Brian Baldinger: Ravens over Saints. The Ravens win Super Bowl LV in the same stadium where they won their first title versus the New York Giants many moons ago. I think Baltimore got better this offseason with key acquisitions of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Patrick Queen. The Ravens have the best kicking game in the NFL and a style of offense that is difficult to defend with the reigning MVP at the QB position. Lamar Jackson continues to improve his passing, especially his deep-ball throws to guys like Hollywood Brown, who is fully healthy. Baltimore has it all.
Ali Bhanpuri: Ravens over Seahawks. After sprinting past Mahomes’ merciless Chiefs in the AFC title game, Lamar fulfills the modern-day three-year plan the Kansas City QB perfected:
Year 1: Excite your fan base
Year 2: Win MVP
Year 3: Win Super Bowl MVP
Summer after Year 3: $$$
Russell Wilson vs. Lamar Jackson — the first Black QB1s to go head to head in a Super Bowl — is as incredible a matchup live as it is on paper.
Jeffri Chadiha: Ravens over Saints. The Saints finally break through after three straight years of playoff frustration. However, they run into a loaded Ravens team hell-bent on making up for a missed opportunity at a championship in 2019.
Chase Goodbread: Ravens over Saints. Lamar Jackson further cements his place among the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks with a masterful performance, and rookie LB Patrick Queen provides a big boost to the Baltimore defense in his first year. Ravens win it, 27-20.
Marc Ross: Ravens over Saints. After two years of playoff frustrations, Lamar Jackson leads the Ravens to victory and is named Super Bowl MVP. A last-second Justin Tucker field goal sends the devastated Saints home on the final play for the fourth year in a row.
Marc Sessler: Ravens over Cowboys. After edging the Chiefs in a double-overtime AFC Championship Game thriller, the Ravens topple Dallas in a romp that triggers a distant sculptor to get busy on John Harbaugh’s HOF bust.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 13–3
Baltimore Ravens: 12–4
Cleveland Browns: 9–7
Cincinnati Bengals: 2–14
I liked the Steelers more than I thought I would, though this is assuming a fully healthy and energized Ben Roethlisberger for the duration of the 2020 season. The same can be said about the Browns, who had 11 wins in my first cycle. In my initial run, I also found it hard to squeeze out a win for the Bengals, so Cincinnati did not register in the “W” column of my spreadsheet and thus did not factor into the computations.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore, meanwhile, have schedules that set up quite nicely. Should the Steelers survive that early stretch of games between late September and mid-October, they’ll be rolling into their first head-to-head matchup with the Ravens just before Halloween.
2020 NFL season continuity rankings: Steelers, three NFC teams should be most unfazed by unique offseason - Josh Edwards
16t. Ravens, 64
Baltimore is returning all but one starter on offense as well as all but two starters on defense. Why are they so low? Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been in place for one season while defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has been in place for two seasons rather than the maximum three-plus. It lowers their proverbial ceiling. The defense has six starters with one season or fewer with the AFC North franchise.
PFF Rankings: Ranking all 32 defenses ahead of the 2020 NFL season - Anthony Treash
There was only one glaring flaw with the 2019 Ravens: their pass-rush unit. As a whole, it ranked 27th in pass-rush grade and 30th in pressure rate on non-blitzes. Baltimore made a point of bolstering the line this offseason by trading for Calais Campbell, signing Derek Wolfe and drafting both Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr.
Campbell alone will vastly improve the Ravens’ defensive front. He may not be an elite pass-rusher — he’s primarily a run-stuffer, and a very effective one at that — but he is still productive in that facet. He’s now had four straight years of 90.0-plus PFF grades, which is a clear upgrade over anything Michael Pierce did in Baltimore.
The Ravens also brought back Matthew Judon, who earned a 78.3 pass-rush grade as the team’s most effective pass-rusher in 2019. While we feel the price tag is too high on the franchise tag, he’ll still be a plus pass-rusher for the Ravens and could have an even better 2020 campaign with Campbell eating up blocks on the line.
Even without Earl Thomas III, Baltimore still fields a stellar secondary. DeShon Elliott is the favorite to replace him, but we view rookie Geno Stone as a guy who can step in and surprise if given the opportunity. Meanwhile, the outside cornerback duo of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters comprise one of the top tandems in the NFL, as we view them both as top-10 players at their position. Humphrey has been among the best man-coverage cornerbacks in the NFL since joining the league, ranking sixth in forced incompletion rate on his man-coverage targets over that span. As for Peters, he had the best stretch of play of his career once he joined the Ravens in Week 7 last year. From that point on (including postseason), he tied for the second-best coverage grade at the position.
Practice squad changes
Rosters were capped at 80 in training camp, down from 90 previously, to create more effective social distancing, and with a 53-man roster and 16-player practice squad, essentially the Ravens can keep 69 players.
Of course, Ravens players might be claimed via waivers after they are cut. Every other team has intel on Ravens players, although the lack of preseason games or joint practices has limited that. But the Ravens expect to fill most of their 16-man practice squad from within.
The Ravens though, surely will be watching other teams’ cuts, and that’s in part because of another practice-squad modification for this year. The practice squad is designed for young, developmental players, and in the past, veterans with a certain amount of NFL experience were not eligible. This year, though, six of the 16 practice squad spots are available to any player, regardless of experience.
One other rule change, agreed to in the new collective bargaining agreement, also helps practice squad players: Each week, teams can promote two practice squad players to the active roster, giving them 55-man rosters for Sunday.
Injured reserve changes
Perhaps even more significant is the one-time change to short-term injured reserve:
An unlimited number of players can be designated to return from IR
Players can return from IR after three weeks instead of eight
Last year, just two players could return from injured reserve. The new CBA had increased that number to three, and that rule was modified for this pandemic-altered season. As in the past, however, players must be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible to return from injured reserve. Anyone placed on injured reserve before the 53-man roster set, such as cornerback Iman Marshall, is out for the season.