Well, it’s been about a week since the regular season has ended in the NFL, the playoff line-up is set, the draft order is almost completed and a Super Bowl Champion will soon be crowned.
Coming into the season, the Baltimore Ravens were expected to return to the playoffs and compete for another championship. Sports Illustrated predicted them to win the Super Bowl on the cover of their NFL preview edition.
Obviously, none of those things will be happening this season… and it’s not an easy pill to swallow.
The combination of injuries and missed late-game opportunities were too much for the Ravens to overcome. Falling to a 5-11 record, Baltimore missed the playoffs for the second time in Coach John Harbaugh’s tenure and endured the first losing season since he arrived in 2008.
It’s hard to believe that this team was never really a factor in the league at all, considering that they’re only 3 years removed from their Super Bowl victory. Oh course, it’s not easy losing your star QB, running back, No.1 receiver (who is 36 yrs. old), top defensive player and handful of impactful players.
But, even through all the turmoil that occurred throughout the year, the resilience of this football team was apparent; win, lose or draw. That resilience was shown through a 12 game stretch of close games (winning or losing by at least 8 points or less). This, of course, ended when the team was routed by the Seattle Seahawks, 38-6.
In the wake of this abysmal season, they’re plenty of questions that will need some answers before training camp arrives.
One of that will pop up in fan’s minds…Can the Ravens make the playoffs again in 2016?
For most, they would easily say ye,s but think about it. The team’s biggest need, after the loss to the New England Patriots in the divisional round last season, was the need to build the secondary and find a solid receiver for Joe Flacco.
To me, NONE of those things were fixed (of course, we haven’t been able to see what Breshad Perriman can do out there!). If anything, the secondary took a huge step back this season, and the need for a playmaker was very noticeable. Again, I know that injuries created a huge dent in what the team wanted to do this season, but this can’t be ignored any longer (unless we want to make picking in the top 10 of the draft a regular thing)
But hey, even in this disappointing season, though so much went wrong, the Ravens weren’t that far from being in the playoff picture (that’s how bad the league was this season!). They needed five more wins, but think about it. One of their losses (Jacksonville) was actually a victory not credited because of an officiating mistake. Another (Cleveland) came in overtime. And the Ravens led in the fourth quarter of two others (Oakland, Cincinnati at home). That’s four losses by the narrowest of combined margins.
I’m not saying this team was better than their record, they ended at 5-11 for a reason. But, they aren’t that far off from being great again.
This offseason is the key!!!!
The Ravens have about 30 players scheduled to become free agents in March, the three key names are OT Kelechi Osemele, K Justin Tucker, and OLB Courtney Upshaw. These players should have somewhat of priority for the front office (the biggest being negotiating Joe Flacco’s $120 million contract!)
This team will also need to focus on getting back to full health after a franchise-record 20 players ended the year on injured reserve. And, of course, some additional playmakers to the roster won’t hurt either.
Yeah, it’s going to be a long few months without football in Baltimore. But, this team has the front office, the coaching staff, and some playmakers that are currently on the roster that can turn this season in the fuel they need to push them over the edge next season.
Until next time, Baltimore!
The Baltimore Ravens have released their 2015 regular season schedule to public Tuesday night. The team will need to prepare to hit the road for most of the first half of the season, as five of their first seven games are on the road, kicking off in Denver against Manning and Gary Kubiak’s run-style offense.
Here’s the entire 2015 schedule (minus pre-season games):
Week 1, Sept. 13: at Denver (4:25 p.m.)
Week 2, Sept. 20: at Oakland (4:05 p.m.)
Week 3, Sept. 27: Cincinnati (1 p.m.)
Week 4, Oct. 1: at Pittsburgh (8:25 p.m., Thursday)
Week 5, Oct. 11: Cleveland (1 p.m.)
Week 6, Oct. 18: at San Francisco (4:25 p.m.)
Week 7, Oct. 26: at Arizona (8:30 p.m., Monday)
Week 8, Nov. 1: San Diego (1 p.m.)
Week 9, Nov. 8: BYE
Week 10, Nov. 15: Jacksonville (1 p.m.)
Week 11, Nov. 22: St. Louis (1 p.m.)
Week 12, Nov. 30: at Cleveland (8:30 p.m., Monday)
Week 13, Dec. 6: at Miami (1 p.m.)
Week 14, Dec. 13: Seattle (8:30 p.m., Sunday)
Week 15, Dec. 20: Kansas City (1 p.m.)
Week 16, Dec. 27: Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m., Sunday)
Week 17, Jan. 3: at Cincinnati (1 p.m.)
Week 1 at Denver: Right off the bat, you got to deal with Peyton Manning, in Denver. The upside is Gary Kubiak is their head coach, so the Ravens might know some of the tricks to stop that run/zone scheme that was a success during his time with the team last season. The downside is Kubiak might know the weak spot of the Ravens secondary, which I’m sure Peyton will enjoy. Not an easy game to start out with.
Week 6 at 49ers: a rematch of the “Black-Out” Super Bowl, and a reunion with WR Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Will the 49ers be as dysfunctional as everyone expects after a wild off-season or will they be contenders in the West.
Week 14 vs. Seahawks: Two winners from the last three Super Bowls face off in Baltimore, the first time since 2003. Baltimore will need to improve their receiving core through the draft if they want to stand a chance against “The Legion of Boom”, but I feel they’ll lean heavily on the running game most of that game. Russell Wilson will also prove to be problematic with his elusiveness in the pocket, but the Ravens have a strong front seven, so getting a hat on him will at least take the passing game out of it, hopefully “Beast Mode” is kept at bay.
Week 16 vs. Steelers: Last game at M&T Bank will be against the Steelers. The teams might look different, the rivalry will be as strong as ever. We have seen how the Ravens responded after the Ray Lewis/Ed Reed era, let’s see how well the Steelers respond post-Polumalu era.