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Late for Work: Peter King Predicts Zay Flowers Finishes Second in ROY Voting, Ravens Back in Playoffs

WR Zay Flowers
WR Zay Flowers

It's NFL "Kickoff Week" and everyone has a prediction. But the predictions from veteran sportswriter Peter King of NBC Sports carry more weight than most.

After going to five training camps this summer before landing in Owings Mills, King said Ravens first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers was the most impressive rookie he had seen. After traveling the rest of the country, King is still very high on Flowers.

King has Flowers finishing second in the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, only trailing Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

"Flowers will be more spectacular. Gibbs will produce more yards," King wrote.

King predicted the Ravens will finish 10-7 and earn the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. He predicts the Bengals (11-6) will win the division and the Steelers (9-8) will also make the playoffs.

"The Todd Monken offense, playing faster, should fit Lamar Jackson well—as should first-round receiver Zay Flowers," King wrote.

It will be another short stay in the playoffs in King's opinion, however, as he has the Ravens losing to the Jets in the wild-card round.

Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr. May Decide the 2023 Season

A healthy Lamar Jackson. A healthy Odell Beckham Jr.

These two at 100 percent, on the same team and in a system led by Monken have an opportunity to, according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, "decide the 2023 season."

"If Baltimore is going to overtake the Bengals in the AFC North (and perhaps the Chiefs in the AFC), it's going to require healthy seasons from Jackson (five games missed each of the past two seasons) and the 30-year-old Beckham (one full season since 2017 and was out all of 2022)," Clay wrote. "That might be a tall order, but this duo has lethal upside in a new-look offense under coordinator Todd Monken."

Clay isn't alone in highlighting this duo. The Athletic's Mike Jones listed Jackson and Beckham as "2023's most intriguing players."

For Jackson, it's about leading his team to postseason success after landing his contract.

"Lamar Jackson the agent got Lamar Jackson the player one of the richest contracts in league history, but now it's time for him to prove he can take the Ravens to the next level," Jones wrote. "Jackson this season will run a new offense, brought in by Todd Monken. He has more freedom and a more robust supporting cast of wide receivers and running backs. Is this the year the Ravens return to Super Bowl contention?"

For Beckham, it's all about showing he can be the receiver he's known as.

"Now he is back, aiming to help Jackson and the Ravens make a deep postseason run. However, there are plenty of questions surrounding Beckham and his abilities," Jones wrote. "Is he still a game-changer after a second ACL repair? Does he still have the explosiveness to scare defenses? And can he remain healthy all season?"

If Jackson and Beckham define the 2023 NFL season, Jones writes they should be added to the Comeback Player of the Year award contention.

Odell Beckham Jr.

"Sidelined for the entire 2022 season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Super Bowl LVI, Beckham aims to recapture his electrifying form and help put Lamar Jackson and the Ravens over the top," Jones wrote.

Lamar Jackson

"After missing the final five regular-season games and Baltimore's playoff game against Cincinnati (which the Ravens lost), Jackson looks to capitalize on an improved supporting cast and a new offensive coordinator and take Baltimore on a Super Bowl run," Jones wrote.

AFC North Described as a "Bloodbath" and a "Dogfight"

Entering the 2023 season, the Ravens look to be a major reason for the AFC North being speculated as the NFL's toughest division.

Each team has a quality quarterback, with two being ranked among the NFL's elite. All four teams boast star talent across their rosters,[comma] and most have household names as coaches, too. When talking about the AFC North, numerous pundits gave their colorful descriptions of what the AFC North will be this season.

The AFC North is the only division King predicted to have three playoff teams this year.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "I think it will be really close, really competitive and the division winner will have absolutely earned it and probably taken an 'L' or two from a division opponent along the way. But the depth of the division is outstanding. The four quarterbacks are super interesting for different reasons. There are first-team All-Pro-type defensive players on each team. It's going to be a dogfight."

The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr.: "This looks to be a bloodbath, and I'd be stunned to see any team run away with it or fall off. The Bengals have earned the title of favorite, but the division will certainly not be decided before New Year's Eve."

The Athletic's Zac Jackson: "This is going to be a dog (and bird, and cat) fight, and any team good enough to win a division road game is probably a darn good team. We don't know how things will go with key injuries or how they'll go across what appears to be a loaded AFC, but at least on digital paper, "loaded" certainly lives here. I think every team will both be in the division race and alive in the playoff race when Christmas arrives, and barring a major quarterback injury, I really don't see any of the four falling way off."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "This is a tough division to pick since I think they will cannibalize each other."

CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani: "This is probably the most competitive division in the NFL…"

Of the 12 CBS Sports pundits to predict the AFC North champion, two selected the Ravens. Garrett Podell highlighted the Ravens' offensive additions and Tyler Sullivan believes the Ravens are being slept on.

"Lamar Jackson is healthy, has a new OC and new weapons at receiver at his disposal. Pair that with an ever-solid Ravens defense and they could surprise folks," Sullivan wrote. "Burrow and the Bengals are rightfully the favorite, but keep an eye on Baltimore."

If Ravens Pursue Another Cornerback, Pundit Recommends Anthony Brown

The Ravens have signed multiple free agents this offseason at cornerback, including Rock Ya-Sin, Arthur Maulet and Ronald Darby. It would appear they're set at the position while the Ravens await Marlon Humphrey's return from foot surgery with their additions and depth already on the roster.

But if they were to pursue another free agent, Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine sees former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown as an option.

"Anthony Brown is the best candidate still on the market," Ballentine wrote. "Brown was a starter for the Dallas Cowboys for much of his seven-year career, and he only surrendered a 52.9 percent completion rate last season. He would at least give the Ravens a passable starter in a pinch."

Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reported in mid-August that Brown visited Baltimore, in addition to Darby.

Over the course of his career, Brown played in 94 games, all for the Cowboys, and totaled 324 tackles, 59 passes defended, 11 tackles for loss, nine interceptions and five forced fumbles.

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