What Can We Expect From The Baltimore Ravens In 2017?

Since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, the Baltimore Ravens have struggled to inspire confidence in the National Football League. One playoff appearance in four years just isn’t good enough – especially considering they reached the Divisional weekend five years in a row prior to that Super Bowl triumph over the San Francisco 49ers.

Bouncing Back

However, 2017 could be Baltimore’s year to get back to the top and they are a strong outside punt to go deep into the new season. The Ravens, led by iconic head coach John Harbaugh, went 8-8 last season and fans will be expecting the franchise to finish with a winning record this time around. With favourable games against the AFC South and NFC North on the schedule, the Ravens should be targeting 10 victories, if not more.

As always, their chances of glory lie on the AFC North. Regarded as one of the toughest and most competitive divisions in football, Baltimore will once again go up against the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and divisional champions Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Browns won’t pose too much of a threat, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are both solid football teams.

Baltimore, priced at 40/1 to win the Super Bowl next season, will be confident of a better campaign this year but it is hard to take anything for granted. Defensively, the Ravens got stronger during the offseason and General Manager Ozzie Newsome used his first four picks on bulking up Baltimore’s defence – a decision that could prove to be a stroke of genius.

New Blood

There’s an old adage in sport; defence wins championships and Ravens fans will be hoping that their young rookies can step up to the plate. Despite acquiring Brandon Carr in free agency, Baltimore went for Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round. Some were quick to slate the pick, especially with OJ Howard still available, but Humphrey can be Baltimore’s “shutdown” corner for the next decade or so.

With Elvis Dumervil out of contract and Terrell Suggs coming to the end of his career, the Ravens needed to pick up some young talent at line-backer. In Tyus Bowser and Alabama product Tim Williams, they did just that. Although both men have their limitations, this Ravens defensive front is looking very feisty ahead of the 2017 campaign.

Baltimore opted to go for defensive talent and offensive line help rather than acquire a skilful running back or rapid wide receiver – and that could turn out to be a good decision in the long term. The Ravens are fully committed to their defensive-minded approach and Joe Flacco may lean on kicker Justin Tucker’s massive boot again this year.

Key Player

Last season, Tucker was simply sublime – connecting on 38 of his 38 field goal attempts. In addition, he was successful with all 10 of his efforts from the 50-yard mark; nobody else had more than seven scoring attempts. Knowing that the Baltimore man is reliable from distance is handy, Flacco and the Ravens offense just need to get within Tucker’s range.

And that is fortunate because this Ravens offensive unit is weak. With Steve Smith Jr now retired, Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace are now their top two receiving options. On another note, they have plenty of talent at running back but Harbaugh will do well to get Danny Woodhead, Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro involved on a regular basis.

It may seem a little clichéd but the Baltimore Ravens really are going ‘all in’ on their defence this season. Flacco has enough experience and talent to lead this Ravens unit down the field and they won’t need to score too many points if their defence stands up. John Harbaugh has built a potential Super Bowl-winning unit and Baltimore fans should be very excited at what the future holds…

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