Free Agency, check. The NFL Draft, check.
Everything is all in place. Now, all we have to do is wait for the preseason to begin (and end), and then the anticipated 2016 regular season can finally begin.
Let’s start off by saying if you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan, this season can’t come any sooner.
Last season was a total disaster — and that’s putting it nicely.
In 2015, the Baltimore Ravens finished the regular season with a 5-11 record and missed the playoffs for only the second time in eight seasons. If something could go wrong, it did.
Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Sr., and Terrell Suggs all suffered season ending injuries as a grand total of 22 players from the roster ended the season on injured reserve. That’s not exactly the recipe for a successful season.
However, the Ravens definitely did themselves some favors this offseason in free agency and in The Draft. They made their secondary stronger by signing Eric Weddle (safety) away from the San Diego Chargers. He recorded 78 tackles and defended six passes in 2015.
The Ravens also gave Joe Flacco more weapons to play with on offense — signing Ben Watson (tight end) from the New Orleans Saints and Mike Wallace (wide receiver) from the Minnesota Vikings.
Watson played in all 16 games last season and recorded 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. Wallace recorded 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns last season. More receivers to throw to also means that there will be less defenders for Steve Smith, Sr. to have to deal with. It’s the best of both worlds.
In the draft, the Ravens beefed up their offensive line by drafting a very durable and intelligent Ronnie Stanley out of Notre Dame. He is very well known for his impressive foot quickness and pass protection skills – something that should be music to Joe Flacco’s ears.
They may have also gotten the steal of the draft by drafting Keenan Reynolds out of the Navy. Reynolds was a total scoring machine as he scored an FBS record of 88 touchdowns in his college career.
He has proven to be an extremely versatile player who can play quarterback, running back, and wide receiver effectively. He may even be a dangerous special teams player as well.
Yikes – for opposing teams that is.
It’s fair to wonder how the Ravens will fair next season – assuming they can stay healthy this time. Let’s start by taking a look at their schedule:
Week 1: vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 2: at Cleveland Browns
Week 3: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4: vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 5: vs. Washington Redskins
Week 6: at New York Giants
Week 7: at New York Jets
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 10: vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 11: at Dallas Cowboys
Week 12: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 13: vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 14: at New England Patriots
Week 15: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 17: at Cincinnati Bengals
Surely you want to hear a Cinderella story about how the Ravens will finish the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record and win Super Bowl LI. But, let’s be real here. Those are expectations that only the 1972 Miami Dolphins could actually meet.
So, being realistic, how will the Ravens do?
Week 1: Win – The student falls to the master as Joe Flacco starts the season off strong by out dueling former backup Tyrod Taylor.
Week 2: Win – It may be a division rivalry, but it’s still the Browns. As long as the Ravens take this game seriously, they should walk away with a win.
Week 3: Win – Don’t get me wrong, the Jaguars have improved this offseason and this game will certainly be no walk in the park. However, the Ravens should be able to fend off the Jags in a hard fought game and avenge last season’s loss to Jacksonville.
Week 4: Loss – OK. The Ravens have to lose eventually. This game would be a reasonable game to lose as Oakland has vastly improved on both offense and defense this offseason and appears to be a possible and legitimate playoff contender next season.
Week 5: Win – The battle of Maryland professional football proves to be exciting as always as the Ravens defend their home field in a thriller.
Week 6: Win – The Giants are a tough opponent and Odell Beckham, Jr. will be sure to give the Ravens secondary fits. However, the Ravens should win this game if they can force turnovers on defense.
Week 7: Win – If Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, this game may not even be close. Geno Smith is not the answer at quarterback for the Jets and they’re foolish if they believe he is.
Week 9: Win – You have to love a bitter division rivalry at home after a bye week. The fact that this is a home game and that the Ravens will have an extra week of rest should put them over the top in this game. Let’s not forget that the Ravens beat the Steelers last season in Baltimore with Ryan Mallett as the starting quarterback.
Week 10: Win – Once again, it’s the Browns. Although they may very well be the worst team in the NFL, they will play the Ravens much harder than most people anticipate and this game will come down to a Justin Tucker field goal as the final seconds of the clock run down.
Week 11: Loss – Dallas was flat out awful last season. In fact, they were the worst team in the entire NFC conference last year. However, they also only had Tony Romo healthy for four games and didn’t have Ezekiel Elliott in their backfield. Oh, and Dez Bryant wasn’t healthy the entire season either. That could spell trouble for the Ravens who will be on the road for this game.
Week 12: Win – The Ravens haven’t beaten the Bengals since Week 10 of the 2013 season. That losing streak ends in this game.
Week 13: Win – The Dolphins have proven to be a very average team over the past few seasons. The Ravens are definitely better than average when they’re healthy.
Week 14: Loss – The Patriots are very difficult to beat in Foxborough. Like it or not, they have been one of the best teams in the NFL for the past decade. With that being said, the Ravens certainly won’t bow down to New England and this game should be very competitive.
Week 15: Win – The Eagles are still in recovery mode from all the damage that Chip Kelly did to their roster last season. This is definitely a winnable game – especially in Baltimore.
Week 16: Loss – The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is just way too intense to have the Steelers lose to the Ravens five times in a row.
Week 17: Loss – The Ravens have had a tendency to lose on the road to Cincinnati in Week 17. They’ve done it in three out of the past four seasons.
Final Record Prediction: 10-6
Bottom Line: John Harbaugh is easily one of the best coaches in the NFL currently. He knows how to get the most out of the talent that is provided to him. The Ravens should be ready to bounce back from last season as long as they don’t get bit by the injury bug again and can close out close games. The Ravens certainly have potential to make noise this season and get back in the playoffs.