NFL Sleeping on Underdog Ravens in National Power Rankings
Baltimore thrives on the sleeper role. You know, the classic underdog who gets little respect.
So the team should feel right at home as national websites released their season-opening opinions for all 32 NFL teams, and the expectations for the Ravens are underwhelming. The average ranking by the outlets below is No. 20.
Each one cites injuries as the reason for low expectations, especially to quarterback Joe Flacco. The 10-year veteran returned to practice Saturday, but it's still unclear how his back will respond as he works his way back into football shape and takes hit during the regular season.
Prior to even reaching the regular season, the Ravens lost eight players to season-ending injuries, two to retirement and one to a year-long suspension.
"They just don't have a good feel about them right now," wrote CBS' Pete Prisco.
That said, the injury news seems to be swinging in the right direction (knock on wood).
With Flacco's return, along with left tackle Ronnie Stanley, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and running back Danny Woodhead, the Ravens finally have a chance to show what the offense can do.
Bleacher Report: No. 11 (moved down one spot from preseason rankings)* *Chris Simms: "I know I'm taking a risk by putting the Baltimore Ravens this high. I love the Ravens as a team, but if Joe Flacco isn't ready to start the season, there could be early trouble. I'm taking John Harbaugh at his word when he says Flacco will be ready. Why do I love Baltimore so much? The team has the best collection of weapons Flacco has ever had around him, it has a strong offensive line and it has a productive running game. This should be the best Ravens offense we've seen in some time. I'm equally excited about the defense. This is the deepest and most talented front seven Baltimore has had in years. In addition, a strengthened secondary—with new pieces like Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr—changes the look of the defense as a whole. The Bengals are going to provide a stern test, though. They're one of the few teams that seem to have Baltimore's number. Cincinnati has won five of the last six games between these two teams."
USA Today: No. 18 (moved down three spots)
"The Joe Flacco back scare appears over. But there's surely a toll to be paid given that 10 players have been lost for the season since June 1."
ESPN.com(preseason rankings – awaiting Week 1 release): No. 21 (down 16 spots from post-draft rankings)"Quarterback Joe Flacco's injury has put the Ravens in a tough spot this preseason. In the regular season, he has started all but six games since entering the NFL in 2008, and the Ravens are 2-4 when he doesn't start."
Yahoo! Sports: No. 23 (moved down one spot)* *Frank Schwab: "It's hard to imagine Joe Flacco being his normal self in Week 1, or maybe even Weeks 2 and 3. And the Ravens offense is not good enough around Flacco to compensate as he knocks off the rust. It will be impressive if they get through the first few weeks with a winning record."
NFL.com: No. 24 (moved up six spots)*Elliot Harrison: *"An ascending team. You might ask why the Ravens were 28th in the first place. Well, at that time [early August] ... No sure timetable for Joe Flacco's return, an underwhelming run game and the prospects of a Ryan Mallett-dependent offense -- that's why. Then the defense came on in the preseason like a ton of bricks in the face of Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler and Nathan Peterman. Brandon Williams, Brent Urban and Matt Judon are rising talents, while veteran team leaders Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle can still play. The defense will be top five. The win total depends on how rusty Flacco is out of the gate. We should find out Sunday at Cincinnati."
CBSSports.com: No. 24 (moved down six spots)* *Prisco: "They've been crippled by injuries and quarterback Joe Flacco is coming off a back injury that kept him sidelined in the preseason. They just don't have a good feel about them right now."
NFL Nation's Game-by-Game Predictions Have Ravens Winning a Lot
The ESPN reporters that cover the Ravens' 13 different opponents this year predicted the outcome of each game this season, and if they're prognostications come true, the Ravens would return to the playoffs with a 10-6 finish.
Last year, this group collectively predicted a 7-9 finish, which was one off from the Ravens' actual 8-8 record. Here's the game-by-game outlook:
Week 1 at Cincinnati Bengals: Loss
"The injury bug hitting the Ravens is a perfect opportunity for the Bengals to capitalize and get an early division win at home."
Week 2 vs. Cleveland Browns: Win
"The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the league, which is enough to beat the Browns in Baltimore."
Week 3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (London): Win
"The Jaguars are 2-2 in Wembley the past four seasons and have won their past two. However, they've struggled against the Ravens."
Week 4 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Win
"The Steelers are allergic to scoring at M&T Bank Stadium, where they've produced 57 points over their past four matchups."
Week 5 at Oakland Raiders: Loss
"Oakland should win its third game in as many years against Baltimore, and the dirt infield at the Coliseum should be gone."
Week 6 vs. Chicago Bears: Win
"Do you really think Baltimore is going to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year? Me neither."
Week 7 at Minnesota Vikings: Loss
"It shouldn't take too many points for the Vikings to overcome the Ravens."
Week 8 vs. Miami Dolphins: Win
"The ultra-physical Ravens are not the kind of team you want to face in a short week [Thursday night game]."
Week 9 at Tennessee Titans: Loss
"Tennessee's offensive line shows its prowess, paving the way for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to run wild."
Week 10: Bye
Week 11 at Green Bay Packers: Loss
"There's not much history between these teams, but the Packers have gotten the better of it, going 4-1 all time, including 3-0 at home."
Week 12 vs. Houston Texans: Win
"Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco will lead Baltimore to a victory."
Week 13 vs. Detroit Lions: Win
"John Harbaugh, more than any other coach in the league, will understand what both Jim Caldwell and [defensive coordinator Teryl] Austin might try to do since he employed both of them before they came to Detroit."
Week 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers: Loss
"By this point, the injuries are mounting and the [Ravens'] offensive firepower isn't enough to score 30 in Heinz."
Week 15 at Cleveland Browns: Win
"The Ravens will be fighting for a playoff spot; the Browns will have their four wins."
Week 16 vs. Indianapolis Colts: Win
"The Colts need this victory to stay in contention for the AFC South title. But for the third straight December, Indianapolis fails to do what it takes to get the job done in a tight division race."
Week 17 vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Win
"It's hard to sweep a divisional opponent, [so] I see the Ravens taking one of the two games against the Bengals."
What Do Final Practice Squad Signings Say About Ravens?
Baltimore officially announced the final four players signed to the 10-man practice squad, and there are two interesting notes media pointed out.
First, the Ravens have two running backs on the squad with the additions of Jeremy Langford and Alex Collins. Second, there are no quarterbacks.
What does that mean, if anything?
"With the Ravens having just three running backs — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, and Buck Allen — on their 53-man roster, the additions of Langford and Collins indicate that General Manager Ozzie Newsome may not be satisfied with the personnel at the position," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"In contrast, the Ravens abstained from signing a quarterback to their initial practice squad, another sign of their confidence that starter Joe Flacco's back is healthy after keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster."
J.J. Watt Continues to Soar Past His Goal as Another Hurricane Builds
The last time we checked in with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, he had far surpassed his fundraising goal of $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief. He was at a whopping $8 million last Thursday.
Now, he's at an unbelievable $20 million raised. Good for you, J.J.!
Now, Hurricane Irma is building and headed toward Florida this weekend, and the NFL has announced the game between the Dolphins and Buccaneers will not be played Sunday in Miami.
"Irma, now a Category 5 hurricane with winds increasing to 185 miles per hour, according to NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft, is expected to make landfall in South Florida this weekend," wrote NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
"The NFL has not determined when or where the game between the Bucs and Dolphins will be played. There are currently two options being considered: Sunday at a neutral site, or playing the game later in the season in Miami."