Late for Work 9/9: CBS: Three Reasons the Ravens Will Win Super Bowl LV 

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QB Lamar Jackson

Three Reasons the Ravens Will Win Super Bowl LV

We're less than one week from the start of the regular season and the Ravens have their sights set on a Super Bowl.

None might be more optimistic than CBS Sports' Jordan Dajani, who believes the Ravens can be even better than last season.

"It will be hard for Baltimore to match its 14-2 record in 2020, but they do have a great chance to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC," Dajani wrote. "Even more importantly, I think this team has a better shot this year to win the Super Bowl."

Dajani listed three reasons why he thinks the Ravens will win Super Bowl LV.

1.The league's best rushing attack is even better.

The Ravens were far and away the league's top rushing team last season. They return their entire backfield, along with Lamar Jackson, and made a strength even greaterwhen they drafted rookie running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round.  

"Put simply, the most dynamic backfield got even more dynamic this offseason, and it's something that is again going to benefit this team," Dajani wrote. "... The Ravens will again have the best rushing offense in the NFL, and it will be a reason they finish the job with a Super Bowl victory this upcoming season."

Dajani believes that the Ravens going against the norm with a heavy rushing attack in today's NFL will benefit them. Last season they dominated time of possession with a league-best average of over 34 minutes a game. They rarely played from behind and wore down opposing defenses.

The Ravens' rushing attack could help the passing game, which is expected to be better with an improved receiving core.

2. Their schedule and the NFL's playoff format help.

Dajani's second reason is something we've highlighted in Late for Work this offseason. The Ravens have the easiest strength of schedule (.438) based on their opponent's win percentages from last season.

While this isn't a direct indicator of success, the schedule certainly has its advantages.

"Out of Baltimore's 13 opponents, only five of them made the playoffs last season," Dajani wrote. "One of those teams is the New England Patriots, who no longer have Tom Brady, and another is the Titans, who you know the Ravens are more motivated than ever to beat after last year's loss. This sets up the Ravens to have a great chance not only to win their division, but to also secure the top seed in the AFC. That has now become more important than ever with the league's new playoff format."

Dajani also believes the Ravens could benefit from the NFL's new playoff format. Each conference will add another wild-card spot, but only have one first-round bye. If the Ravens can secure that in the AFC, they'll have a distinct advantage.

"That bye didn't exactly help the Ravens last season, but acquiring it should be more important than ever in 2020, and the Ravens have a great shot at repeating as the best regular-season team in the AFC," Dajani added.

3. History will repeat itself.

The Ravens have been unsuccessful in two playoff starts with Jackson, but history is on their side. After falling short in his MVP season, Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a Lombardi Trophy last year.

So that means ...

"I predict that history will repeat itself and Jackson will take the Ravens to the Super Bowl and win Super Bowl MVP," Dajani wrote. "In fact, the last two regular-season MVP's before Jackson won the Super Bowl the following year. Mahomes and Jackson are two of the most talented players in the NFL, and while they may specialize in different areas, there are plenty of similarities between the two. Jackson will follow Mahomes' lead and take Baltimore all the way in 2020."

It's way too early in Jackson's career to make any generalizations, but there's plenty of confidence that he'll overcome the playoff hump. Throughout all of the accolades, Jackson is determined to win a Super Bowl.

Ravens Rank Behind Steelers in These Power Rankings

There's nothing that gets discussion flowing quicker than power rankings, and that's what CBS Sports' Pete Prisco did. I know the Ravens Flock is a loyal breed and they'll certainly take exception to these.

Before a game has even been played, Prisco has the Ravens dropping four spots to No. 6 in his rankings, one spot behind the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"They are still loaded and they have the MVP in Jackson running their high-flying offense," Prisco said. "They will be a playoff team, but it's time to do something with Jackson once they are there."

Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner are presumably healthy after missing time with injuries last season. They also have a very talented defense.

But to put them over the Ravens seems like a stretch. Throughout the offseason, the Ravens have consistently ranked as a top-three team in most power rankings. It makes sense coming off a 14-2 season, and there are plenty of reasons to suggest they'll be better this year.

NFL.com and ESPN were more bullish on the Ravens in their rankings, placing them at No. 3 and No. 2, respectively.

"Jackson said last week he's fully recovered from a groin injury and will be ready to go in Week 1 against the Browns," NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote. "Good news for Baltimore, bad news for Cleveland, but we remain interested to see how the Ravens plan to deploy Jackson as a playmaker after 2019's record-setting MVP performance. The Ravens have an embarrassment of riches in their rushing game, with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and promising rookie J.K. Dobbins. Citing that depth as a reason to turn Jackson into a pocket passer would be comically stupid, but there may be logic in dialing down the designed QB runs in an effort to increase the chances of having a healthy Jackson for 16 games and beyond."

USA Today's Nate Davis also ranked the Ravens second, only behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

Even though they were ranked one spot behind their division rival, pundits are optimistic about the Ravens' Week 1 matchup against the Browns. They're eight-point favorites in the home opener.

How Pat Ricard Can Fill the Third Tight End Role

The Ravens chose to keep three tight ends on the 53-man roster. Two players, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, are tight ends by nature. The other, Pat Ricard, is a converted fullback/tight end who is hoping to fill a crucial role in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's attack.

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer dove into the film and offered some great insight on what Richard's role might look like.

"Ricard's next evolution could be his most ambitious," Shaffer wrote. "Over the 2019 season, the Ravens lined up with multiple tight ends on over a third of their plays, one of the NFL's highest rates. Outside of quarterback, no skill position was more important to their offense; the versatility of Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst helped Lamar Jackson pick apart secondaries and gash run defenses."

The biggest challenge for a third tight end is replicating Hurst's receiving. Ricard has just 15 career receptions, but that's not where Shaffer expects to see his impact.

"Asking Ricard to play more like the explosive Andrews, who averaged 10.8 air yards per target last season, would be unreasonable," Shaffer wrote. "Emulating Boyle, himself a standout blocker, is more doable. In Boyle's two most active receiving games last season — he caught four of five targets against the Kansas City Chiefs and five of five against the New England Patriots — he didn't need to run sophisticated routes to get open. He found seams off play-action, ran shallow crossing routes, flared out to the flat and caught check-downs. Ricard might not have the quickness to win on a quick out, as Boyle did. But with the gravitational pull Jackson has on defenses, he also might not have to."

We could see Boyle, who had his best season as a receiver in 2019, step up. With a healthy Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and the addition of two rookie wide receivers, that could take some of the receiving load off the tight end group.

When Jackson Beat*Rajon*Rondo in a Foot Race

Even at a young age, Jackson was making professional athletes look silly.  

During his freshman season at Louisville, Jackson beat NBA champion point guard Rajon Rondo in a foot race by "a lot." 

"I was coming from my room, me and my teammates, all the freshmen," Jackson told The Courier Journal. "And we see him racing his cousin in the street. He was like, 'Who won the race?' But no one said nothing; I didn't even say nothing. So he ran again, and I just knew I could beat him. So I was like, 'I'll race you.' Then he went to like talking junk, so we ended up racing."

Quick Hits

  • "I counted 17 other teams that kept four ball carriers or more on their initial 53-man roster," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "That's over half the league. Finding consistent touches for four backs is challenging. Keeping that many on your roster really isn't."

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