Peter King Predicts Ravens Win AFC North; Odafe Oweh No. 2 in DPOY Voting
It's prediction season and longtime NFL scribe Peter King is a bellwether around the league.
King is bullish on the Ravens in 2022, predicting them to win the AFC North over the defending conference champion Cincinnati Bengals.
King has the Ravens as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs (which doesn't come with a bye anymore) and beating the Miami Dolphins in the Wild-Card round before falling to the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional round.
Of course, King cites Ravens' improved health from last season as a main factor in their resurgence – specifically pointing to Lamar Jackson, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Ronnie Stanley (and there are others he left out).
"There is hope for Stanley to play early in the season," King wrote. "But Stanley's got much to prove after missing 26 games in the past two years with a nagging ankle injury."
Ultimately, King picked Baltimore to win the AFC North because "I think the Ravens have a lot going for them."
"First-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has been a big change from Wink Martindale. Whereas Martindale wanted to dominate the offense every day in practice, Macdonald uses practice to experiment and try to get better. Edge player Odafe Oweh could be one of the beneficiaries, a surprise rising star in year two; how crazy is it he had zero sacks as a Penn State senior in 2020?" King wrote.
"On the other side of the ball, look for fourth-round tight end Isaiah Likely, a training-camp revelation, to be in a lot of two-tight-end formations with Mark Andrews (107 catches, 1,361 yards last year). When the offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, isn't a bombs-away guy, that makes for loads of possibilities with the tight ends in intermediate spaces. Of course, the key will be Jackson. It sounds dubious that he'll get a contract done before opening day, but I doubt it will affect his performance much."
One of the most eye-opening predictions from King was about Oweh, who he predicts to finish second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and ahead of Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, who won the award last year.
Oweh had five sacks and three forced fumbles in his rookie season, and his training camp has many pundits around Baltimore (and now nationally) predicting a monster sophomore season.
In his 2022 Ravens predictions, The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote that Oweh will become the Ravens' first player to reach double-digit sacks since 2017.
"We saw the wrath of Oweh 2.0 throughout training camp and in brief glimpses of preseason action," Shaffer wrote. "He was more violent with his hands, harder to hit cleanly as he came around the edge. In other words, he was unblockable… He will play far more snaps this year under a new defensive coordinator, Macdonald, who squeezed incredible production from a pair of talented edge rushers at Michigan last year. Everything points to him becoming the team's most productive sack artist since Terrell Suggs, who hit double digits for the last time (with 11) five years ago."
Last year, King envisioned another huge Year 2 Ravens defender breakout in this same column, predicting that Justin Madubuike would finish third in the DPOY voting.
In other 2022 predictions, King thinks Jackson will finish third in MVP voting (behind Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert) and John Harbaugh will again be the Coach of the Year, just as he was in 2019.
"Harbaugh could do it if the Ravens are the only team to go from worst (in the AFC North) to first in 2022," King wrote.
PFF Ranks Ravens Roster No. 9
After an offseason of additions, re-signings and rehabilitation, the Ravens enter the 2022 regular season with a roster of health and talent. According to PFF's Ben Linsey, the Ravens' roster is the ninth-best in the NFL.
Linsey has Bills (No. 1), Los Angeles Chargers (3), Cincinnati Bengals (7), and Kansas City Chiefs (8) ahead of the Ravens in the AFC.
Linsey points to the Ravens' secondary being their biggest strength.
"The Ravens' secondary was hit hard by injuries last season, but all signs point toward it entering the 2022 season with a deep and flexible group after adding Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Kyle Fuller, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams this offseason," Linsey wrote. "A safety trio of Williams, Hamilton and Chuck Clark should be utilized in a variety of unique ways by new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Williams (91.7 PFF grade since 2017) has been one of the more underrated safeties in the NFL over the past five seasons."
Flying under Linsey's radar is Peters, who returned to practice recently and immediately returned to his ball-hawking ways.
Linsey offered a critique of the roster, pointing to the all-too-often mentioned wide receiver unit.
"The Marquise Brown trade thins what was already one of the league's worst wide receiver groups. Baltimore is going to operate out of a lot of heavier personnel groupings to feature Patrick Ricard and tight ends Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Isaiah Likely," Linsey wrote. "However, the Ravens could still use a proven veteran who can win one-on-ones on the outside. Rashod Bateman projects as the team's top option after averaging 1.3 yards per route run (83rd among 128 qualifying wide receivers) as a rookie last season."
While Linsey sounds critical of Bateman, many are expecting a big year out of the sophomore receiver, including ESPN’s Field Yates.
"In the first [five] games Rashod Bateman played, he had at least six targets," Yates said. "The minute he got back on the field last year the Ravens wanted Rashod Bateman to be a big part of their offense… The numbers aren't the important part here. The important part is, 'Do you believe in the player?' And I do. Really talented guy coming out of Minnesota. Didn't run great out of the pre-draft process so he slid a little bit, but I love the player a lot. This is exactly the kind of player that I like."
Linsey closed out with an ' "X factor for 2022."
"Patrick Queen hasn't graded well in his first two seasons out of LSU, but he has shown the ability to change games with his range when things are clicking," Linsey wrote. "Those moments came more consistently in 2021, as he earned an 80-plus PFF grade in four separate games. Queen taking another step forward and performing at a high level more consistently in 2022 would provide a real boost to Baltimore's defense."
CBS Sports Jeff Kerr: Ravens Are Contenders in the AFC
The regular season kicks off this week and there's hope for all 32 teams to reach their ceiling. For the Ravens, that ceiling, according to CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr, is a 13-win season and a trip to the AFC championship.
"The Ravens do have a talented roster, as they displayed last season in having the AFC's best record heading into December despite over a dozen players on injured reserve," Kerr wrote.
Kerr's reasoning has to do with Jackson, Macdonald and a healthy secondary.
"The offense is tailor-made for Jackson to succeed running the football, back to the system that aided him in leading the league in touchdown passes and winning MVP honors in 2019. J.K. Dobbins is also back, a major boost for the ground game," Kerr wrote. "Mike MacDonald has the defense set for a major turnaround and a revamped secondary, with Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey back on the field, should have Baltimore back toward the top of the AFC North in 2022."
Kerr offered a "floor" for all 32 teams, and for the Ravens, it's a winning season (9-8) that falls short of making the postseason. The reasons being a worst-case scenario of Jackson being out due to injury and a familiar critique of the wide receiver room.
"Even if Jackson suffers an injury, the Ravens should be fine on offense with Tyler Huntley. 'Fine' isn't good enough in a loaded conference," Kerr wrote. "The Ravens need Jackson on the field and playing toward MVP level every week, similar toward how he was in the first month of last season. The wide receiver corps, outside of Rashod Bateman, is a concern and could significantly hurt Baltimore through a 17-game season, even if the Ravens are stacked at tight end."
But even with the criticism, Kerr sees the Ravens as a contender.
"Again, Baltimore is a good team, even with the glaring weaknesses," Kerr wrote.
Lamar Jackson 'Could Have One of the Best Fantasy Seasons'
In 2019, Lamar Jackson's meteoric rise brought the Ravens the AFC North crown, along with thousands of fantasy football players their respective winnings. In 2022, PFF's Nathan Jahnke is backing Jackson to dominate once again, believing "he could have one of the best fantasy seasons we've seen from a quarterback."
"The former MVP was QB4 through the first 10 weeks of the 2021 season before injuries derailed the second half of the year," Jahnke wrote. "This was particularly impressive considering he didn't have his top three running backs, two of his wide receivers, his second tight end or his best offensive lineman for most of that stretch."
Many are expecting the Ravens, in either scope of fantasy or reality, to be a strong offensive team with the healthy return of their skill position players and revamped offensive line. Jahnke believes this means only good things for Jackson.
"Jackson's offense should be much closer to full strength to start this season," Jahnke wrote. "The running backs still aren't at 100%, but they were much more prepared this season to handle their potential absence. The Ravens also invested draft picks on the offensive line and two backup tight ends to give him more options. Isaiah Likely is one of those tight ends, and he's been one of the biggest highlights of all the preseason, giving Jackson one more receiving option. This should all be enough to elevate the offense get to the red zone and allow Jackson to score several touchdowns."
Ravens Rookies Receive 'A' Grade After 2022 Preseason
Back in April, the Ravens received an abundance of “A” grades after their knockout NFL draft. With the preseason complete, Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton gave the Ravens' rookies an "A" grade and expects big things out Likely.
"Likely had one of the best overall preseason performances among all rookies, hauling in 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He can take the field with Mark Andrews to form one of the league's best pass-catching tight end duos," Moton wrote. "The Ravens traded wideout Marquise Brown to the Cardinals during the draft, but don't just look for Rashod Bateman to soak up more targets, Likely could make an impact as a pass-catcher this year."
Moton's not the only one expecting Likely to be a difference-maker this season.