Ravens Odds Point to Another Long Season
At this time in 2015 the Baltimore Ravens were lauded as one of the NFL’s best teams and many Vegas sports books and prognosticators had them advancing to Super Bowl 50, even winning the game’s golden event.
We all know it didn’t play out that way.
Riddled with injuries, the Ravens had their worst season since the arrival of head coach John Harbaugh and fell out of the playoff race before midseason with a (1-6) record. To their credit, despite a decimated roster with over 20 players on injured reserve, the team competed and clawed their way to a (5-11) final record.
With added speed, more players who can get after the passer and an improved secondary, there’s reason to believe 2016 will be better.
But how much better?
Odds makers are bearish on the Ravens this season and generally expect them to win only 7 games, which would mark their second consecutive losing season.
The concerns about the Ravens are legitimate because there are still several unresolved questions, many of which are focused on key players returning from injuries, starting with quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco says that he’ll be ready for training camp but it’s likely that the Ravens will ease him into the flow and they are unlikely to allow him to step on the field during preseason games. Besides, it’s probably best that left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s baptism by fire comes at the expense of reserve quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Tampa castoff Josh Johnson.
But by preserving Flacco and holding him out, it is reasonable to expect that he’ll have to knock off some rust early on, something that Rex Ryan is sure to lock in on when the Ravens open the season at home against the Bills. Consequently those early season mistakes when facing live regular season bullets, are likely to be more frequent.
Ditto for both Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith, Sr.
Suggs and Smith are returning from Achilles tears and at their relatively advanced ages of 33 and 37 respectively, there’s little reason to think that they’ll get off to quick starts. The Ravens will have to rely on some newcomers such at Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi to pick up the slack for Suggs and Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken to do the same for Senior.
The likely slow start for each of these important veterans flies in the face of the team’s need to get off to a fast start. The back end of the schedule is daunting, particularly the last four games which include road trips to New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
And then there’s the back end of the defense, the team’s overall Achilles heel in 2015. Jimmy Smith is still not 100% and he really hasn’t been a model of health during his Ravens career. Out of a possible 80 regular season games during his 5 year career, Smith has suited up 63 times with 45 starts to his credit.
Lardarius Webb, Smith’s former bookend at corner, is being moved to safety, a position that lends itself to more violent contact. The 30-year old defensive back has missed 17 of a possible 95 regular season games. Might the greater physical demands be too much for Webb to handle?
Others being counted on who have spent their fair share of time on the trainer’s table include Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Zuttah, Crockett Gillmore and Michael Campanaro.
Dennis Pitta’s comeback is a feel good story but really, anything from Pitta that doesn’t scar him for life would have to be considered a bonus.
There are other unresolved mysteries as well, including uncertainties at inside linebacker and left guard. The Ravens struggled to defend intermediate passes in 2015, which extended opponents’ drives and gassed the defense. And a big part of that deficiency falls on the shoulders of CJ Mosley.
Can Zach Orr step up? Will Arthur Brown do anything?
Can John Urschel settle in to left guard and provide leadership for Joe Flacco’s blindside protectorate?
Perhaps solutions to these areas of weakness aren’t yet on the Ravens roster. GM Ozzie Newsome has been known to make key summer additions and with the release of Eugene Monroe, it’s possible that the Ravens could scoop up talent that falls off the rosters of other teams to address concerns. Their newfound cap money ($12.25M in available cap space) could prove useful.
No wonder Vegas is indifferent towards John Harbaugh’s team.