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Late for Work: What Ravens Can Do to Have Better Opportunity to Dethrone Chiefs Next Season

ILB Roquan Smith
ILB Roquan Smith

What Ravens Can Do to Have Better Opportunity to Dethrone Chiefs Next Season

It's only been a few days since the Ravens' season came to an abrupt end, but the forecasting for next season is already underway.

CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin ranked the 12 fallen playoff teams by their chances of making the Super Bowl next year, and the Ravens were No. 1.

"They were out of sync and undisciplined in their shot to reach the Super Bowl this year, which makes two times Lamar Jackson has earned the No. 1 seed but failed to reach the big game," Benjamin wrote. "But Jackson looked like a different animal under Todd Monken this year, finally pairing more efficient passing with his trademark scrambling.

"The defense, meanwhile, was elite and has young leaders like Kyle Hamilton. If they can restock out wide, where Zay Flowers could use more help, they'll go into 2024 not only with AFC Championship experience but a better opportunity to unseat the Chiefs as the conference's top dog."

The Ringer’s Austin Gayle identified one big question for each playoff team that has been eliminated. For the Ravens, the question is: How much better do Jackson and the Ravens need to be to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs?

Gayle acknowledged Jackson's postseason struggles but said there's no reason to believe the Ravens quarterback can't flip the script.

"He ranks dead last in playoff EPA per dropback among quarterbacks with five postseason games played in the last 10 years. But none of that changes the fact that the sample size of Jackson being stoppable is a whole lot smaller than his sample size of being unstoppable," Gayle wrote. "He's a soon-to-be two-time league MVP at 27 years old. He's coming out of only his first year with a new offensive play-caller, Todd Monken. And his best receiver, Zay Flowers, just finished his rookie year (and made some rookie mistakes). As good as Jackson and Monken and Flowers all are, there's still so much meat on the bone for them to improve.

"We're letting a small sample size of underwhelming Jackson performances prevent us from tiering the Ravens in the same spot as the Bills. The truth is that both the Ravens and Bills will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season; the question is when they'll actually beat Mahomes."

Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith also believes Jackson's lack of postseason success is being overblown.

"To me it's mind-blowing, because when that person fails you try to pile it all own," Smith said on FanDuel TV's "Up & Adams." "This is a guy that's proven he's a winner. His winning percentage is up there with the best of them over his duration of playing. So I think it's a little overrated. It's just about getting it done.

"They did not get it done this week in a tough loss and he did not play the way that he's capable of playing. At the end of the day, I view it as one game. … He's a big-time player in this game and is going to be for a long time."

Macdonald Reportedly a 'Really, Really Strong Candidate' for Seahawks Job

The chances of Macdonald returning to the Ravens took a hit yesterday.

Detroit Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson and Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator Bobby Slowik, who were both considered top candidates for a head coaching job, are reportedly staying put.

That leaves Macdonald as perhaps the leading candidate for the remaining openings with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders.

"I've talked to a couple teams who interviewed him. It sounds like he has been really dynamic in some of these interviews," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on "The Insiders." "I had one person involved with one of the head coach searches say this was the best interview we had by far. He is young, he is bright. Sort of the defensive Sean McVay was how he was described to me. The fact that Seattle was willing to wait until after the Super Bowl to talk to him … makes me think he is a really, really strong candidate in Seattle."

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is also considered a top candidate for the openings in Seattle and Washington.

Meanwhile, multiple Ravens assistant coaches reportedly are candidates to fill various job openings around the league.

It was announced yesterday that Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz is leaving the Ravens after 26 years to become the general manager of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Who Is the Early AFC North Favorite: Ravens or Bengals?

The "Good Morning Football" crew discussed who should be the AFC North favorite heading into the 2024 season between the defending division champion Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals won the division in 2021 and 2022, but quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 11 against the Ravens this season and they finished in last place with a 9-8 record.

"I'm gonna give respect to Baltimore," Peter Schrager said. "They're young enough, they're good enough, and I think this was the first year of what could be many of that offense and defense jelling together, especially if [Defensive Coordinator] Mike Macdonald doesn't get one of these [head coaching] jobs in Washington and Seattle."

Jason McCourty also went with the Ravens.

"I think Lamar Jackson, probably the MVP this year, first year under Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, as bad as it was in the AFC Championship Game, they had one hell of a year together, so I think Year 2 is even better," McCourty said.

Kyle Brandt said it doesn't matter who the AFC North favorite is because the Kansas City Chiefs rule the conference. Given the choice between the Ravens and Bengals, however, he went with the latter.

"Who's gonna win the North? Who cares?" Brandt said. "Mahomes just went to Baltimore and beat the Ravens. If I'm forced to pick between one of these I'll go with the Bengals because they've beaten Mahomes in the playoffs. The answer to every question is Mahomes right now. He's the overlord. He runs this thing."

Schrager, McCourty, and Brandt also said they wouldn't count out the Cleveland Browns, who overcame many injuries to key players, including quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Nick Chubb, to go 11-6 and make the playoffs.

Brandt also predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went 10-7 and made the playoffs, will be back in the playoffs next season.

Four Ravens Make ESPN's Top 50 Free Agent Rankings

With the start of free agency six weeks away, ESPN's Matt Bowen ranked the top 50 players available. The Ravens had four players on the list.

Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike came in at No. 4 after his breakout season.

"Madubuike had a career-high 13 sacks this season after posting 5.5 in 2022," Bowen wrote. "The foot quickness and short-area juice jump off the tape, which allow him to leverage blockers and create interior pressure. The arrow is pointing up on him; he can win one-on-one or push the pocket in schemed fronts, and he pursues to the ball consistently. He also had 12 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles last season."

Inside linebacker Patrick Queen (No. 33), guard Kevin Zeitler (No. 40), and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (No. 45) were the other Ravens among the top 50.

Quick Hits

  • Pro Football Focus looked at five things we learned about the Ravens in their loss to the Chiefs.

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