The Baltimore Ravens seem to be in a class by themselves near the top of the AFC along with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the question that begs is if anyone will push the team at all in the AFC North division.
One of the toughest divisions in the league figures to have plenty of competition, but the biggest might be one of Baltimore’s toughest rivals in the Cleveland Browns. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently explained why he thinks Cleveland makes the cut as Baltimore’s biggest competition this coming year.
“I think they’re the biggest threat right now, at least on paper. Let’s give credit where credit is due. We don’t expect Baker Mayfield to regress. You have a new coach in Kevin Stefanski who clearly is an upgrade from Mr. Kitchens himself, at least that’s the perception,” he said. “If you’ve got Jarvis Landry with Odell Beckham Jr. (David) Njkou is your tight end, he’s going to be back. Austin Hooper (was added) from Atlanta as a free agent.”
According to Smith, the conditions are now right for a turnaround.
“I look at all of those things, their running game, their tight end, the offensive line was buffered. Baker Mayfield is expected to upgrade,” he said. “I look at Cleveland right now and I think the year they had last year, remember I didn’t believe in them at all last year because I thought it was too much hype. Now that the’ve gotten knocked back down to earth, I do believe they can be a legitimate threat right now.”
Last season, the Ravens did lose a game early in the season to the Browns at home, but closed the year with a late season win in order to help put away their playoff birth in Cleveland. The last few years, most games between the sides have been incredibly close, and the Browns will have to put away a few of those to be taken seriously as competition.
For now, though, Smith sees that as the case.
Mark Ingram Explains How Ravens Can Make 2021 Super Bowl
The Ravens have high hopes themselves and a few months back, Mark Ingram said he believes the team can take the next step moving forward if they are able to put everything together.
Like most, Ingram lamented the mistakes that were made in the playoff loss and explained what the Ravens have to do in order to get back to winning when it counts the most. He joined the NFL Network at the Super Bowl and provided some explanations.
“When you get to the playoffs, all those mistakes you have are magnified,” Ingram said. “You can point to a number of plays in that game that we didn’t have success on that the Titans were able to capitalize on. There’s always three to four game changing plays in a game, so you have to be on your stuff every single second.”
The Ravens, as it turns out, weren’t ready for the big moment, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the future, especially as the team learns how to win.
“If you make a mistake in the playoffs, it can cost you dearly. We have each other’s back, we believe in each other, we’re going to go right back to the drawing board, get back to work and impress everyone next season,” he said.
Ingram said the path to getting this done is quite easy to define. It revolves around hard work and motivation.
“We just got to go back to the drawing board. Every single year you have to find a way to elevate and improve,” he said. “We believe in each other. We’re going to add some key pieces, we’re going to bring back our pieces we need. We’re going to get stronger. We’re going to get bigger, stronger, faster. Execute our offense, our defense better. We’re just going to believe in each other.”
Count on Ingram having the Ravens ready for next season no matter of the competition.
Ravens Must Overcome 2020’s Playoff Choke
Some folks don’t think Baltimore’s recent loss to the Titans was that significant, but others think it was quite a big deal. One of those people can be counted as Peter Schrager of the NFL Network. After the loss in January on Good Morning Football, Schrager debated with his co-hosts about the severity of the loss and where it leaves Baltimore’s legacy after this season, and admitted he thinks this one will cut Baltimore deep for a long time to come.
“This is the most brutal loss a tam can have in franchise history, 14-2, you’re out by the divisional round and were embarrassed on your home field,” he said. “This is as big a gut punch. This is now just a forgettable team in NFL history. They didn’t even make it to the championship round.”
As for what the Ravens’ legacy is now following this failure to start off 2020, Schrager thinks the answer is quite obvious, and it’s not a great one for Baltimore fans.
“Their legacy is they couldn’t get it done. They couldn’t finish the job and when they needed to, they laid and all-time egg,” he said. “An absolutely brutal, destructive loss for a team that was so fun, that we were thinking was the future. This one is one that sits with you for decades. There were few teams in NFL history that were as fun and as fascinating as this. No one is going to remember Mark Andrews came into this one banged up. They’re going to remember they couldn’t get it done.”
Plenty on how 2020 is remembered will hinge on what happens later on this year, and then again in 2021 if the Ravens get back into the postseason to get another crack at ending their current losing streak in the playoffs.
They might be able to count on a serious push within their divison if they want to get to the top this coming season.