Odell Beckham Jr.'s Impact on Ravens Goes Beyond Highlight-Reel Catches
Odell Beckham Jr. had just one catch in Sunday's rout of the Miami Dolphins, but what a catch.
It was vintage OBJ, as he made a spectacular, 33-yard sideline grab, miraculously getting both feet in bounds as he fell to the ground at the 1-yard line.
The catch, which set the Ravens up for the go-ahead touchdown midway through the second quarter, is exactly what the team was hoping for when it signed the three-time Pro Bowler this offseason.
Beyond the highlight-reel receptions and big plays in big games, Beckham, who is averaging a career-high 16.1 yards per catch this season, also has made an impact on the team with his wisdom and leadership, The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker wrote.
"His locker is next to Zay Flowers, who said that Beckham has helped guide him through the rigors of NFL life, a benefit that's helped him accumulate the fourth most yards (858) and catches (77) among rookie receivers along with five touchdowns," Wacker wrote. "Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, meanwhile, has referred to him as a 'big brother.' And while the Baltimore locker room is bursting with big personalities, no one sets the vibe and mood quite the way Beckham does, from corn hole games to dance moves to imparting the know-how to get where the rest of his teammates want to go."
Beckham, whose star power transcends the sport, told Wacker: "I know what I bring energy-wise, I know what I bring leader-wise. Everyone looks at he gets paid this much; there's so much other [stuff] that people don't see. People who are outside the locker room who create a narrative, they would be like, 'diva this or that.' They use these words, but they don't know you on a day-to-day basis."
Beckham, who helped the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl two years ago, said in the locker room after Sunday's game that this is the best team he has been on. He told Wacker that a week after signing with the Ravens he had a dream that he hopes will become reality.
"He is ambiguous on the details, preferring to see it come to fruition before sharing specifics, but said the vision was powerful enough that he made a note on his phone on April 15 and sent it to coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Lamar Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews," Wacker wrote.
Beckham said: "I don't really have dreams unless I'm seeing something. This is the best chance I've had [to win the Super Bowl] besides when I was with the Rams. …
"I seen colors, black and white and purple, and I seen a very dark stadium. I remember running around the field saying something something two-time world champions."
Ravens Facing Joe Flacco-Led Browns Named Juiciest Possible Playoff Matchup
With the Ravens and Cleveland Browns both having clinched a playoff berth, anticipation is growing for a potential divisional round game between the two.
The story obviously writes itself: Joe Flacco, the 38-year-old former Ravens Super Bowl MVP, improbably resurrecting his career and leading the AFC North rival Browns into M&T Bank Stadium for a playoff game.
"It has to happen," The Athletic's Zac Jackson wrote. "Divisional round, M&T Bank Stadium. The top-seeded 13-3 Ravens, probably the only team hotter than the Browns, hosting Cleveland and Joseph Vincent Flacco. It just has to. And that guy in the picture has to wear his jersey."
NFL Network's Rich Eisen, who is one of several pundits who believe the Browns stand the best chance of knocking off the Ravens in the AFC, said it would be the juiciest possible matchup in the playoffs.
"If [the Browns] walk into Baltimore with Joe Flacco as their quarterback, playing the way Joe Flacco is playing right now, I don't think you can make this thing up," Eisen said. "Joe Flacco is the story nobody saw coming and is maybe a top five story of the entire NFL season.
"The Browns can go into Baltimore and end that season. They've already gone into Baltimore and won a game this year with Deshaun Watson, and this offense the way that Flacco runs it is way better."
The Ravens and fifth-seeded Browns are locked into their playoff spots, so the two teams meeting in the divisional round isn't far-fetched. If the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds win, the Browns would face the Ravens if they defeat the AFC South winner, which will be either the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, or Houston Texans. The Browns beat all three in the regular season.
NFL.com Columnist Ranks 49ers Ahead of Ravens As Most Likely Super Bowl Champion
NFL.com columnist Adam Schein ranked the nine teams most likely to win the Super Bowl. Despite the Ravens having the best record in the league, they did not take the top spot.
That distinction went to the San Francisco 49ers, who were soundly defeated by the Ravens, 33-19, on Christmas night. The Ravens were ranked second.
"I know what you're thinking … You're ranking San Francisco ahead Baltimore less than two weeks after the Ravens put it on the 49ers in their own building?!" Schein wrote. "Yeah, just to immediately attack that elephant in the room (or on the list): I think Baltimore has tougher potential matchups/pitfalls in the AFC field than San Francisco will face on the NFC side of the bracket. So, with an easier path to Super Bowl Sunday, I give the Niners a better chance of being the last team standing. Not to mention, San Francisco was my preseason pick to win it all, so I'm sticking to it."
Regarding the Ravens, Schein wrote: "The Ravens are an elite organization, top to bottom: from owner Steve Bisciotti to General Manager Eric DeCosta to Head Coach John Harbaugh and right on down the line. This franchise brilliantly evaluates talent, finding culture fits who can come in and immediately contribute. Like, for example, first-round pick Zay Flowers, who hit the ground running in Year 1, giving Baltimore the kind of receiving juice it sorely lacked in recent seasons. The team's top-ranked scoring defense is anchored by linebacker Roquan Smith (a savvy midseason addition by DeCosta last season) and safety Kyle Hamilton (the Ravens' top draft pick in 2022), while free-agent signee Jadeveon Clowney has provided immense value to his fifth NFL team.
"Admirably overcoming injuries throughout the season, Baltimore is a resilient group representing a fine football city. M&T Bank Stadium is a tough environment for all visitors; beating the Ravens there — or perhaps in Las Vegas — won't be an easy task. Like I said, though, Baltimore faces an imposing field of AFC contenders."
Rounding out Schein's top five were the Buffalo Bills, Browns, and Dallas Cowboys.
Jadeveon Clowney Among Ravens' Pro Bowl Snubs
Seven Ravens were named to the 2023 Pro Bowl, but several of their teammates also deserved consideration.
ESPN Analytics' Seth Walder made a list of Pro Bowl snubs and included outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney as a player who could've made it in another season.
"He was crowded out in a sack-heavy field, though he's having a spectacular season," Walder wrote. "Clowney ranks fifth in pass rush win rate among edge rushers on a great Baltimore defense. Ultimately, the difference in sacks and turnovers created by Khalil Mack and Josh Allen were too much to overcome, but on a down-to-down basis Clowney has certainly been impactful. He's solid against the run as well, bolstering his case."
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra included guard Kevin Zeitler among the players who were worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. Despite having a stellar career, Zeitler has never made the Pro Bowl.
Safety Geno Stone, who is second in the league in interceptions with seven, also was snubbed.