Late for Work 11/18: Why It's Not Time to Panic About Ravens' Playoff Chances

111820-LFW
QB Lamar Jackson

What the Numbers Say About the Ravens Playoff Chances

Earlier this week in Late for Work, pundits said the Ravens are "fighting for their postseason lives" after Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots. We've seen plenty of polarizing takes as Baltimore sits at 6-3 heading into another tough matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

Could a team that came into the season as one of the Super Bowl favorites really be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot?

"Ten wins may not cut it this year," NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano said. "It might in the NFC, but I all but guarantee you it is not going to make it in the AFC. This is even with the expanded postseason to seven teams in each conference."

If the season ended today, the Ravens would be the No. 7 seed, owning tiebreakers over the Titans and Cleveland Browns. There are six AFC teams sitting at 6-3 and Siciliano guarantees one or more could miss out on the postseason finishing 10-6. That's only happened twice since the 1970 merger.

Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz dove into the numbers, and to quote Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, analytics are telling fans to take a deep breath and R-E-L-A-X for now.

"The Ravens' loss to the Patriots at wet and windy Gillette Stadium altered the complexion of their 2020 season, but it didn't cause their playoff chances to plummet," Kasinitz wrote. "That's what several algorithms show, anyway."

ESPN's Football Power Index, Football Outsiders' Playoff Odds Reporter, and the New York Times' Upshot Playoff Predictor all give the Ravens an 84 percent chance or better to make the playoffs.

There's no question the Ravens have issues and concerns to address on both sides of the ball, but their path to the postseason is more than attainable. That's even truer after games against the Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before the season, CBS Sports' John Breech ranked the Ravens' Week 15-17 stretch as the easiest of any team in the NFL. Of course, that's before the season started and a lot of things have changed (such as injuries).

"It helps that the Ravens still have a star quarterback in Lamar Jackson, a high-ranking defense and one of the NFL's easiest remaining schedules," Kasinitz added. "After Baltimore plays the Titans and Steelers over the next two weeks, four of the team's last five games will come against opponents with losing records.

"In their final three games, the Ravens are scheduled to play the Jaguars, Giants and Bengals, who have a combined 5-21-1 record. It's a soft landing."

Ravens Could Earn Additional Compensatory Picks

The kings of the compensatory picks may have more on the way this offseason.

There were questions how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect compensatory picks this season, and

OverTheCap's Nick Korte believes we could see the most ever handed out.

"As it stands right now, 2021 is projected to shatter the record for most eligible compensatory picks at 46," Korte wrote. "Since the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] strictly limits the number of awarded compensatory picks to 32, that means that 14 of these eligible picks would be discarded."

The Ravens are projected to receive a fifth-round compensatory pick for defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings, but voluntarily opted out of the 2020 season. Now Korte is projecting that the Ravens could receive an additional pick.

"Their net loss of [compensatory free agents] could raise to two or even three," Korte wrote.

According to OTC's projections, the Ravens could receive a sixth-round pick for the loss of wide receiver Seth Roberts, who signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, but was released in October.

An additional seventh-round pick could also come into play for the loss of linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, depending where the compensatory cutoff lands.

"The contracts of both [Josh] Bynes and Onwuasor are on the bubble of qualifying," Korte added. "If at least one of them do, the Ravens could potentially add a 6th rounder for the departure of Seth Roberts (despite being cut by the Panthers as described above). Like Patriots fans, Ravens fans should root for Bynes to continue to play frequently for the Bengals, and for Onwuasor to get off IR and play for the Jets.

"However, like the Patriots, this would also depend on whether Derek Wolfe's contract is valued as a 6th or 7th rounder, a contract is right on the bubble of that cutoff. If it's a 6th, then the contracts of Wolfe and Roberts will cancel each other out, and like with the Patriots and Ebner, 7th rounders for the contracts of Bynes or Onwuasor will not make the 32 pick limit. The Ravens will decide whether additional playtime for Wolfe, a player who's contribution has always been valued since entering the league with the Broncos, is worth losing a potential 6th round comp pick."

Compensatory picks could be even more important for the Ravens next offseason. Right now, they're scheduled to have just five picks heading into the 2021 draft.

Power Rankings: How Far Should the Ravens Fall?

The Ravens have now lost more games than they did all last season, but how did their Week 10 defeat to the Patriots affect this week's power rankings?

After finishing the last two weeks as a consensus top-five team, Baltimore fell out of the top five in almost every publication we looked at. What followed was a mixed bag of reactions from pundits.

"The book is out on the Ravens," NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote. "They are a very good -- sometimes great -- team that doesn't know how to dig itself out of a hole. This is not a trait usually attached to a champion. … Now three games behind the undefeated Steelers, the Ravens' chances of repeating as division champions appear remote. More distressingly, they are one of six 6-3 teams in the AFC, which puts them in a dogfight for a playoff spot. Hold on tight."

"It's officially time to come to grips with the reality that the 2020 Ravens and the 2019 iteration that won 14 games and the AFC North are two different teams," Bleacher Report added. "... And with the 6-3 Titans, 9-0 Steelers and 6-3 Browns all on the schedule over the next month, missing the postseason altogether is well within the realm of possibility if the Ravens don't get going offensively."

Other pundits like Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer were less critical following the loss, considering the conditions.

"Maybe I shouldn't give them a mulligan for playing in a driving rainstorm without Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell in the lineup," Breer wrote. "But I'm gonna give them a mulligan."

Jackson and the offense had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter but faced some of the worst weather imaginable.

The Ravens will have an opportunity to climb back up into the power rankings and the playoff race over the next two weeks with matchups against the Titans and Steelers looming.

Table inside Article
Source Ranking Last Week's Ranking Comments
ESPN No. 5 No. 3 N/A
NFL.com No. 6 No. 4 “The book is out on the Ravens. They are a very good -- sometimes great -- team that doesn't know how to dig itself out of a hole. This is not a trait usually attached to a champion.”
Bleacher Report No. 7 No. 6 “The Ravens have now lost more games in 2020 than they did all of last season. … And with the 6-3 Titans, 9-0 Steelers and 6-3 Browns all on the schedule over the next month, missing the postseason altogether is well within the realm of possibility if the Ravens don't get going offensively.”
USA Today No. 6 No. 4 “Season-ending injury to Nick Boyle is [the] latest blow to offense that also sorely misses Ronnie Stanley and retired Marshal Yanda.”
Sports Illustrated No. 6 No. 3 “Maybe I shouldn’t give them a mulligan for playing in a driving rainstorm without Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell in the lineup. But I’m gonna give them a mulligan.”
CBS Sports No. 6 No. 3 “If they don't get the passing game cranked up, they will have issues come playoff time. They can't just be a running team. The defense has to pick it up as well."

Tyus Bowser Named Among Most Improved Ravens

The Ravens are led by All-Pro talent on both sides of the ball, but Bleacher Report's Alex Ballentine believes one defensive player is quietly flying under the radar. When asked to pick the most improved player for each team this season, Ballentine chose Tyus Bowser.

"Few players have exceeded their excellent campaign that led to a 14-2 record last season," Ballentine wrote. "The defense is chock-full of veterans who just happen to be playing as well as they have in the past.

"So this distinction goes to a player whose role hasn't dramatically increased in 2020 but who has made the most of it. With the addition of Ngakoue, Judon's return and the depth the Ravens boast in the front seven, Bowser only saw 15 percent of the snaps in Week 9 against the Colts and 48 percent of the snaps on the season."

It may seem like a surprising pick to some, but Bowser is quietly on pace to have one of his best seasons. Ballentine noted that the fourth-year pass rusher is on track for career highs in tackles for loss and quarterback hits.

"[Bowser] had at least one quarterback hit in each of the team's first seven games, and while he only has two sacks on the season, he is third on the team in pressures with 10," Ballentine added. "Last year, he had five sacks but on 14 pressures. He's set to crush that number this season despite the lack of playing time.

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