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How Will Ravens Follow Up 14-2?

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Football: Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh victorious with Vince Lombardi Trophy, standing with CBS announcer Jim Nantz after winning game vs San Francisco 49ers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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What’s in store for the Ravens in the strange and unprecedented season that is about to unfold? Our staff gaze into their crystal balls and give their best guesses right here…

Tony Lombardi

It’s hard not to like the Ravens’ chances heading into the 2020 season. After all, given the unusual circumstances that envelope the league, NFL teams that offer continuity in coaching and personnel should be at a decided advantage heading into the first quarter of the season.

Tackling will be shoddy and that should help Lamar Jackson to pick up where he left off on the ground. A commitment to explosive plays this offseason by air should help combat adjustments from opposing coordinators and keep things loose at the line of scrimmage – eventually. But Lamar & Co. will have to prove that they can get it done in the passing game to avoid overcrowding in the box. And they will.

— I expect Lamar to carry the ball a bit less but he’ll still run the rock 150 times for 1,050 yards. He will pick up the pace by air and reach the 3700-yard mark. He’ll combine for 40 total TDs.

— J.K. Dobbins will soon become a household name. It won’t start out that way but when it’s all said and done, he’ll lead the backfield with 750 yards rushing followed by Messrs. Ingram (650) and Edwards (400). Justice Hill finished strong in 2019 but he limps into the 2020 season. Consequently, he’ll be a forgotten weapon for most of the year.

— The two Boomer Sooner receiving weapons that Lamar can rely on will combine for over 2,000 yards receiving, nearly 150 catches and 20+ TDs.

— The Ravens defense will rank in the top 5 of the league and the most pleasant surprise wears No. 54. Tyus Bowser will chip in with nine sacks in 2020 and challenge for the club lead for most of the season but that distinction will go to Matt Judon who will finish his final season in Baltimore with 11.5 sacks.

DeShon Elliott will have Ravens fans thinking, “Earl who?” by the season’s quarter pole. He’ll double Thomas’ INT and PD production.

— Ravens finish at 12-4, win the AFC North for the third straight season but fall one game short of the Super Bowl, dropping a heartbreaker at Arrowhead.

Todd Karpovich

Season Record: 12-4, advance to AFC Championship game (lose to Kansas City) 

Lamar Jackson: 3,349 yards passing with 27 touchdowns, 900 yards rushing with five touchdowns.  

Mark Ingram: 989 yards rushing with five touchdowns; 230 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

J.K. Dobbins: 550 yards rushing with four touchdowns; 120 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

Mark Andrews: 800 yards receiving with eight touchdowns.

Marquise Brown: 1,050 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns.

Matthew Judon: 10 sacks

Jaylon Ferguson: 5.5 sacks

Calais Campbell: 60 tackles; 8.5 sacks

Chad Racine

The Ravens are at the top or near the top in any rankings you can find listed. There is so much talent on this team and a large portion of the roster is on rookie contracts. This window doesn’t last long because many of these players are about to get paid the big bucks.

 — Lamar Jackson won’t have the same dazzling statistical year but that won’t slow the team down. He will finally get his first playoff win and that will mean more than putting up regular season stats.

— J.K. Dobbins will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. I said he was a strong candidate when the Ravens drafted him and after hearing all the training camp reports it sounds like he’s been even better than advertised.

— Hollywood Brown will make his case for being the best receiver the Ravens have ever drafted.  I predict 10-12 touchdowns and 1,000-1,200 yards.

— Mark Andrews will top 700 yards and also have 10-12 touchdowns.

— DeShon Elliot will have a better statistical year than Earl Thomas did last year. I predict four interceptions, two forced fumbles, one defensive touchdown and one sack.

Marlon Humphrey will still be the most dominant player in the secondary even if his stats don’t match Elliot’s, Marcus Peters‘ or even Tavon Young‘s. It’s not technically a contract year but he knows it very well could be. He will be back on the outside where he belongs while Tavon will once again shine in the slot.

— Peters, coming off a full offseason, will be settled in with his new team and the best supporting cast he’s ever played with. Only Ed Reed‘s interception stats are on par with Peters since he’s been in the league. Peters will have another stellar year with seven interceptions.

— Calais Campbell will help with those interception numbers with the much-needed boost in the pass rush department. His sack numbers might not be off the charts but his presence will be felt. I predict five sacks and he will be a big reason the secondary pads their interception stats.

Can the Ravens really be better than last year? Well of course they can in the playoffs but better than 14-2? I think the team is better but it’s really hard to go 14-2 in the NFL. They are the favorites in every game this year (right now) and if they went 16-0 would it really be that shocking?  I don’t think it would because a Lamar-led Ravens team is a different animal than we’ve ever seen as Ravens fans – or NFL fans in general.

Last year we watched Lamar break one record after another and it was easy to lose track of how many records he actually set. Still, I am not predicting 16-0; I predict 13-3 with a trip to the AFC Championship game. Not saying the Ravens will lose it, but I believe they will at least get there. Anything less is a disappointment.

Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Aidan Griesser

The Ravens enter the 2020 season with one of the more complete rosters in the NFL. That’s especially huge this year, as the COVID-shortened offseason will probably make the good teams great and the bad teams awful. Baltimore is primed to make a run in a year in which they quite frankly have to.

— Lamar Jackson will once again shine and will be in consideration for MVP. His passing will be sharper and he won’t rely upon his legs as much on third/fourth downs.

— Marquise “Hollywood” Brown steps up in a big way, easily eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving and making his first Pro Bowl appearance.

— Marcus Peters continues to be one of the best acquisitions in Ravens history, as the improved pass rush helps him notch seven INTs on his way to DPOY.

— The Ravens boast the NFL’s #1 defense in scoring, yardage, and takeaways. Wink’s unit is an absolute force.

— Baltimore’s offense won’t be #1 this year, but it’ll be Top-3, which is easily enough to make them a Super Bowl favorite heading into the postseason.

— Jackson, Peters, and John Harbaugh lead the Ravens to a 13-3 record, the top seed in the AFC, and a victory over the Saints in the Super Bowl.

Ben Dackiw

Tyus Bowser finally steps up and becomes the pass rusher the Ravens have needed. The new additions on the D-Line will be instrumental in continuing to develop the younger pieces in the front-seven.

Lamar Jackson won’t win MVP again, but with his improved throwing (again) he will cruise into January with another division title AND win an Offensive Player of the Year after that.

The Ravens not only follow up their 14-2 season with a bang, but improve upon it, snagging a 15-1 record with one loss…to the Browns.

As for the NFL as a whole…

Dak Prescott takes his newfound weapons and coaching and turns them into an MVP award. (Have fun paying him after that, Jerry).

The Pittsburgh Steelers do not get the spark they were looking for from Big Ben and fall to yet another 8-8 record.

The Arizona Cardinals are my sleeper this year. I have them getting a wild card spot.

Don’t ask me why, but I think Mitch Trubisky is going to have a bounce-back year. Not MVP numbers by any means, but enough for the Bears to keep him around.

Adam Bonaccorsi

The Ravens are in an awkward position for the 2020 season in terms of expectations. As a 14-2 team just a year ago, the Ravens kept the core of their roster intact, added some key pieces in the draft and free agency, and surely similar expectations (top team in the AFC, winner of the AFC North) should follow… except that pesky 14-2 isn’t so easily replicated. Teams finishing with just two losses in a season rarely find a way to match, let alone improve, upon that record. So what dictates a successful season for Baltimore? Is it 12+ wins? Is it simply winning the AFC North once again? Is it anything that results in a playoff win for the first time in Lamar Jackson’s career?

For me, I think it comes down to improvement on the field. I think the addition of J.K. Dobbins to an already deadly backfield makes the Ravens ground game that much more dangerous, while a healthy Hollywood Brown, along with a pair of rookie talents and a second year of Miles Boykin, could be the key to an improved passing game. Defensively, the Ravens improved their front-seven with the additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe via free agency, along with rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. The only key loss to counter these additions is the retirement of Marshal Yanda, which I think will be accounted for admirably by either veteran D.J. Fluker or rookie surprise Tyre Phillips. 

I guess you could call Hayden Hurst a loss too. And maybe that egomaniacal safety. 

So what can we expect?

For starters, I think the Ravens throw us a wild card on offense in their approach. Fans became accustomed to long, clock eating drives from Baltimore… but what if that’s now paired with a high-tempo offense that runs the no-huddle approach? The Ravens have speed at every position that will wear a defense out in the same capacity their ground game can do so, so why not incorporate both aspects? Imagine Baltimore stretching out an 80-yard, five-minute drive, followed by a muddle-huddle laden drive the same distance taking up less than two minutes to wear defenses out. In essence, this season will be about putting their foot on the opponent’s throat in a different manner. 

Defensively, I think it’s all about DeShon Elliott & Tavon Young. If Joker truly fits this unit better than Earl Thomas did (he’s already off to a better start) the possibilities are endless, but for both players, it’s 100% about staying healthy. A top-end secondary paired with an interior pass rush and improvement at iLB will help the likes of Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson in finding the QB with ease. 

Ultimately, this 2020 iteration of the Ravens has the potential to be a better version of their 2019 selves, and the possibilities are endless. Remember: regular-season record isn’t the most indicative of an improved team, and with that said… I’m calling 12-4 for Baltimore, winners of the AFC North once again, and a run to the AFC Championship game. Lamar Jackson will again be in contention for league MVP, while J.K. Dobbins out-performs the entire rookie class of running backs.

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