Through the first nine weeks of the 2023 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens look like the most complete team in the league and it’s not relatively close.
Even though they don’t boast or hold the No. 1 seed in AFC standings, no other team has been as consistent as them over the first half of the season. This is especially true during their recent four-game winning streak.
The Ravens have been playing complementary football in all three phases. Their point differential on the season thus far is +115, which is 35 better than the next closest team — the Buffalo Bills. In the last three weeks, they’ve faced a pair of NFC division-leading teams in the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. Both of them are two or more games of .500 and the Ravens blew them out by a combined 75-9 in dominant fashions.
The highest score differential so far in 2023 pic.twitter.com/KPUsL0ybTo— PFF (@PFF) November 8, 2023
The Ravens are well-coached on both sides of the ball by innovative and impactful coaches. They are also getting healthier after having several injured or recovering players earlier in the season.
This team hasn’t advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since their 2012 Super Bowl-winning season. That year, their championship run felt magical and was ignited by the imminent retirement of Hall of Fame inside linebacker Ray Lewis. This year’s squad is on a torrid pace and looking like the most well-rounded team in the league. The Ravens feel destined for greatness after being hamstrung by injuries in each of the past two seasons following strong starts.
Here are all the key ingredients that the 2023 Ravens possess that have them poised to make their deepest playoff run in over a decade and claim the third Super Bowl in franchise history.
After having the team’s last two seasons derailed by injuries at key positions, Ravens’ General Manager Eric DeCosta and his staff have assembled their deepest roster since 2011. Several members of the Super Bowl-winning squad have said on numerous occasions that they had much better talent and depth than the year prior.
This season, the Ravens are loaded on both sides of the ball at every position group. A common theme that many of their core leaders have said about this roster is that it has “no weaknesses.”
DeCosta didn’t have the financial flexibility to load up in free agency because he was still trying to get a long-term deal done with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson. He also didn’t have an abundance of draft picks like he did in 2022 to to replenish their ranks with inexpensive rookie talent. However, he was able to make key additions via both avenues of roster building, especially when it came to revamping their much-maligned wide receiver depth chart.
Over the past two years, they’ve also reinforced their offensive line. Their improved depth has come up clutch at times this season when they’ve had key starters miss time. Veteran utility lineman Patrick Mekari has started games at both left tackle and right tackle and played exceptionally well. Veteran backup center Sam Mustipher started two games and played well in place of second-year starter Tyler Linderbaum.
Patrick Mekari vs. the Seahawks:— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 6, 2023
38 pass blocking snaps
0 sacks allowed
0 pressures allowed
DeCosta signed veteran right tackle Morgan Moses to a steal of a deal last offseason and he has been one of their most consistent offensive players since. He also drafted offensive tackle Daniel Faalele last season who made his first career start as a rookie. Faalele has filled in admirably when injuries have occurred during games.
Where DeCosta has struck gold and made some of his most impactful additions have been the veteran defensive signings made during training camp and since the start of the season.
Seventh-year veteran Arthur Maulet was signed at the onset of camp and is having a career year filling in the nickel spot for an injured Ar’Darius Washington. They have a pair of 10-year veteran outside linebackers, Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who have been their saving grace and most impactful edge setters.
Most pressures generated by a Ravens player in the 2022 season:— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 7, 2023
Justin Houston - 39
Most pressures generated by a Ravens player this season thru 9 weeks:
Jadeveon Clowney - 39 pic.twitter.com/1WhZTgLpze
Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s days in Baltimore may be numbered because of how dominant his unit has been playing this season. Through the first nine games of the season, they are shutting down opposing offenses at rates that rival the legendary units of the Ravens’ defense past.
They are giving up a league-low 4.1 yards per play and their 13.8 points allowed per game is on pace for the lowest mark since the 2006 Raven, per ESPN Stats. According to TruMediaSports, they are giving up a touchdown on just 8.7 percent of opposing drives, which is the lowest mark since their historic Super Bowl-winning 2000 defense.
Their pass rush has been the league’s most disruptive this season with an NFL-leading 35 sacks. The Ravens have 13 different players with at least one sack and at least one player from each level of the defense with three or more sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, the unit has generated 203 quarterback pressures thus far, which is the most through nine games since the 2018 season.
The Baltimore Ravens have generated 203 QB pressures this season— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 9, 2023
It's the most thru 9 weeks since 2018 pic.twitter.com/JIYqJQKFd3
Explosive passing attack
For the previous five seasons, the Ravens fielded the league’s foremost best rushing attack by far. However, outside of the 2019 season and occasional flashes, their passing game severely lagged under former Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. In his first year on the job, new play-caller Todd Monken has been orchestrator of one of the league’s most exciting aerial attacks.
The seasoned coach came up from college ranks, where he was the offensive maestro for the two-time defending champion University of Georgia Bulldogs. After aiding a Heisman Trophy winner in Stetson Bennett, he’s now helped unlock the greatest dual threat in league history, Lamar Jackson. The former unanimous league MVP has made tremendous strides as a passer, especially from the pocket in maneuvering, reading the field, and throwing off any platform.
Jackson currently leads the league in completion percentage. According to PFF, he isn’t just the most accurate quarterback on passing attempts of 10+ yards, but is also the highest-graded quarterback on such throws as with a mark of 97.2.
Lamar Jackson: the highest-graded QB on 10+ yard throws this season - 97.2 pic.twitter.com/0MJTKQWIsE— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 8, 2023
In addition to playing in a more balanced and innovative scheme, Jackson has been able to thrive in large part to his improved arsenal of pass catchers. The aforementioned revamped wide receiver room saw additions of three former first-round picks.
In free agency, they added nine-year veteran Nelson Agholor and three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. Booth have played key roles and made huge plays, although their stats aren’t gaudy. DeCosta appears to have hit a home run draft pick with standout rookie Zay Flowers. He leads the team in targets (62) and receptions (45), and ranks second in receiving yards (472). Flowers has been the second-most exciting player on the team behind Jackson this season thus far.
Dominant running game
The-improved aerial assault has been the talk of the town and deservedly so given how far they have come. However, the Ravens remain a run-first team and they’ve proven that is still the case this year. Monken has been able to not only maintain many of the core concepts under Roman but also expound on them.
The Ravens may not be averaging nearly as many yards per rush as they did from 2019-2022 but their rushing success is still highly efficient. They lead the league in both total rushing yards (1,443) and rushing yards per game (160.3). They’re tied for No. 1 in rushing touchdowns (17) and are second in yards per attempt (4.8).
In their resounding win over the Seahawks, the Ravens racked up a season-high 298 yards on the ground. That was also the fourth most single-game rushing yards in franchise history and the most since the 2020 season.
Over the past two weeks, they’ve had two different running backs be voted the NFL’s FedEx Ground Player of the Week for their outstanding rushing performance. This past Sunday it was undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell, who broke out for a career-high (138) rushing yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. The week prior, it was sixth-year veteran Gus Edwards who recorded season-highs in carries (19) and rushing yards (80) to go along with a career-high three touchdowns.
Come playoff time, two of the biggest keys to success that travel well are a good defense and a potent rushing attack. To this point, the Ravens are the league’s best in these areas.
On most squads, special teams are often overlooked and aren’t prioritized — but that has never been the case in Baltimore. The Ravens have a rich history of having strong special teams units. They’ve had some lapses in covering kicks and punts this year. However, their two specialists have been excellent and are key weapons when it comes to putting up points for the offense and flipping the field for the defense.
Future Hall of Fame veteran kicker Justin Tucker remains the gold standard at his position with all three of his misses on the season being from beyond 50 yards. He is a perfect 16-of-16 on attempts under that threshold and is still as clutch and automatic as ever.
In just his second season, 2022 fourth-round pick Jordan Stout is already establishing himself as one of the elite punters in the league. He has consistently helped the Ravens win the field position battle each week with his excellently placed boots. Stout’s punts are pinning opposing offense inside their own 20-yard line 45.9 percent of the time, which is the eighth-best mark in the league.
The former Penn State standout’s 17 punts downed inside the opposing 20-yard line is tied for the fourth most in the league through nine games.
As cliché as it may come across to some, good vibes and camaraderie throughout the team, especially in the locker room, is essential to making championship runs. Part of being 100 percent bought in is having complete trust and belief that each player has in their fellow players and in the organization from the coaching staff to the front office.
One of the more exciting aspects of this year’s team is the incredibly strong bond they all share. Hearing the stories and insights within the team has been entertaining witness. The Ravens’ vibes are immaculate right now.
Following a championship, members of every Super Bowl-winning team attest to not only the talent of their championship squads but how close they became throughout the season. They reminisce about how that closeness carried and propelled them to greater heights collectively.
The 2023 Ravens definitely look like a team with superb chemistry befitting a champion.