Colin Cowherd: 'We May Be Looking at a 16-0 Football Team'
Even though the consensus is the Ravens have an even better team on paper this season than the one that went 14-2 last year, very few pundits are expecting them to reach that many wins again. All the predictions I've seen have Baltimore winning 11-to-13 games.
Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd isn't subscribing to the regression theory, however. In fact, he said he wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens went 16-0.
"Baltimore is the first team maybe I've ever thought … I'm starting to think they're going to go 16-0," Cowherd said on "The Herd." "And it's not ridiculous."
The 2007 New England Patriots are the only team to go 16-0 since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season in 1978. Only two teams have ever won as many as 14 games in consecutive seasons: the 1989-1990 San Francisco 49ers and 2003-2004 Patriots.
Cowherd based his bold take not only on the fact that the Ravens return all their key players -- led by reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson -- and upgraded at certain positions, but also because they have a favorable schedule. The Ravens have the NFL's "easiest" schedule based on 2019 records.
"Their toughest road game is at Philadelphia. They can take a bus there," Cowherd said. "They don't go West. Seattle next year travels 30,000 miles. Baltimore travels 6,000 miles."
Cowherd also disagreed with the popular opinion that the AFC North will be significantly more competitive this season that last year, when the Ravens went 5-1 in the division and won it by six games.
"Cincinnati's got a rookie quarterback, Cleveland's got a rookie coach, and Pittsburgh has an old quarterback off an injury," Cowherd said. "Baltimore is a rare team for me. I think it is very possible they steamroll Cleveland [in Week 1], and they just start rolling and they don't slow down. … We may be looking at a 16-0 football team, and I don't think it's crazy."
The Ravens will face a huge test in Week 3 when they play the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, a team that has beaten them the past two seasons. This time, however, the game will be played in Baltimore.
"Kansas City has to go to Baltimore for 'Monday Night Football.' Good luck," Cowherd said. "Kansas City beat them last year, so they've got a chip on their shoulder."
However, in addition to a chip on their shoulder, Baltimore also has a target on its back, which Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged during his conference call with season-ticket holders last month.
"Starting next year, we're not going to be the iceberg," Harbaugh said. "People are going to see us. We're going to be everybody's most important game."
Will Ravens-Bengals Become AFC North's Biggest Rivalry?
The rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers is one of the best in the NFL, but Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler believes it may not even be the best rivalry in the AFC North in the coming years. Instead, the Ravens and Bengals could be the next big rivalry in the division, according to Schisler.
The Bengals have had four consecutive losing seasons, including a 2-14 mark last year, but it's a new era in Cincinnati. They appear to have their franchise quarterback in this year's No. 1-overall selection, Joe Burrow, and they have a second-year head coach in Zac Taylor.
"If Burrow lives up to the No. 1-overall selection, [second-round pick] Tee Higgins becomes a Pro Bowl receiver and the rest of the team grows up with them, Cincinnati could be the Ravens' biggest threat for years to come," Schisler wrote. "More than likely, the future of the division is going to be a battle between Jackson's Ravens and Burrow's Bengals. The Browns and Steelers won't go away, but the Ravens and Bengals have the brightest futures brewing at the moment."
The Bengals have been a thorn in the Ravens' side for years. Before the Ravens won the past three meetings, they had lost eight of 10 games against Cincinnati. Baltimore leads the series, 25-23.
While the Ravens, Steelers and Browns are all considered playoff contenders, the Bengals figure to be a significantly more formidable foe this season. They had a strong draft, were unusually active in free agency, and seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, aka "Ravens Killer," is expected to be healthy after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.
"It may take a year for things to come together, but the Bengals are coming," Schisler wrote.
Marshal Yanda, Justin Tucker Among Ravens Named to AFC North All-Decade Team
The Ravens were well-represented on ESPN's AFC North All-Decade Team.
Offensive guard Marshal Yanda was named Baltimore's Player of the Decade. He was joined on the team by running back Ray Rice, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, safety Ed Reed, kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch. Harbaugh was the choice for AFC North Coach of the Decade.
"[Yanda] isn't just the best Ravens player of the decade. Yanda is among the most accomplished offensive players in the NFL over that span," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Since 2011, Yanda's eight Pro Bowl selections tied Tom Brady and Drew Brees for the most by an offensive player.
"He protected Joe Flacco during his unbelievable Super Bowl run in 2012 (11 touchdown passes, no interceptions in the playoffs); anchored the offensive line in front of last season's NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson; and opened holes for an offense in 2019 that set the league record for most rushing yards in a season. Yanda retired this offseason as one of three guards in NFL history to earn eight Pro Bowl selections and win a Super Bowl, joining Larry Allen and Alan Faneca.
Tucker received honorable mention for Baltimore's Player of the Decade.
"He has gone from being undrafted in 2012 to becoming the most accurate kicker in NFL history," Hensley wrote. "Tucker's 90.8% success rate (265-of-292) is tops among all kickers with at least 100 field goal attempts. He also ranks as the NFL's most prolific kicker, becoming the first to produce six seasons with 30-plus field goals made -- all which occurred in the 2010s."
The recognition for Yanda and Tucker comes as no surprise. When the NFL announced its All-Decade Team in April, both were unanimous picks.
Harbaugh got the nod over the Steelers' Mike Tomlin as the division's top coach of the decade.
"Harbaugh is the only coach in the AFC North to win a Super Bowl during the 2010s. He's also the only coach in this division to earn a No. 1 seed during that span," Hensley wrote. "What keyed Baltimore's success is Harbaugh's willingness to change and take risks.
"In 2012, Harbaugh made the unconventional move of switching offensive coordinators in Week 15, which sparked the championship run with Joe Flacco. Last season, Harbaugh embraced a self-described 'revolutionary' offense with quarterback Lamar Jackson that led Baltimore to a franchise-record 14 victories. Harbaugh capped the decade by winning NFL Coach of the Year, becoming the first AFC North coach to receive this honor since Marvin Lewis in 2009."
Derrick Mason, Shannon Sharpe Make List of All-Time Best UFAs
Former Ravens General Manager and current Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome's philosophy was "right player, right price," and it usually paid dividends. Two of his free-agent signings, wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Shannon Sharpe, were named to The Athletic's list of the all-time best unrestricted free agents at each position.
Mason, who signed a five-year, $20 million deal with the Ravens in 2005, had four 1,000-yard seasons in Baltimore and is the franchise's career leader in receiving yards (5,777) and receptions (471).
Sharpe, who signed a four-year, $13.2 million deal with the Ravens in 2000, played a significant role in Baltimore winning Super Bowl XXXV.
"The Ravens in their early years struggled finding a tight end even though their general manager, Ozzie Newsome, was a Hall of Famer at the position. Sharpe instantly gave Baltimore badly needed receiving help, including in the postseason as the Ravens won a Super Bowl in his first season with the team," The Athletic's Mike Sando wrote. "Sharpe played 12 of his 18 playoff games for Denver but recorded four of his five highest single-game postseason yardage totals for Baltimore."
- NFL.com's Dan Hanzus predicted each AFC team's MVP in 2020, and he didn't overthink it when it came to the Ravens: "[Jackson] is great and picking anyone else from the Ravens would be trying too hard."
- The AFC North was No. 4 on NFL.com Adam Schein's rankings of the eight divisions by quarterback.