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Late for Work: Case for Why (And Why Not) the Ravens Will Win the Super Bowl

WR Zay Flowers
WR Zay Flowers

Why the Ravens Will Win the Super Bowl

While the competition this weekend featured sub-zero conditions, victors and playoff heartbreaks, the Ravens were at home awaiting their foe. They will continue to do so, awaiting the result of today's Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers wild-card matchup.

But as they do so, scouting both the Houston Texans and Steelers, The Athletic's Austin Mock wrote why each team in the postseason will or won't win the Super Bowl. Atop his list are the Ravens, and he gave a sizable page of reasons why they are worthy.

"Because they're one of the two most balanced teams in the NFL," Mock wrote. "When adjusting for garbage time and taking away their Week 18 performance when they rested starters, including quarterback and MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson, the Ravens rank fifth in EPA/play on offense and second in offensive success rate."

Mock cited the Ravens' production in advanced stats, pointing to just how successful their offense has become this season under Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken.

"They also boast a top-12 EPA/dropback figure and are fifth in dropback success rate," Mock wrote. "They also just happen to have the league's best or second-best rushing attack, depending on which metrics you prefer."

Mock didn't forget about their defensive metrics, either.

"But it doesn't just stop on offense. Their defense ranks second in EPA/play and sixth in defensive success rate," he wrote. "It's tough to beat the Ravens through the air, as their defensive unit ranks second in EPA/dropback and dropback success rate. If you're going to move the ball against this team, it's easier to turn to your rushing attack. However, with how often the Ravens offense runs the ball, games start to shorten pretty quickly. If you find yourself trailing, comebacks become very difficult."

But for all the fun, Mock does point to one of the few weaknesses the Ravens have shown in spurts this season, saying their run defense could be what hurts them if they were to falter.

"Because they could give up a lot of yards on the ground, which keeps the ball out of Jackson's hands," Mock wrote. "The Ravens rank 23rd in EPA/rush and 20th in rushing success rate. If you had to choose to have an elite pass defense or an elite rush defense, you're picking the pass defense every time, but that doesn't mean that a weak run defense can't end your season. All it could take for the Ravens to lose is a sub-par performance by Jackson and Co., and they could find themselves trailing with the opposing offense marching downfield on the ground — all while the clock is running out."

Even with such a minor issue, it could be problematic. But there are few in the AFC, Mock writes, that could pose a threat for Baltimore in the conference.

"Luckily for the Ravens, outside of the Bills, the AFC doesn't boast the most efficient rushing offenses this year," Mock wrote. "Either way, if the Ravens go down, it wouldn't shock me if it's their inability to stop the run that's the primary culprit."

Troy Aikman Praises Ravens Organization, Calls Lamar MVP

Prior to Super Wild-Card Weekend, New York Post’s Steve Serby sat down with Hall of Fame quarterback and FOX broadcaster Troy Aikman, to talk all things postseason.

Here are the excerpts involving the Ravens:

Serby: "Ravens-49ers is my Super Bowl pick. What are your thoughts?"

Aikman: "I've said this many times on our broadcast, talked to a lot of coaches, some of them have just left on their own, some of 'em have been fired from Baltimore, and yet all of 'em, to a man, rave about how that organization is run. Starting at the top with their owner [Steve Bisciotti], [Executive Vice President] Ozzie Newsome and [General Manager] Eric DeCosta, and then, of course, [Head Coach] John Harbaugh. They really are I think the standard in many ways as to how their organization is run from top to bottom."

Serby: "Lamar Jackson is the MVP, right?"

Aikman: "The MVP race took a lot of trusts and turns as we wound down the end of the year. Dak was in the hunt, Brock Purdy was in the hunt, and Lamar just kept his foot on the pedal and kept doing what he does, and was phenomenal. I think he does ultimately win it."             

Tight End Mark Andrews Could Be Huge for the Ravens

On Friday, tight end Mark Andrews returned to practice after missing the past six games due to a cracked fibula. The return of the Ravens' best receiving weapon over the past four years has Pat McAfee of The Pat McAfee Show hyped for the Ravens, believing this could be huge for their playoff run.

"This might be the year the Ravens go on a run. Instead of, like teams are losing guys in walkthroughs, in jog-throughs and things like that, they're getting their best weapon back for the playoffs," McAfee said. "And they're the number one seed, and they get a bye week. So, you're assuming everybody that is banged up at this stage of the season, which is literally everybody, is going to feel a little bit healthier, a little bit fresher next week. And Harbaugh just watched his brother [Jim Harbaugh] win a national championship. That could be something that's motivating. This Ravens team, right team, right time, seemingly."

Co-host and former NFL linebacker A.J. Hawk expressed positivity, but appears to be a believer in the rest equals rust category.

"Yeah, I mean, I guess the whole question is what do they look like when they finally get out there and get to play in how many days from now?" Hawk said. "That's always the thing when you have the bye. I'm always curious to see how you react coming off of basically two weeks without a game."

Valedictorian Regular Season Grades for the Ravens

With the regular season more than concluded, Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann gave out grades for the Ravens' performance. Four big-time A's were given to the offense, defense, coaches and front office.

Offense Overall: A

"Todd Monken's inaugural season in Baltimore was a hit, as his MVP-caliber quarterback and revamped receiving room upped the passing attack, and a gang of running backs and mix-matched offensive line led the league in rushing," McCann wrote. "The Ravens finished fourth in offensive DVOA, sixth in yards per game, fourth in scoring and eighth in red-zone touchdown percentage. There were some rocky moments at the start of the season, but from Week 7 to Week 17, the Ravens scored 38, 31, 37, 31, 34, 20, 37, 23, 33 and 56 points — 34 points a game. 'Twas a nice season on this side of the ball, despite missing some key weapons for big stretches."

Defense Overall: A+

"This unit picked up steam at the end of the 2022 season, and really cooked this year. The Ravens finished first in DVOA, and became the first team in history to lead the NFL in points allowed per game, sacks and turnovers," McCann wrote. "They tackle well, they rush the passer, and they cover, which is a good formula for success. Add in a group of playmakers who make big plays and you have a defense that carried the torch for this franchise's proud tradition on that side of the ball. A banner year, all around."

Coaching: A

"Overcome injuries? Check. Good game plans and adjustments on offense? Check. How about the defense? Check," McCann wrote. "I also thought they did a good job of juggling analytics and situational football on fourth-down decisions this year, and the team seemed to grow closer together and more confident as the season progressed. Adding Chuck Smith, moving Tee Martin to quarterbacks coach, adding Willie Taggart and Dennard Wilson — all worked out. A masterful job this year, and you have to give a lot of credit to head coach John Harbaugh."

Bonus Category — Front Office: A+

"From signing Lamar Jackson to adding Dalvin Cook right before the playoffs, Eric DeCosta seemed to have the magic touch this year," McCann wrote. "Just look at acquisitions like [Jadeveon] Clowney, [Odell] Beckham [Jr.], [Kyle] Van Noy, [Ronald] Darby, [Arthur] Maulet, [Trenton] Simpson and Keaton Mitchell, or recent draft picks, like [Kyle] Hamilton, [Tyler] Linderbaum, [Zay] Flowers, [Isaiah] Likely, etc. Give them their flowers, and start with DeCosta."

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