The Ravens would rather be playing in the Super Bowl this weekend, but their resolve to win a Lombardi Trophy isn't shaken.
The way Lamar Jackson reacted to winning his second MVP Award at NFL Honors on Thursday night reaffirmed that the sky isn't falling for the Ravens. As Jackson said to my colleague Garrett Downing in Las Vegas after winning the award, "The sky's the limit."
Jackson's only 27 years old and the Ravens have a deep roster with many talented young players. General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the end-of-season press conference, "I don't really subscribe to the idea of windows opening and closing."
Baltimore's window to win a championship, or multiple championships, during Jackson's career remains wide open. In 50 words or less, here are some of my other thoughts about the Ravens:
Hearing Jackson say that he wants his naysayers to keep chirping reminds me of Michael Jordan. He's another great athlete who loved to silence critics. Why pretend that you don't hear the noise? When you prove them wrong, it makes winning even sweeter.
Speaking of Jordan, it took him seven years to win his first NBA title. He cried in the locker room after finally breaking through, holding the championship trophy in his arms. Next season will be Year 7 for Jackson and he'd love to finish it like Jordan.
How cool was it for Jackson to win MVP on the same night that Joe Flacco won Comeback Player of the Year? Both are team-first guys, greatly respected by their peers. Ravens fans have been very blessed at the quarterback position since 2008.
According to Pro Football Focus, outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was the most improved player on the Ravens this season. Entering his fourth season, a time when edge rushers often blossom, Oweh could be the next Ravens defensive player to break out.
I wouldn't mind seeing more multiple tight end packages next season featuring a healthy Mark Andrews on the field with Isaiah Likely. The way Likely performed late in the season confirmed his potential to be a major part of the offense.
When you listen to Zach Orr, it's easy to believe he'll be a good defensive coordinator. He's a straight shooter, intelligent and passionate about his job. Plus, players know he's been in the trenches as a former All-Pro. When he enters a room, respect follows.
Orr has a kindred spirit to help set the tone in All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith. When those two get fired up, I'm surprised the smoke alarms don't go off in the locker room. There's little doubt the Ravens' defense will continue to play with high energy.
Justice Hill could have a bigger role next season coming off his best season. He runs with authority, and he's a receiving threat who is a willing blocker in pass protection. Hill seems ready to build off his best season.
The AFC North might be even tougher in 2024. Every team in the division finished above .500 and starting quarterbacks Joe Burrow (Bengals), Deshaun Watson (Browns) and Kenny Pickett (Steelers) all missed time. If the Ravens repeat as division champs, they will have earned it.
Trenton Simpson spent his rookie season soaking up knowledge from the NFL's best inside linebacker combination – Smith and Patrick Queen. That should help Simpson immensely, and he'll be counted on far more heavily if Queen departs in free agency.