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Late for Work: 'Scariest Offense in the League,' But Ravens' Super Bowl Hopes Hinge on the Defense

ILB Patrick Queen
ILB Patrick Queen

ESPN Pundit Says Ravens' Super Bowl Hopes Rest on Defense

Every team in the NFL is 0-0 at this point and theoretically has a chance to win it all. Of course, some teams' Super Bowl aspirations are more realistic than others.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell looked at how each team can take home the Lombardi Trophy. Regarding the Ravens, who have the seventh-best odds of winning the Super Bowl according to ESPN's Football Power Index, Barnwell said they could have "the scariest offense in the league," but how far they go depends on how the defense performs.

"I'm more concerned about the defense holding up its end of the bargain, although the Bengals are the only great passing attack the Ravens will play through the first six weeks of the season," Barnwell wrote. "Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is expected to miss Week 1, forcing the Ravens to start late-offseason addition Ronald Darby across from Rock Ya-Sin. Jadeveon Clowney gives coordinator Mike Macdonald a much-needed veteran pass-rusher, but Baltimore is still relying on David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh to take leaps forward in 2023.

"The Ravens likely will eventually have a great defense — and the early-season schedule isn't extremely difficult — but they would much prefer to win the AFC North instead of chasing a conference title out of a wild-card spot."

Chris Simms Predicts Ravens Will Host AFC Championship Game for First Time

The Kansas City Chiefs have hosted the past five AFC Championship games, but NBC Sports' Chris Simms predicted this season's conference title game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, with the Chiefs as the visitors.

The Ravens have been to four AFC Championship games but none were played in Baltimore. Simms picked the Ravens to be the No. 1 seed, with the Chiefs at No. 2.

Simms believes the Ravens have been rejuvenated this offseason and will capitalize on what he deemed a favorable schedule.

"New contract [for Lamar Jackson], new vibe, new energy," Simms said in the "Chris Simms Unbuttoned" podcast. "Other than the Bengals in Week 2, they are better than their first eight opponents, so I think it sets up for them. The way it looks, I could certainly see them being 7-1 or 8-2."

To Simms' point, the Ravens only play two teams that made the playoffs last season in their first 10 games — at Cincinnati in Week 2 and at home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9.

Speaking of Cincinnati, Simms has the Ravens beating the Bengals in the divisional round in a playoff rematch from last season's wild-card round.

Simms' co-host, Ahmed Fareed, also predicted a Ravens-Chiefs AFC Championship Game, but he believes the game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium. Both Simms and Fareed picked the Chiefs to win the game.

Predictions for How Ravens' Receivers, J.K. Dobbins, Patrick Queen Will Fare This Season

Want more predictions? Of course you do.

The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer and Kris Rhim made 10 predictions for the 2023 Ravens. Here's a look at some of the more compelling ones:

Two Ravens will have over 1,000 receiving yards.

"Much has been made about the Ravens' offseason investments at wide receiver. General Manager Eric DeCosta retooled the room, adding Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor. On paper, the group appears to be the best collection of receivers the Ravens have had in recent memory, and maybe in franchise history. That should make life easy for tight end Mark Andrews, who has led the team in receiving yards in three of his years in Baltimore.

"The challenge of this prediction is figuring out just who will hit 1,000 yards this season. Andrews seems like a lock, but could he see fewer targets with the talent at receiver? Could there be an equal distribution of targets that keeps a handful of players hovering under 1,000 yards?"

J.K. Dobbins will lead all NFL running backs in yards per carry.

"Considering he's done it once before, this isn't too outlandish. As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins averaged 6 yards per carry, second on his own team — Jackson happened to lead the NFL (6.3 yards) — but first among running backs leaguewide. A catastrophic knee injury in the 2021 preseason cost him a shot at the crown the next two years. But even without a breakaway gear, Dobbins was one of the NFL's most productive backs late last season.

"After returning from arthroscopic knee surgery in Week 14, he averaged 6.6 yards per carry on 14 attempts per game over four regular-season games and the Ravens' playoff loss. Even more impressive, Dobbins averaged 1.7 rushing yards over expectation per carry in that stretch, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, a mark that would've been a runaway No. 1 overall last year. Dobbins might not get the heavy workload he covets entering a contract year. The Ravens' offensive line might not be as stable as it was last year, either. But if Dobbins' long speed has returned, and Jackson's back to threatening defenses as a runner, he could again be ruthlessly efficient."

Patrick Queen will lead the team in sacks.

"Outside linebacker Justin Houston led the Ravens last season with 17 quarterback hits, which tend to be predictive of sack totals. Unsurprisingly, he also had a team-high 9.5 sacks. (According to ESPN, pass rushers typically turn about 45% of their hits into sacks in a given year.) Just behind Houston in quarterback hits was Patrick Queen, who tied for second with 14. Surprisingly, that translated to only five sacks, a career high for the inside linebacker but only fourth-most on the Ravens.

"As a blitzer, Queen was one of the NFL's best and most active inside linebackers last year, finishing just behind Houston (14.2%) in overall win rate (14.1%), according to Pro Football Focus. He has the strength to bowl over smaller running backs in pass protection and, after dropping his playing weight this offseason, looked even faster as a blitzer during training camp. Could Queen reach nine sacks, as former LSU teammate Devin White did three years ago in the middle of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense? It's possible. But even seven or eight might be enough to lead a Ravens team without a sure-thing edge rusher."

Justin Tucker, Ray Lewis Among Hopefuls 'Auditioning' for Manningcast Gig

ESPN dropped a hilarious promo video yesterday which saw Peyton and Eli Manning holding auditions for a co-host on their popular "Manningcast" show, an alternative live broadcast of "Monday Night Football" that airs on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

Justin Tucker and Hall of Famer Ray Lewis are among an eclectic, star-studded list of hopefuls looking to impress the Manning brothers in the skit.

Did Tucker nail the audition like he does clutch kicks? Did Lewis impress the Mannings with his dance moves? Check out the video to find out.

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