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Late For Work 9/2: National Pundits Sleeping On Ravens


National Pundits Sleeping On Ravens

Ravens 24x7 said it best: "Rooting for an underdog is in our DNA."

Well, that DNA will be put to use in 2014 because it's "prediction season" and national pundits are sleeping on the Ravens.

What will be the Ravens' record? Can they make the playoffs? Are they a Super Bowl contender? Who will win the AFC North?  Pundits are pumping out their answers, and few believe the Ravens will rebound from their 8-8 finish last season.

Case in point: ESPN put together a "power panel" comprised of a whopping80 people, who predicted 2014 division winners, wild cards, individual award winners, conference champions and Super Bowl champs.

The Ravens were not chosen for a single consensus pick.

Consensus Picks
Super Bowl winner: Denver Broncos
AFC champion: Denver Broncos
AFC North winner: Cincinnati Bengals
AFC wild cards: San Diego, Kansas City
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Coach of the year: Chip Kelly
Offensive ROY: WR Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
Defensive ROY: OLB Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

ESPN predicted the Ravens to finish third in the AFC North, behind the Bengals and Steelers, and post the same 8-8 record as last year. Their worst-case scenario is eight wins and the best-case scenario is 11 wins. So they settled on the worst-case in their final prediction.

ESPN isn't the only news outlet sleeping on the Ravens.

Nobody at predicted Baltimore advancing to the Super Bowl. Nobody thinks the Ravens will produce the MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year or Coach of the Year. One of 11 people predicted C.J. Mosley will win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and one of 11 people think Dennis Pitta could be the Comeback Player of the Year. Marc Sessler doesn't think the Ravens will win the division, but at least he predicts a return to the playoffs via the wild card.         

Moving over to Fox Sports, they don't see the Ravens winning the division, but again make the postseason via the wild card.

At CBS Sports, John Breech gives his Week 1 predictions, and says the Bengals will upset the Ravens at home, 27-17. He took an extra little jab, saying even if "Bad [Andy] Dalton" shows up, Cincy will still win.

And on to Sports Illustrated … two analysts are split on the division. Doug Farrar is going with the majority, predicting the Bengals will wear the division crown. But, finally, somebody predicts the division win for Baltimore. Chris Burke gives the edge to the Ravens.

Since Burke shows the Ravens some love, let's give his pick and explanation some more space:

"Even as I submit these preseason picks, the AFC North stands out as problematic," he wrote. "The Browns, while they should be more competitive, are a year away on account of Josh Gordon's suspension (plus the lack of depth behind him) and their unsettled QB situation. Any of the other three teams could take the division or nab a playoff spot. If Baltimore's run game is really back on track behind O.C. Gary Kubiak, it will be a 10-win team. Cincinnati doesn't stand out as being any better than it was in 2013, and Pittsburgh still has too many question marks in the trenches."

Not Fair To Label 2013 Draft Class A Bust

When the Ravens waived outside linebacker John Simon and guard/center Ryan Jensen, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec pointed out that the team had cut four of their 10 picks from the 2013 draft class in a little more than 16 months (Simon and Jensen were both ultimately signed to the practice squad).

With only a little more than half of the class on the 53-man roster, both Zrebiec and ESPN's Jamison Hensley say the early returns are underwhelming, but there is a potential big upside that could "save" the class.

"Neither of their seventh-round picks – wide receiver Aaron Mellette or cornerback Marc Anthony – ever played a game for the team, nor has sixth-rounder Kapron Lewis-Moore, albeit because of injuries," wrote Zrebiec. "When you throw in the fact that first-rounder Matt Elam had a disappointing rookie season and Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, Kyle Juszczyk and Rick Wagner had limited roles last year, it's fair to say that the organization has gotten disappointing early returns from the 2013 draft class.

That's because four players from the class are expected to be starters this season: Elam at safety, Williams at nose tackle, Juszczyk at fullback and Wagner at right tackle.

"I think every general manager in football would be happy to land four starters in any draft," Zrebiec wrote. "Now, let's see how these guys play in their sophomore season. The opinion on this class could be altered significantly with a solid 2014."      

QB Keenum Claimed Off Waivers By Rams

Stick a fork in the Case Keenum to Baltimore chatter because that possibility is done.

The former Houston Texans quarterback was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Rams after he was cut this weekend, ending speculation that he could be reunited with Gary Kubiak and perhaps take over as the long-term backup as Tyrod Taylor enters a contract year.

"Instead, Keenum lands in St. Louis, desperate for quarterback help after Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second time in nine months," wrote's Bo Smolka. "For now, that leaves Taylor firmly ensconced as Joe Flacco's backup."

Former Ravens Land On Feet

On Saturday, guard-center A.Q. Shipley was cut from the Ravens roster.

On Monday, he was taking all the first-team snaps at center in Indianapolis while offensive linemen ahead of him are nursing injuries.

"That tells you where things stand at center with the Colts," wrote ESPN's Mike Wells. "Shipley could end up starting against the Denver Broncos on Sunday."

Meanwhile, former Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain is set to be the starter for the Dallas Cowboys, according to ProFootballTalk.

"Maybe it's just the state of the Cowboys' defense, or maybe Rolando McClain can really play," wrote Darin Gantt. "Either way, the twice-retired No. 8-overall pick is a starter again, after not playing since 2012."

Quick Hits

  • Strong Septembers have been a John Harbaugh trademark. The Ravens are 14-6 in September under Harbaugh. []
  • The Ravens still face questions with the season opener ahead. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • WWE invites Michael Sam to appear on Sept. 8 'Monday Night Raw' []
  • The Ravens quarterback group – both Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor – rank No. 16 in the league. []
  • Eli Manning did a Reddit Ask Me Anything on Friday afternoon and told fans he thinks Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. [USA Today]

I Will Be Wearing #15 This Year!! Jerseys Coming Soon !! #RavensNation — Michael Campanaro (@MikeCamp_3) August 31, 2014

Outside our cafeteria --> MT @Ravens: Use #PlayLikeARaven and we'll put it on display! — Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) September 1, 2014

On this day in 1996, the #Ravens played their first game in franchise history! Earnest Byner had the game-winning TD. — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 1, 2014

Former Ravens cornerback Corey Graham was a respected locker room guy in Baltimore, not surprising to see him named team captain in Buffalo — Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) September 1, 2014

It's that time again ..... Tomorrow night @ #BuffaloWildWings in Owing Mills... Be There. #RavensNation — Jacoby jones (@TheRealJacoby12) September 1, 2014

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