longer developing plays. Given that the tackle position is the most valuable of all the positions on the offensive line, this is enough to mitigate the loss of Yanda and for the team to rank in the top three.
The NFL’s best cornerback trios ahead of the 2020 NFL season - Solomon Wilcots
The Baltimore Ravens went next level in 2019, and their cornerback trio combined for the NFL’s best grade (82.7) while in single-man coverage. Marcus Peters led the way as he transformed his game by posting top-five grades in the most stable coverage metrics.
Marlon Humphrey’s 15th-ranked 76.3 coverage grade helped him secure a spot alongside Peters on PFF’s list of the top 25 cornerbacks of the 2019 regular season. And after posting a top-20 forced incompletion rate (16.8%, 17th) last season, Humphrey has developed a level on confidence that could make him one of the league’s elite corners in 2020.
10) Wide receiver Marquise Brown
Though the Ravens scored more points than any other team in 2019, none of their wide receivers amassed more than 600 yards on the season, evoking a question many fans are quick to ask: How good could the offense get if a ultra-productive wideout emerges to complement a record-breaking running game and proficient passing attack? As the roster stands, Brown represents Baltimore’s best chance of learning the answer. He piled up 584 receiving yards — by far the most among Ravens’ receivers — as a slight and speedy rookie last season and packed on muscle this spring. Free of the foot pain that hampered him in 2019 after a Lisfranc injury, Brown carries realistic aspirations of ascending to star status in Year 2. If he does, he could transform an already accomplished offense.
7) Tight end Mark Andrews
Andrews led the Ravens in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches last season and should see his role expand further in 2020 after the team traded away Hayden Hurst. Most crucially, Andrews provides MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson a much-needed comforting target in the passing game, which can help the offense maintain a rhythm even in trying circumstances.