Predictions for Ravens' Record and More Schedule Analysis
No one predicted the Ravens to go 14-2 last season. And it appears no one is predicting them to go 14-2 this season either.
After the reveal of the 2020 NFL schedule last night, some pundits wasted no time making their predictions for teams' win-loss records. Even though the Ravens arguably have a better team on paper than the one that won 14 games last season and their schedule is the "easiest" in the league based on last year's records, pundits do not expect them to equal their 2019 win total.
It would be a rare feat if the Ravens did reach 14 victories again this season. Only two teams have ever won as many as 14 games in consecutive seasons: the 1989-1990 San Francisco 49ers and 2003-2004 New England Patriots.
Win totals aside, the Ravens are universally regarded as one of the Super Bowl favorites, and none of the pundits who predicted Baltimore's record has them winning fewer than 11 games.
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler (13-3): Losses occurring at Philadelphia (Week 6), at home versus Dallas (Week 13) and in the season finale at Cincinnati. In his scenario, the Ravens will rest their starters against the Bengals in Week 17 because they'll have the AFC North title clinched.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley (12-4): Losses at home versus Kansas City (Week 3), at Philadelphia, at Indianapolis (Week 9), and at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving (Week 12)
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens (12-4): Losses to Kansas City, at Indianapolis, at Pittsburgh and at Cleveland (Week 14)
Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport (12-4): "Here's your favorite (again) for the AFC's No. 1 seed in 2020."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec (11-5): "Nobody thought the Ravens would go 14-2 last year. If I recall correctly, I had them going 9-7 at this point in the last offseason. I think they will be somewhere in between those two marks this year. A lot can change over the next couple of months with roster moves and injuries. But with an improved defense on paper and many of the same pieces back from a record-setting offense, I'll put my initial prediction at 11-5. Of course, that's subject to change, much like everything else these days."
Here's a sample of what else pundits are saying about the Ravens' schedule:
Chiefs at Ravens on "Monday Night Football" in Week 3 is the No. 1 prime-time game of the season.
NFL.com's Adam Schein: "Seriously, did you expect anything different? The 2018 MVP vs. the 2019 MVP. Two majestic young quarterbacks and brilliant faces of the NFL (and American sports) in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Brilliant throws? Mesmerizing runs? Insane fantasy numbers? Making the impossible possible? I'm here for it -- all of it. With this matchup occurring early in the season, we have a better chance of seeing both of these juggernauts operating at full strength. I know quarterbacks typically like to say they don't actually compete against each other -- but rather, the opposing defense. Still, you can't help but think Pat and Lamar will be looking to one-up each other in this sparkling QB showcase. And don't discount the complete nature of these two teams under two incredible head coaches in Andy Reid and John Harbaugh. AFC Championship Game preview? I hope so. And I think so. It's the AFC title game I wanted last season."
Tennessee Titans at Ravens in Week 11 is one of the biggest revenge games of the season.
NFL.com's Dan Hanzus: "Baltimore was a popular pick to reach the Super Bowl, but the Titans had other ideas in the divisional round. Led by another dominant performance from Derrick Henry, the Titans controlled the game from start to finish in a 28-12 victory. … Stunned fans at M&T Bank Stadium were left to wonder what in the hell just happened, while [Lamar] Jackson faced more questions on why his dominant play in the regular season had yet to surface in two playoff losses. The reigning MVP will have to wait until January to slay that narrative, but beating up on Tennessee in November would undeniably scratch an itch. Big Truss."
Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Ravens LB Patrick Queen, and Redskins edge rusher Chase Young vs. Ravens OT Ronnie Stanley are two of the top individual matchups of the season.
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling: "A pair of former LSU teammates (Edwards-Helaire Queen) square off in an early season showdown between the two AFC favorites. … Patrick Mahomes' offense was already a pick-your-poison assignment for linebackers. Now they have to stomach a belladonna scatback after choking on hemlock Hill and strychnine Kelce. Fortunately for the Ravens, their biggest draft need at inside linebacker just happened to coincide with the best player on the board when they scooped up Queen for occasions such as this one. … The draft's most ballyhooed pass rusher (Young) draws a first-team All Pro at left tackle in Stanley. Will Young find a way to slow down MVP Lamar Jackson, or will the Ravens make the rookie pay for sins of over-aggression by running their league-best ground attack right through his shoulders?"
Ravens play a prime-time game in Pittsburgh yet again.
Zrebiec: "Another oddity of the annual schedule is the fact that the Ravens' road matchup against the Steelers seems always to get tabbed as a prime-time affair. At the same time, their home game against Pittsburgh is traditionally an afternoon contest. That will again be the case. Counting this year, six of the Ravens' past seven games at Heinz Field will be in a prime-time slot. During that span, the Ravens will have played the Steelers just once at night at home."
The Ravens have a "peculiar preseason" schedule.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "It's not all that common for teams to play an opponent in the preseason and the regular season in the same year, but the Ravens have two such foes on their 2020 schedule: Washington and Dallas. Coaches will be sure to keep play calls especially bland in those exhibition games, but it makes for an interesting dynamic."
Todd McShay: Ravens Are Among Most Improved Teams After the Draft
Add ESPN's Todd McShay to the long list of pundits who were impressed with the Ravens' draft.
In his first draft analysis since recovering from the coronavirus, McShay identified the Ravens as one of five teams that immediately improved.
McShay had high praise for Baltimore's first two picks (Queen in the first round at No. 28 overall and running back J.K. Dobbins in the second at No. 55),= and labeled the selections of defensive lineman Justin Madubuike and wide receiver Devin Duvernay in the third round "pure steals."
"Madubuike has explosive quickness and should provide 15-20 snaps per game in Year 1. The Texas A&M defensive tackle can really stress interior offensive linemen, and let's not forget he posted a 4.83 in the 40 at the combine at 293 pounds," McShay wrote. "Duvernay should be a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver as a rookie. The Texas slot receiver knows how to get open and has natural hands. Built like a running back, he adds much-needed depth to the receiver position and can be a reliable underneath target for Lamar Jackson."
Overall, McShay said the Ravens "found value all over the board."
"There's just no denying that Baltimore, a 14-win team in 2019, got even better in April," McShay wrote.
ESPN also reached out to nearly a dozen NFL executives and coaches for their takeaways from the draft now that they've had a couple weeks to digest it. Queen and Robbins were both identified as steals.
"[Queen] only started one year and sort of came out of nowhere. But he looks like the perfect Raven. Fast, loves to hit," an AFC scout said.
Dobbins was the fourth running back taken (after Edwards-Helaire at No. 32, D'Andre Swift at No. 35 and Jonathan Taylor at No. 41), but an AFC executive said Dobbins "belonged in the top group with Swift and others."
Brandon Williams' Importance Cannot Be Overstated
At 6-foot-1 and 336 pounds, Brandon Williams is hard to miss. However, with the Ravens' additions to their front seven this offseason making headlines, the important role the veteran nose tackle plays may be getting overlooked.
Ebony Bird's Schisler said Williams' presence will benefit rookie inside linebackers Queen and Malik Harrison as well as newly added veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
"The Ravens need a nose guard who will own the middle of the line of scrimmage and command double teams," Schisler wrote. "Essentially Williams is charged with maximizing the team's NFL Draft double dip at the middle linebacker spot. Williams's job is to make Queen the most feared young linebacker in the NFL. Williams will make life easier for the linebackers behind him. Forcing double teams will make life easier for Campbell, Wolfe and the rest of the defensive linemen."
The departure of Michael Pierce in free agency allows Williams to return to his natural position after playing defensive tackle in order to get him and Pierce on the field together.
"The Ravens now have the right talent at the right spots," Schisler wrote. "Campbell and Wolfe can play at the defensive end spots. They offer quality run-stopping and borderline elite interior pass rush. Williams is now able to be the anchoring point of the defense. He can now do the dirty work in the trenches that makes a huge difference for the players around him."