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Late for Work 11/15: Upon Further Review, Ravens Are As Good As Any Team in the NFL Through Week 10

DE Calais Campbell
DE Calais Campbell

Upon Further Review, Ravens Are As Good As Any Team in the NFL Through Week 10

ESPN analytics writer Seth Walder divided all 32 teams into playoff picture tiers, from Tier 1 ("True Super Bowl contenders") to Tier 7 ("Rest up for 2023").

The Ravens were placed in Tier 2 ("Playoff locks") along with the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys and given a 97.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. However, a solid case can be made for Baltimore joining the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Philadelphia Eagles in the top tier — especially after seeing how Week 10 played out for the latter two teams.

Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), which breaks down every NFL play, ranks the Ravens as the third-best team overall, trailing only the Bills and Eagles. DVOA compares a team's performance to a league baseline based on situation to determine value over average. The Ravens are No. 3 in offensive DVOA, 13th in defense, and No. 1 in special teams.

But let's put the metrics aside for a moment and just look at the Ravens' body of work to this point in the season and how it compares to the teams regarded as the NFL''s best.

They are the only team in the league to have held double-digit leads in every game this season. Only eight other teams in NFL history have accomplished the feat.

The Ravens haven't been playing cupcakes, either, as only two of their opponents thus far have losing records. According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens have played the third-toughest schedule. They have victories over three teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (New York Jets, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) as well as the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals.

Baltimore's three losses — to the Miami Dolphins (7-3), Bills (6-3), and New York Giants (7-2) — have been by a combined 11 points.

"Would they like to have another shot at their fourth quarters against the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and New York Giants? Of course. They could be 8-1 with a lead in the conference and a stranglehold on the AFC North," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. "But they have built a lead in their division — enhanced by the Bengals' 0-3 record against AFC North opponents — without facing a single cream-puff opponent. Their roster has grown stronger with the recent additions on defense and will grow stronger still with the anticipated returns of [tight end Mark] Andrews, running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, and safety Marcus Williams, Meanwhile, their schedule will grow weaker: sixth easiest in the league the rest of the way, per Football Outsiders."

Last night, the previously undefeated Eagles lost at home to a Washington Commanders team that entered the contest with a 4-5 record. On Sunday, the Bills lost their second game in a row to fall to 0-2 in the AFC East and the sixth seed in the conference. Preseason MVP favorite Josh Allen has one touchdown pass, four interceptions and a fumble in his past two games and six interceptions in his past three.

The Chiefs are playing well, but their resume this season includes a loss to the Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1) and a come-from-behind, one-point win at home over the Las Vegas Raiders (2-7).

That's not to take anything away from the Eagles, Bills, Chiefs, or any other team, and there's still plenty of football to be played. At this point, however, the evidence indicates the Ravens are as good as anybody in the NFL, and as Walker stated, they're going to be getting a number of key players back from injury in the near future.

"It adds up to an enticing picture for a team that sounded bewildered by its self-defeating nature in the wake of its 24-20 loss to the Giants on Oct. 16," Walker wrote. "If the Ravens romp through the rest of their schedule, does that mean they're primed to defeat the Bills or the Kansas City Chiefs with a Super Bowl trip on the line? No. They will still need to prove they can go play for play with these offensive juggernauts in the postseason crucible. But mission No. 1 was getting back to the point where they could ask those questions of themselves, and the Ravens are on their way."

Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi wrote: "Just take care of business, one game at a time, continue to refine and grow as a team, play their best football in December and January, and that ultimate prize is attainable for the Ravens – emphasis upon the one game at a time."

Which Player Returning From Injury Will Make the Biggest Impact?

The Baltimore Sun’s Ravens roundtable looked at the highs and lows through the team's first nine games and what to watch for in the second half of the season.

One of the topics discussed was which player returning from injury will have the biggest impact. Each of the three writers chose a different player.

Walker: "Man, the Ravens could use the version of Dobbins we saw in the second half of his rookie season in 2020. It's a lot to ask of a player who recently opted for a second knee surgery because he wasn't satisfied with his pace of recovery from the first. But coach John Harbaugh sounded bullish when last he updated Dobbins' progress. We know Dobbins is determined to put his stamp on this season and get his career back on track. With one or two explosive cuts, he could turn the tide in a playoff game."

Jonas Shaffer: "If he can get back to being the pass rusher he was before he tore his Achilles tendon, it's [Tyus] Bowser. His strength makes him an asset against the run, and his defensive smarts and tackling ability make him an asset in coverage. If Bowser can pair his technical skills with the explosiveness and motor that helped him lead the Ravens in sacks last year, Mike Macdonald will be one happy coordinator. Pair Bowser with [Justin] Houston, surprisingly one of the NFL's best pass rushers, and an edge-rusher group that gets deeper by the week, and the Ravens shouldn't need a lot of help to get after the quarterback."

C.J. Doon: "Edwards. All due respect to Kenyan Drake, but he isn't the kind of sledgehammer who can wear down an opposing defense. We saw glimpses of Edwards being that player before his hamstring injury, as he averaged nearly 6 yards per carry against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens need that north-south threat to complement [Lamar] Jackson's outside speed. Edwards is rarely going to take over a game by himself, but his downhill style is a unique weapon."

Isaiah Likely Among Best Value Picks of 2022 Draft

The Ravens' two first-round picks this year — safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum —have been getting their well-deserved share of love as of late for their play. It's not just the first-rounders that have been getting noticed, however.

CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards named fourth-round tight end Isaiah Likely as one of the 10-best value picks of this year's draft.

"Andrews missed [the Week 9] victory over the Saints and Likely secured his second touchdown in as many games. Baltimore likes to line him up in the backfield and use him as a blocker, in addition to flaring him out in the pass game," Edwards said.

Likely, a star in the preseason, had a breakout game in the Ravens' Week 8 win over the Buccaneers when he caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.

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