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Eisenberg: Predictions Offer Ravens Plenty of Motivation


If you're into monitoring predictions for how the Ravens will fare in 2019, I would suggest you take a couple of motion sickness pills as you get started.

It's already a bumpy ride. I don't expect it to get smoother.

Projections for the Ravens are, quite simply, all over the map. They're going to win. They're going to lose. They're going to the playoffs. They're going to crater.

Pill, please!

No, it's not uncommon for NFL teams outside of the extreme top and bottom tiers to receive a range of assessments. The league is unpredictable. Different eyes see different things.

But with the first full-squad training camp practice now just two days away, the degree of varying opinions on the 2019 Ravens seems especially dramatic.

If you want to feel optimistic, plenty of positive thoughts are out there. The NFL Network's Rich Eisen recently said the AFC North is "the Ravens' division to lose." I'm sure that buoyed spirits, as did the judgment of USA Today's Doug Farrar, who ranked the Ravens No. 9 in his training camp power rankings, ahead of the other three teams in the division.

Still need to see/hear more positivity? Connor Rogers, a host on Bleacher Report's "Stick to Football "podcast, also predicted an 11-5 record and second straight division title for the Ravens.

Those in the bullish camp seemingly base their optimism on the belief that: a) Lamar Jackson will improve as a passer in his second season; b) the defense will still rank among the league's best despite losing some core veterans; and c) a run-centric offense will thrive in a pass-centric league.

"The whole doubting Jackson thing, I'm over it, I'm tired of it," Eisen said.

But it only takes a quick Internet search to locate doubters projecting the Ravens to struggle to replicate their division-winning form. Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated's The MMQB envisions an especially dark scenario – the Ravens falling to 5-11 in an AFC North first-to-last swoon.

That prediction "isn't a reflection of some foreseen Jackson regression, but more an offensive regression as a whole," Orr wrote.

Most of the less-than-rosy prognosticators aren't quite so negative, envisioning a smaller step backward for the Ravens as the Pittsburgh Steelers and/or Cleveland Browns surpass them. USA Today's Nate Davis has Baltimore going 8-8. All but one of Bleacher Report's experts see the division going to the Browns, who are generating a lot of national buzz.

Along similar lines, the odds on the Ravens winning Super Bowl 54 have fluctuated little during the offseason at most Las Vegas and online sports books. You might think their prospects have gone up and down as various subtractions and additions have unfolded, but their odds were around 40-1 in February and they're still around 40-1, a middle-of-the pack figure.

Where skepticism reigns, it's seemingly based on a) doubts about Jackson's development; b) the personnel losses on defense; and c) the throttling the Los Angeles Chargers gave the Ravens for most of their playoff game in January.

Some analysts see that combination as a sign of potential trouble, while others don't think it'll mean anything going forward.

Pill, please!

Decades ago, when asked about his inability to predict what a military opponent would do, Winston Churchill famously said it was "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

That seems like an appropriate summation of how football's chattering class sees the Ravens in 2019.

Personally, I don't think they're that mysterious. They've gotten younger. They've got a ton of speed. They've experienced some change. We'll see how it all works out, but I think they look like a winning team, a playoff contender.

Some analysts agree. Others don't. You'll read/hear dozens more predictions before the season starts, and I doubt any semblance of a consensus will form. If you're following along, get ready for that bumpy ride to continue.

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