On Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI, marking the official conclusion of the 2021 NFL season. Although, the Baltimore Ravens’ season has been over for more than a month now having missed out on the playoffs.
With the offseason now in swing for all 32 teams across the league, the focus will quickly move to the upcoming draft, free agency period and so on. After the Super Bowl came to a close, ESPN released their annual early power rankings for the 2022 season. The Ravens landed just outside the Top-10 on the list, ranking No. 12.
They are sandwiched in-between two other AFC teams that narrowly missed the playoffs this season in the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. Baltimore is the highest-ranking team that finished with a losing record in 2021 and the only such team in the Top-15. The next closest sub-.500 squad is the Cleveland Browns at No. 16.
This marks a change of scenery for the Ravens. Immediately following the previous two Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020, they ranked in the Top-10 of ESPN’s early power rankings and similarly high in other outlets’ rankings, too. Now, they trail six other AFC teams on the ESPN list: the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Chargers.
Power rankings like this, especially so far out from the 2022 season, don’t carry much weight. However, they do offer an interesting look at where teams stand prior to making moves in the draft and free agency, and how the NFL hierarchy currently shakes out.
Much has been made about the rash of injuries the Ravens suffered in 2021. They lost a number of key starters to season-ending injuries both before and during the season and ultimately placed more players on injured reserve than any other team. The accumulation of this took its toll down the stretch, as the Ravens dropped six games in a row to finish 8-9.
Looking ahead to 2022, positive regression in terms of health will undoubtedly go a long way in helping the Ravens revert to their 2018-2020 form. However, it’s not quite that simple. They also have a number of holes to fill and positions to upgrade on both sides of the ball this offseason. Of utmost importance is upgrading the offensive line, which ESPN’s Jamison Hensley noted in the article.
“On the field, the Ravens need to better protect quarterback Lamar Jackson, and team officials understand that building a better wall in front of him has become a priority,” Hensley noted.
Other priorities will likely be adding more talent/youth on the defensive line and playmaking ability in the secondary, among other areas.
This year’s playoffs demonstrated that the AFC figures to be a dogfight moving forward. The Bengals have now joined teams like the Chiefs, Bills and Titans as a contender, and their improvement makes winning the division a much greater challenge for the Ravens.
The full Top-10 of the ESPN power rankings is as follows —
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Buffalo Bills
- Los Angeles Rams
- Green Bay Packers
- Cincinnati Bengals
- San Francisco 49ers
- Dallas Cowboys
- Tennessee Titans
- New England Patriots
- Arizona Cardinals
You can check out the entire list here and be sure to share your thoughts below!
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