2018 Record: 10-6
2018 Success: Outstanding Defense
2018 Failure: Lack of Downfield Passing Game
Offensive MVP: Lamar Jackson
Defensive MVP: Earl Thomas
O/U Wins: 8 (Over -125/Under +105)
Record Prediction: 9-7
I’ve got two questions for Ravens fans… 1. How will Kenny Young/Patrick Onwuasor do in replacing CJ Mosely? 2. Can Lamar Jackson develop as an accurate downfield passer?
Let’s start with Mosely. Losing a perennial all-pro caliber LB is never a good thing for a defense, obviously. He was the captain of the defense last year, along with Eric Weddle (who also left in free agency), and provided stability at one of, if not the most, important positions on the defensive side of the ball. This was a unit that ranked 2nd in the league in PPG and 1st in YPG allowed. Young and Onwuasor are both returning players, so they know the system. The d-line is one of the largest in football, led by 340lb Brandon Williams in the middle, and their secondary, which added Earl Thomas to replace Eric Weddle, should pick up right where it left off. If Young and Onwuasor step in and play well, this defense could again be one of the best in the league.
Now on to Lamar Jackson. Jackson didn’t take over as the full time QB until after week 11 last season and started the last 7 games. They went 6-1 over that stretch. Jackson’s running ability was a big reason why they were the 2nd ranked rushing attack, averaging over 150 YPG, but was inconsistent at best as a QB. He only threw for 200 yards once. This goes against everything that the NFL is trending towards and they still won 10 games. It shows that you can still win with a less-than-potent passing game.
The additions of Mark Ingram, who is an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield, and Marquise Brown, the rookie speedster from Oklahoma, should aid in Jackson’s progression. The Ravens’ front office has made a concerted effort to build around him. If he can limit turnovers and take advantage of the newly acquired pieces, I trust this coaching staff to get them to another winning record.
Lastly, in my humble opinion, football is the sport where the coaching staff is most important. The Ravens have been one of the most consistently successful teams since John Harbaugh took over 11 years ago, with only one losing season over that time. Give him the tools to do his job and let him work. I believe this team goes out and gets 9 wins this year.
In an AFC North that likes to beat up on each other, 9 wins could get them a division crown. In Harbaugh I trust. Give me the over!