The Ravens used to be one of the most reliable brands in football, an annual playoff contender. But after finishing 8-8 in 2016 to miss the playoffs for a second straight year, is that the case anymore? Baltimore has finished third in the AFC North in three of the past four seasons.
Now it's 2017, and things couldn't be starting off worse. A rash of injuries to starters and key contributors has the Ravens already testing the depth of their roster. Cornerback Tavon Young, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore, and running back Kenneth Dixon are among those already lost for the season. Corner Maurice Canady faces a long absence after knee surgery. And, biggest of all, Joe Flacco has been hampered by a back injury during the preseason.
Can the Ravens recover to get back to the postseason? Let's find out what's in store.
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|Projected wins||In playoffs||Win division||Conference||Super Bowl|
SportsLine projects the Ravens have a solid shot at getting to the playoffs despite their injury issues, but it might be too much asking for more than that. Still, taking the Over on the team's regular-season win total could end up being a value play if Jim Harbaugh can weather the storm.
|Win total||Playoffs||Division||Conference||Super Bowl|
|8.5 (U -135)||+145||+450||20/1||40/1|
All odds via Westgate.
Bettors have hammered the Under on the Ravens' win total as the team deals with major injury after major injury, but at some point a value play could be in order. Taking a little extra risk with a "Make Playoffs" bet could be the best value of all considering the longer odds associated with it relative to betting their win total.
Jared Dubin defends his prediction of Ravens making the playoffs:
I think Baltimore's defense has a chance to be one of the best in football, if not the best. As I wrote back in June, the Ravens were one of only two NFL teams to rank in the top 10 in yards allowed and points allowed, as well as pass, rush, and overall defensive DVOA. They also ranked second in opponents' scoring rate (28.1 percent of drives ended in points) and fifth in turnover percentage (14.1 percent ended in turnovers). They added Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, and Marlon Humphrey on the back end, drafted a couple pass-rushers, and will get Jimmy Smith back from injury. I see this as a top-five caliber defense. As a baseline, that's a pretty good place to work from, and it's one that the Ravens have often used as a springboard to a playoff spot.
The other aspect of this prediction is that I have low confidence in several other fringe AFC contenders meeting expectations. I have the Texans, Broncos and Chiefs all finishing at 8-8. That's two playoff teams from last season dropping out and another perennial contender not quite making the leap to get back in. Somebody has to step up and snag a spot. I think the Ravens can do it.