Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Baltimore Ravens.
When Last We Met
The Ravens came out of the gates incredibly hot, dominating their opening game against the Cleveland Browns by a score of 38-6. They carried that momentum over the next couple of weeks and built up a 5-1 record heading into the bye week. Things got a little messier after that, though, as the team lost four of five. Their postseason hopes were starting to dwindle but then they finished strong with an 11-5 record and earned a Wild-Card spot. The Ravens met the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs – a rematch from the previous season – and edged them, 20-13. Unfortunately, they lost in the Divisional Round to the Buffalo Bills 17-3.
It was a second straight season that saw the Ravens shine for most of the regular season only to be halted in the Divisional Round.
To Miss the Playoffs (+240)
The Ravens are heavily expected to make it into the postseason yet again. However, there is a decent shot that they struggle out of the gates and aren’t able to catch up enough to make the playoffs. One of the biggest issues for this team has been the passing of Lamar Jackson. He has been electric with his feet throughout his first few years in the league but the passing is still a question mark. Over his final seven games last year (including two in the playoffs), he averaged 13.8 completions per game. That’s simply not good enough – even if this team runs the ball so well. This has become a pass-oriented league and defenses are less and less threatened by Jackson as a passer.
When the Ravens start to play teams with stronger run defense, they need some help in the air attack or they tend to sputter offensively. Their defense was pretty good last season as well but a step backward would leave this team incredibly vulnerable. Baltimore is also stuck in the middle of one of the toughest divisions, so they can’t afford to go through a losing streak as they did in 2020. Those are all factors that hold their chances of winning the division and being a contender for the Super Bowl odds.
To Make the Playoffs (-300)
We have seen how dominant the Ravens can be when they’re running the football, something that they once again will need to get going so that they can control the clock. If this offensive line holds up, you can definitely expect them to get a great ground attack going to lead their offense to a few wins and covers on the NFL odds. However, one of the most important things this team has to do correctly is throw the football. They tried to improve their passing attack by getting Rashod Bateman in the first round of the NFL Draft and signing Sammy Watkins from the Kansas City Chiefs. None of that is going to matter if Jackson isn’t able to improve his passing accuracy.
On defense, the Ravens are again going to have to prove that they can find some diamonds in the rough. They lost Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, and Jihad Ward. The Ravens struggled to generate sacks last season (39) and this trio was three of their four most productive in terms of sacks. They’ll need to find replacements.
To Win the AFC North (+125)
The Ravens have no easy walk to the division title. Let’s kick this off with the team that has the best shot at topping the Ravens in the division: the Cleveland Browns. After all of those years of disappointment and failure, the Browns are a serious contender in the AFC. They made it to the Divisional Round last year and gave the Chiefs a fight before losing. Cleveland is returning with much of the same roster, led by Baker Mayfield and the two-headed running back Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. This squad is also getting back a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to pair with Jarvis Landry to make its passing attack equally as dangerous. Don’t forget about the signing of Jadeveon Clowney, either, as he will give opposing offensive lines fits lining across from Myles Garrett.
Then you have the Steelers. They started out 11-0 last year before losing four of their last five. That was followed up by them getting absolutely stomped on in the Wild-Card round against their rivals the Browns. Pittsburgh is getting Ben Roethlisberger back for one more season, though he is desperately going to need more offensive help. Juju Smith-Schuster signed back on a one-year deal but they lost James Conner in free agency along with some key members of the offensive line. Luckily, they grabbed Najee Harris in the NFL draft. Their defense is still tough enough to battle for the division title.
Finally, there’s the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati made some improvement over the offseason but is it enough to get into divisional contention? The answer is no. Joe Burrow will be coming back from his ACL injury that he suffered last season and gets a shiny new target to throw the ball to in his former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase. They were scrappy last season and competitive in most of their games – when Burrow was healthy. They probably aren’t a division contender but they’ll have plenty of say in who’ll win it. Who they upset will be a key to the race.
To Win the AFC (+500)
It is going to take a lot of improvement for this team to claim the AFC. Not only do they have their own issues that they need to improve upon but the AFC is expected to be wildly competitive. The Chiefs are the biggest name out of this group and have gotten the best of Jackson and the Ravens the past couple of matchups. Patrick Mahomes is just too talented and has perfect weapons in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The team also has an improved offensive line and a great young back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Not to mention their young defense that was slowly getting better as the season progressed.
Kansas City is the obvious first team that stands in the Ravens’ way but they could get lucky and have them knocked out of the playoffs early by the Buffalo Bills, the other team in this conference with shorter odds. Buffalo took a massive step forward last season behind the stellar play of Josh Allen; his improvement was off the charts. Much of that is likely due to the team grabbing Stefon Diggs in the offseason to finally give him a consistent threat at the wide receiver position. Buffalo has struggled in the run game and with the offensive line, but their defense and fantastic quarterback play still make them one of the best AFC teams. The Browns have already been mentioned but after their playoff run last year, but they should be one of the teams in the Ravens’ way also.
Baltimore is going to have a seriously difficult time making it out of the AFC, and for a team that hasn’t made it past the Divisional Round in the past couple of years, this may be too hard of a task.
To Win the Super Bowl (+1200)
It is going to take quite a lot for this roster to make it all the way to the Super Bowl and pick up a win. With all of the challenges they have to face through their division and conference just to make it to the big game, it seems like it’s a tall hill to climb. However, overall this team is capable. It wouldn’t be a wildly unexpected result to see them make a run.
Taking a look at the other conference, there are quite a few teams over in the NFC that could give them a tough challenge. For one, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the reigning champions and are favored to win the NFC. They return every starter from their championship team. Chances are this squad is going to put up quite the fight to make it back and become champions for the second straight season.
The Green Bay Packers are another team to watch out for due to how consistent they have been with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. The only problem for them would be the Rodgers situation.
Finally, a team like the Los Angeles Rams is likely to be competing for a championship. They figure to match up beautifully against the Ravens. The Rams are probably the last matchup that Baltimore wants in the Super Bowl, mostly because of how well they play against the run. They have Aaron Donald to clog the running lanes and that’s Baltimore’s strong suit. Then they have Jalen Ramsey patrolling the secondary along with Mathew Stafford leading the way offensively. He’ll have weapons like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, so they’ll be a tough out.
The odds aren’t great for them to win it all this season but with an electric quarterback like Jackson leading the way, anything is possible.