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Late for Work 7/19: NFL Network Pundit Predicts Ravens' Season Will End With a Thud

WR Rashod Bateman
WR Rashod Bateman

NFL Network Pundit Predicts Ravens' Season Will End With a Thud

If NFL Network's Adam Rank's crystal ball is accurate, the 2023 Ravens will begin the season with a bang and end it with a thud.

Predicting the outcome for every Ravens game, Rank has them winning their first three games en route to an 8-2 start. Then he sees them going 1-6 the rest of the way, ending the season with four consecutive losses to finish 9-8.

Rank has Baltimore losing at Jacksonville and San Francisco in Weeks 15 and 16, then falling at home to Miami and Pittsburgh in Weeks 17 and 18.

"The Ravens always start off as a house of fire, putting together a ton of wins, then the wheels just kind of fall off," Rank said. "I look at the back end of that schedule, I think the same thing is going to happen this season."

Rank also predicted the Ravens to lose at Arizona in Week 8.

"I know Arizona is not a very good team, but you know as well as I do, the Ravens always have that one inexplicable loss, and it's going to be against the Cardinals," Rank said.

It goes without saying that predicting the result of every game in July is not something to take seriously. It's hard enough to predict games from week to week in the NFL.

Moreover, Rank's contention that the Ravens always collapse after a strong start is hyperbole at its finest.

Yes, the Ravens lost three of their final four games last season and ended the 2021 season with a six-game losing streak. However, Lamar Jackson was out for almost every one of those games, and the 2021 team also was without several other starters due to injury.

With a healthy Jackson, Baltimore ended the 2020 season on a five-game winning streak, the 2019 season on a 12-game winning streak, and the 2018 season with six wins in seven games.

Pundit/Chiefs fan: 'Ravens Are Team That Scares Me the Most'

Not everyone has such a pessimistic forecast for the Ravens. For instance, Fox Sports' Nick Wright, an admitted Chiefs fan, said he views the Ravens as the biggest threat to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions.

"As a Chiefs fan, the Ravens are the team that scares me the most," Wright said on "First Things First." "Because they are the only team that I think in the AFC, if the Chiefs play their 'A' game, the Chiefs might lose. Because the Ravens' 'A' game is so unique, because if Lamar is hitting in the passing game, that, plus the running dynamic, makes them truly unguardable."

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio also is high on the Ravens, saying that "Baltimore has a shot to dethrone Kansas City as the AFC Super Bowl contender." Much of Paolantonio's belief in Baltimore centers around first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers.

"The Ravens are raving about Zay Flowers so far in OTAs, and he's somebody that I'm going to be watching in my tour of training camps," Paolantonio said on "Get Up." "I want to see how he opens things up for Odell Bekcham Jr. I think OBJ could have a massive year because Zay Flowers will run those nine routes, will open up the safeties, open up the middle of the field and Mark Andrews. And Todd Monken and that offense is all about speed, and spacing, and pacing – get the ball out quickly."

Sports Illustrated Writer: Health of Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman Is Top Training Camp Question to Be Answered

Sports Illustrated’s Gilberto Manzano identified one big question for each AFC North team to answer in training camp. For the Ravens, it's whether Beckham and fellow wide receiver Rashod Bateman will stay healthy and make plays.

"There's been plenty of buzz about the Ravens' revamped passing game with the hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the first-round selection of wide receiver Zay Flowers and Lamar Jackson's signing a lucrative contract extension," Manzano wrote. "But this new-look passing attack won't work if Beckham and Bateman continue to be hampered by injuries.

" … Bateman has flashed in his first two seasons as a versatile 6'2" wideout who can win downfield with size and speed—he's capable of running a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash. In his prime, Beckam also offered a variety of ways of getting open. We'll soon learn how explosive this Ravens offense can be with a healthy Beckham and Bateman."

Beckham said recently that he's on a "slow incline" in his preparation for the season, doing what needs to be done to be ready for Week 1 and "peaking at the right time."

Bateman, who is working his way back from last year's Lisfranc surgery, was a spectator at minicamp last month after receiving a cortisone injection to aid in the healing process of having screws removed from his foot. He is expected to be ready to go for training camp, which begins July 26.

Roquan Smith Named Ravens' Most Important Non-Quarterback

With the Ravens' new-look offense dominating the conversation this offseason, it sometimes gets lost just how talented the Ravens defense is.

A midseason trade for inside linebacker Roquan Smith sparked a turnaround for a Baltimore defense that finished No. 3 in points allowed last season. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and Pro Football Focus’ Dalton Wasserman both identified Smith as the Ravens' most important non-quarterback.

"With Smith in the middle, the Ravens defense allowed 14 points or fewer in six of its final nine regular-season games. Both the run and pass defense were impacted," Zrebiec wrote. "Smith fit with the Ravens so well and he should be even more comfortable in his second season. It would be easy to pick an offensive player here, but Smith is a game-changer for the Ravens."

Wasserman added: "Smith's midseason arrival last year in Baltimore was a revelation. From Week 9 through the end of the season, only Bobby Wagner carried a higher overall grade than Smith's 85.9 mark. Over that same span, the Ravens were the only team to earn both a run-defense grade and coverage grade of at least 80.0.

"Smith played arguably the best stretch of football of his career for Baltimore. He, along with the emergence of Patrick Queen and Kyle Hamilton, is the reason that their defense is a potentially elite unit. Much of the spotlight has been on Baltimore's revamped passing game, but if the team is to make a deep postseason run, Smith and an elite defense will be just as important."

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