Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Introducing PBN Radio: A Baltimore Ravens podcast

By Chris Schisler

Welcome back to the nest ladies and gents. I know, the content has been at a slower pace, I’m getting back on track though. Today, I wanted to share the new podcast, PBN Radio. PBN Radio is now going to be a staple of what I offer you. It’s a place for analysis of the Baltimore Ravens and fun takes on the game of football.

In the future, PBN Radio will have a rotation of co-hosts so it’s not just me rambling into a microphone. In today’s episode, I give my thoughts on the Super Bowl. and I got into the offseason for the Bengals, Ravens, Browns, and Steelers. This is essentially the exit interview for the season for the entire division, including the team that lasted the longest, the Cincinnati Bengals. The podcast is a major work in progress. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the podcast game for you all and it can be a main part of the blog. I humbly present my first shot at this, hopefully, you dig it.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

If Baltimore Ravens find consistency, they will win the AFC North

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens spent most of the season so far as the frontrunner in the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a 1-3 start. The Cleveland Browns have been dealing with injuries and have been up and down. Their 5-5 record is proof of that. The Cincinnati Bengals have exceeded expectations but a couple of humbling losses has them back down to earth. It’s up for grabs in the AFC.

Which Baltimore Ravens team shows up?

It’s hard to know who the most trustworthy team is in the division. The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of their wins because of comebacks and miraculous moments. When they lost to the Miami Dolphins in Week 10, it showed how capable the Ravens were of laying an egg against lesser competition.

The Ravens have one constant. As long as they have Lamar Jackson they have a chance to win. Jackson is playing like an MVP and he’s the most important player in the entire division, maybe even in the NFL. The problem the Ravens have is that if Jackson is off by just a bit, the Ravens become a less powerful team. He’s the electricity and there is no backup generator.

The Ravens are so close to being an amazing team. Defensively the Ravens are solid in a lot of ways. The problem is they give up too many big plays. The big plays have haunted this team. It’s what squashed the comeback effort in Miami and what fueled the Raiders and Bengals victories over them. The Ravens can get a decent number of stops, but until they can be trusted not to have blown coverage down the field, or a missed tackle that springs a short pass into a long touchdown, the Ravens will be doing things the hard way.

The story of the Steelers:

The Steelers just tied with the Detroit Lions in an ugly game. Granted, the Steelers had to play the Lions without Ben Roethlisberger, but his absence showed how much is going wrong in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has gotten their wins in scrape by fashion. Many would tell you that the NFL officials propelled them unfairly against the Chicago Bears. The Steelers barely beat the Seattle Seahawks without Russell Wilson. While the Browns only put up 10 points against them, Pittsburgh struggled to get their 15 points on the board.

Defensively, the Steelers have a lot going for them. Games with the Steelers are good for betting the under. The Steelers haven’t scored more than 29 points in a game this season. Their opponents don’t light up the score either. If T.J. Watt gets healthy, the Steelers have a shot to keep winning with their defense.

The Steelers’ big conflict, in a nutshell, is that they average 19.7 points per game and their opponents average 20.6 points per game. The defense has to do the heavy lifting. Their offense finds little grooves here and there, but their overall output isn’t great. A battle with the Steelers is usually a race to 24 points. Get there first and you’re probably giving Pittsburgh a loss.

Can you trust the Browns or Bengals?

Baker Mayfield has been dealing with injuries and for the most part, playing through them. The Browns quarterback isn’t having the 2021 season Cleveland was hoping for though, which is something to be mindful of. He has 1,990 passing yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. The Browns have scored under 20 points in five games this season and just lost 45-7 to the New England Patriots.

Dealing with injuries to notable stars like Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Greedy Williams, the Browns have stayed in the thick of things. They’ve folded against good competition though, losing big to the Arizona Cardinals, and Patriots. They came up short against the Chiefs and botched a legitimate shot to take down Pittsburgh. The Browns are a tricky wild card. They have to be taken seriously, but they haven’t looked like world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.

The Bengals are 5-4. There was a ton of buzz around the Bengals after they knocked the doors off the Ravens. Since then. the Bengals have lost to the New York Jets and then got torched by the up and down Browns.

Baltimore Ravens’ Bottom Line:

Every team has had its big moment. Every team has its moment as the frontrunner. If there was a team in the AFC North that had all their ducks in a row, that team would be in a one-horse race. In actuality, the AFC North is a battle between four teams that could show up hot or cold on any Sunday. That’s why getting it right is so crucial for the Baltimore Ravens. There is no time to waste.

The Ravens play the Browns after their battle with the Chicago Bears. Then they have the Steelers and a rematch against the Browns. It’s probably not going to be this easy, yet if the Ravens won the next four games they’d be 10-3 in a very comfortable situation. This opportunity is huge for Baltimore. The expectation has to be two wins out of the three consecutive AFC North battles.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears: 4 predictions and a score

The bottom line is that any team in this division can walk away with the crown. The Ravens still have five divisional games left. If they win four of them, they probably win the division. It’s that simple. Baltimore must find consistency right away. The AFC North team that finds the answers they need to find wins division. The team that puts it all together wins. It’s that simple, and the Baltimore Ravens have got to get some work done.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Next 2 games will serve as a confidence barometer

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have back-to-back games against teams with a losing record. On Thursday, they get a quick turnaround against the Miami Dolphins. Then the Ravens have a battle against the Chicago Bears, who just dropped their sixth game of the season on Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins and the Bears are opponents they should beat. How you win in the NFL doesn’t technically matter. Against these teams, it almost feels like it does.

Look what the Ravens have done this season. They’ve gone 6-2 with three amazing comebacks, and a 66-yard field goal sustaining that healthy record. If you think that’s not a sustainable way of keeping the train going you’re on a logical path of thinking. It’s really hard to know how good the Ravens are because they haven’t even been consistent within games let alone between games.

Look what the Baltimore Ravens have coming up. After their battle with two lesser opponents, they play the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then the Browns again. Then the Ravens finish the season with bouts with the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and a finale at home against the Steelers.

The Ravens have back-to-back must-win games on their hand. Not only should the Ravens be expected to beat Miami and Chicago, but they must beat them. The Ravens need the cushioning of an 8-2 record going into their tough stretch to end the season. 8-2 makes the math work. The math works a little less comfortably at 7-3.

Let’s just say that the Ravens split with Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which is always a reasonable prediction. That gets you to 10-4 right there. Let’s say the Ravens even things up against the Bengals that gets Baltimore to 11-4. Then they just have to beat either the Green Bay Packers or Los Angeles Rams to get to 12 wins. That’s the most reasonable path to the best realistic outcome. So 8-2 has to be the record after the next two games.

Confidence is a double-edged sword. You either have too much of it and you lose to the Bengals because you expected to win, or it gives you the resolve to shock the Chiefs with a fourth-quarter comeback. We’ve seen both sides of the coin in Baltimore this season. Confidence can go a long way during a brutal stretch and that’s what the Ravens have in the backend of their schedule,

There may be no such thing as a bad win, but going to overtime against the Dolphins would feel like a disaster. It would be a red flag to need a comeback against a team with two wins. The Ravens seem to have a habit of playing down to their opponent this season, a habit that wasn’t there in their 2019 14-2 season. The Ravens also like to make things harder than they have to be.

A heart-pumping finish in Cleveland is predictable. It’s kind of how it’s supposed to go. A heart-attack-inducing battle in Miami isn’t how you draw it up. The Dolphins have been blown out four times this year. That’s what you expect the Ravens to do. They’re in first place in the AFC North, they have the biggest difference-maker in Lamar Jackson and Super Bowl aspirations. Does it have to be perfect? No. If it isn’t an overall fun night with a compelling victory though, confidence is harder to have.

The Ravens will get a little more leeway with the Bears because Justin Fields is pumping some excitement into that team. The Bears almost beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and without the NFL officiating getting in the way they probably would have. Still, we’re talking about a team that’s having a bad season.

If we leave week 11 of the season with two showings of force from Baltimore it’s a much different feeling than where the Ravens are now, just having scraped by the Vikings. Blowout wins against the Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, and Bears would be enough to balance out the squeakers the Ravens had had to pull off.

NEXT POST: How did the Baltimore Ravens become the comeback masters?

Can the Ravens survive their tough stretch to end the season? That’s something we will have to find out as time goes on. How Baltimore feels going into that stretch will be dependent on how convincing the Ravens are in their next two games against teams they should absolutely beat.

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens bye week went as well as it could

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have a game in week 8 of the NFL season. Things went the way the purple and black wanted them to go while they were idle.

Baltimore Ravens got the results they wanted: 

The Cincinnati Bengals fell to the New York Jets. While they have the same amount of wins as the Ravens, they now have one more loss. Despite the head-to-head advantage, Joe Burrow and company dropped to second place in the division.

After the Bengals game, it seemed likely that the Bengals weren’t that good and the Ravens weren’t that bad. The Bengals leaned into that theory. While the real takeaway is that it is a week-to-week league and that anything can happen on NFL Sunday, seeing the Bengals falter is comforting for Baltimore.

The rest of the division (The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers) did battle in Ohio. Baker Mayfield player despite his shoulder injury, though Cleveland only put up 10 points. In a game that was as much of an offensive struggle as it was a defensive showdown, Pittsburgh prevailed 15-10.

The Ravens should take note that the Steelers have righted the ship and the murky waters are no longer flooding their cabin. Pittsburgh has won three straight games and is in a much more comfortable spot than they were at 1-3.

This was still the outcome that strategically works for Baltimore. The Browns are now 4-4. The Steelers are 4-3. Instead of the Browns inching closer to the top. A division with three five-w

in teams would have made this a different kind of a feel on Monday.

The Steelers and the Browns look like beatable foes: 

The Steelers don’t look like world-beaters. They have scored under 20 points in four games this season.

Their bout with Cleveland was arguably their best offensive performance. They only averaged 5.4 yards a play and went 4-13 on third-down conversion attempts. It really feels as if 24 points is usually enough to beat Ben Roethlisberger and company this year. That’s not a discomfort to a Ravens team picking up 26.7 points per game.

The Browns are a disappointment. A team that was supposed to climb into the elite class of the AFC has four losses and is sitting in fourth place. That’s a tough pill to swallow for the sexy preseason pick to win the AFC North.

The Ravens were handed humble pie against the Bengals. Things looked bad. The problems (that weren’t hard to find) felt like they could sink the Ravens’ season. The dark cloud of an embarrassing loss at home is starting to move away from M&T Bank stadium.

The fact is that there’s not a team in this division that doesn’t have issues. There’s no king-slaying team running a rampage through the division. There’s a Ravens team that is in first place despite a plethora of injuries. There’s the Bengals who just got too high on themselves and let a backup’s backup quarterback go for 400 yards in his game. There’s the Browns and the Steelers with four losses apiece.

The Bottom Line: 

Do the Ravens need to do better when they return to action against the Minnesota Vikings? Sure thing. They need to start winning the battle at the line of scrimmage offensively. On defense, they need to find what makes them tick and some consistency to go with that. But as the sun came up this morning, the Ravens were back in first place in the AFC North. Everything is still there for the taking.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 positives at the bye

A bounce-back week with two games (Vikings on Sunday, Miami Dolphins on Thursday) is just what the doctor ordered. If the Ravens reclaim their confidence, they can still be the dangerous team we thought they were when they crushed Justin Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers. A perfect bye week has resurfaced optimism in Baltimore.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens crush the Chargers and put the AFC on notice

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens beat the doors off of the Los Angeles Chargers. They didn’t just get a win. They dismantled the Chargers to the tune of a 34-6 win. This was the most complete game Baltimore has played this season. Justin Herbert and the Chargers only had 208 total yards in the game and averaged just 3,9 yards per play. The Ravens offense held the football for a bit over 38 minutes and got the team to an early lead. Offense, defense, special teams, the Ravens put it together.

This game wasn’t close. From the beginning, all the way until the end the Ravens controlled this game. The Baltimore Ravens had 27 first downs, while the Chargers only had 14. The Ravens went six for 11 on third down conversions. The Chargers failed to convert on nine of their 12 third down tries. Do you want to know how bad this was for Los Angeles? They went one for four on fourth down attempts.

One of my keys to this game was that the running backs had to contribute their fair share to the running game. The idea was that the running backs had to contribute half of the running games, at least matching whatever Jackson produced on the ground.

Lamar Jackson had 51 rushing yards in the contest. The running backs more than matched it. Devonta Freeman had 53 yards and Latavius Murray had 44 yards. Freeman, Murray, and Bell all scored a touchdown. After two games where Jackson lifted the Ravens almost entirely by himself, it was nice to see a complete effort from the offense.

What this means for the Baltimore Ravens:

What does this mean moving forward? The Ravens just got their biggest win of the season. This was a battle between two 4-1 teams and a lot of pundits thought the Chargers would get the victory. Nobody expected to see Tyler Huntley in garbage time because the Ravens had it locked up.

This was a statement win for the Ravens. They didn’t need a long Justin Tucker field goal at the last minute. They didn’t need a huge comeback either, Against a contender, a team that could legitimately win the AFC West, Baltimore took care of their business.

The Ravens have five wins and there’s still one more game left in October. Things are good to say the least. This was the hardest game on the Ravens’ schedule until after Thanksgiving when they play the Browns on November 28th. If the purple and black can handle Justin Herbert‘s Chargers, they should be expected to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and Chicago Bears.

If the Ravens take care of what they can control, they should have a great record by the time they have their first showdown with the Cleveland Browns. The way the Ravens won this game shows you that things may be coming together. The Ravens now have two comfortable wins this season. One of these wins came today against a good Chargers team. The other was against a Broncos team that was undefeated at the time.

When the Ravens put everything together they can beat anybody. Don’t discount their close victories though. This is a team that finds a way to get it done. They have been battle-tested. John Harbaugh’s team has shown that they can win any kind of game against any kind of competition.

The Bottom Line:

The win against the Chargers could matter when the weather gets cold and the playoff picture starts to take shape. The Browns lost to the Chargers 47-42. Beating the Chargers gives the Ravens a potential tiebreaker over the Browns.

If a playoff spot comes down to the Ravens or the Chargers, it’s the Ravens who have the head-to-head advantage. Beating a first-place AFC team is a big deal. Beating a first-place AFC team that topped your top rival is as good as it gets. This win is a heavy one for Baltimore.

NEXT POST: Marquise Brown might actually be a number 1 wide receiver after all

This win was huge for the Ravens. This was the Ravens most likely loss in this stretch of games. The Ravens have proven that they are a good team. They have a chance to essentailly earn a playoff spot before the schedule gets tough again. This was an absolutely mammoth sized win. Everything is possible for the Ravens.

This is the mark of a special season in the works. If you’re the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs or the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens winning this way is the last thing that gives you comfort. The Ravens just announced that they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens (Finally!) Ink Justin Houston

By: Ashley Anderson

Good morning, and happy Saturday, Ravens fans! This is not a drill. I repeat this is not a drill! Justin Houston is on his way to Baltimore.

After being linked to the Ravens since the start of free agency, Adam Schefter reported this morning that veteran edge rusher Justin Houston has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal. This is the news we have all been waiting for, as pass rush seemed to be the only area of glaring weakness on the roster. Schefter also noted that Houston took significantly less money than he was offered from other clubs due to his preference to play for the purple and black.

Immediate Impact

Although the Ravens repeatedly stated they felt good about the guys they had, Houston represents at least a moderate upgrade. Tyus Bowser recently re-signed with Baltimore on a four-year, $22 million deal, but he is more of a coverage linebacker than a pass rusher. His versatility is extremely useful, but he only has 10.5 career sacks. Wily veteran Pernell McPhee is much the same, with a career high 7.5 sacks coming back in 2014 during his first stint in Baltimore.

Beyond them, the Ravens were counting on a breakout from third-year man Jaylon Ferguson. Although he holds the FBS record for sacks, he has yet to emerge in the NFL. Baltimore also drafted Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes to bolster the unit. Unfortunately, relying on rookies can be dangerous. Oweh has all the talent and athleticism in the world yet failed to record a sack in 2020. Hayes, although he has flashed in practice, lasted till the fifth round for a reason.

Bottom line, the Ravens pass rush group was a mix of versatile, talented guys, but not one of them is known for being a sack artist. That is where Houston makes a difference.

Career Stats

Justin Houston was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games his rookie season, starting ten, and recorded 5.5 sacks. His best season came in 2014 when he racked up an astonishing 22 QB takedowns with the Chiefs.

Twice in his career, including recently in 2019, Houston recorded 11 sacks in a season. His lowest output came in 2016 when he was limited to five games and had just one sack. However, Houston has been fairly healthy for the most part, and the Ravens are hoping that using him as part of a rotation will keep his tank full this year.

A four-time Pro Bowler and 2014 All-Pro selection, Houston is looking to win a Super Bowl before he calls it a career. He may have been considering a return to Kansas City, recently teasing fans by working out in a Chiefs helmet. However, he ultimately decided on Baltimore.

Low Risk, High Reward

For the Ravens, this scenario could not be more perfect. Houston’s deal only carries a base salary of $1.075 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. To get to the possible $4 million total, Houston will have to hit other incentives.

If Houston does indeed hit those incentives, it can only be good news for Baltimore. That means he is doing his job by recording sacks and reaching the Pro Bowl. If not, the team saves money, and they are not on the hook heading into 2022.

Given the fact that Houston will turn 33 during the season, Baltimore was wise to limit the deal to a single season. That way, if he falls off in production, they can let him walk without a financial burden. If he plays great, they will have the option to try to re-sign him during the year, or let him test the open market and attempt to keep him in free agency.

Final Thoughts

It was a rough week for Ravens fans seeing Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson land on the Covid-19 list. Many of us were looking for good news, and it was finally delivered to us this morning.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Looking at offensive line depth

Houston could be the missing piece to win a Super Bowl, which is the ultimate goal every year. After what feels like an eternity, it is finally Houston to Baltimore!

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Ravens are still the class of the AFC North

By Ronald Toothe

There’s a shift currently taking place in the AFC North. It’s a shift that has brought with it an influx of incredible young talent to all four teams over the last few seasons.

In Cleveland, it started with Myles Garrett in 2017 and continued with the addition of franchise cornerstones like Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward.

In Cincinnati, second-year QB Joe Burrow will have his chance to wreak havoc on opposing defenses with his old college teammate Ja’Marr Chase for years to come.

Even in Pittsburgh, despite their old guard slowly leaving piece by piece, they’ve managed to stay strong by drafting new stars like TJ Watt, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson.

While the balance of power going forward could be as fragile as it’s ever been, fear not, for the AFC North will still be the Ravens division to win for years to come.

Of all the other three teams’ additions to their rosters since 2017, Eric Decosta and company have been right there with them every step of the way. For as much as the Flock can be frustrated at times when a player like Miles Boykin or Jaylon Ferguson doesn’t provide the immediate boost, we’d like, the hits have far outweighed the misses.

Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bowser, Chuck Clark, Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, DeShon Elliott, Bradley Bozeman, Marquise Brown, Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins. All of these players have been drafted in the last four seasons. This is crazy to think about given how integral each one has been to the Ravens’ success already.

Ravens fans already know that this team has numerous different standard-bearers in place for the future though. The question is, how do they stack up with the rest of the division going forward?

Cleveland rocks?

Pundits on television and in print media have been quick to say that the Browns will be the kings of the north for years to come following 2020. The only problem with that hot take, is that we’ve heard it for going on four years now.

Cleveland has certainly taken monumental steps forward over these last few years and does deserve much more respect than they’ve garnered in the past, but a playoff win against a broken down Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t make them instant Super Bowl contenders or divisional favorites.

It’s hard to argue the talent the Browns have accrued over the last few seasons. Nick Chubb is in the conversation of the best pure running back in the league, and Myles Garrett has shown that he’s probably the best defender in football not named Aaron Donald.

Baker Mayfield really began to show why the Browns took him first overall in 2018 after last Thanksgiving as well, putting together the best stretch of his pro career thus far. He only threw one interception during that span, indicating that his gunslinger approach may be a much more calculated one going forward.

Paper vs. reality

Even despite all of the “on paper” talent the Browns have though, the current Mayfield-led iteration of the team still holds a 1-4 record vs the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens. Both of their key wins last season (vs Tennessee, vs Pittsburgh in the playoffs) were almost blown after getting out to huge leads early on in the ballgame.

They also stubbed their toe against lesser teams like the Raiders and Jets during what was still a crucial playoff push at the time, games where elite teams get the job done. Going forward the Browns will likely be the biggest thorn in the Ravens side, but anyone who says it’s their division to win is doing so just for the sake of the potential “I told you so”.

From LSU to Cincinnati, the new Tiger Kings?

The Bengals have a whole lot of work still left to do and more additions to make, but make no mistake about it, they’re not as far off as one would initially think. Their 2021 draft was quietly among the best in the league as of now (which is easy to say while players are still in shorts and helmets of course).

The free agent acquisition of Trey Hendrickson to pair alongside Joseph Ossai from Texas could be one of the most overlooked pass rush duos in football, but will certainly help what’s been a rough defensive unit for the Bengals over the last few seasons.

The major key to their success going forward will be keeping QB Joe Burrow upright. They began focusing on this with the drafting of Jackson Carman out of Clemson (along with two others later in the draft: D’Ante Smith and Trey Hill), who will provide some much needed protection for the young signal caller.

Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd could very well be the most well-rounded receiver group in the league down the line with a player like Burrow slinging the rock, they just need the time in the pocket to make it happen.

2021 likely isn’t the year the Bengals will be competing for a playoff position, but if Burrow is able to make it through the season and continue building what was already becoming great chemistry with the young guys around him, they’ll be far from the easy win on the schedule that we’ve come to know going forward.

Closing the Steel curtain on the old guard

Surprisingly enough, the team in the least enviable position in the AFC North going forward is the one that took home the divisional crown in 2020: the Steelers. Each AFC North team has their quarterback of the future, while Pittsburgh willingly signed up for another ride with a 39 year old coming off of total elbow reconstruction.

What was once one of the most feared offensive lines in football has become more and more a shell of itself over the last few seasons, with the biggest shifts coming this off-season. After the retiring of Maurkice Pouncey, and Alejandro Villanueva coming over to anchor the right side of the Ravens line, their current situation up front leaves much to be desired.

In an article for Trib Live, Chris Adamski writes,

“J.C. Hassenauer and B.J. Finney are options at center. Second-year player Kevin Dotson is penciled in as the new starter at left guard, and Zach Banner is expected to serve as the starting right tackle in 2021 despite never having started and finished an NFL game on the offensive line. Also, Chuks Okorafor is slated to take over for longtime starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who signed with the rival Baltimore Ravens. And another rookie, tackle Dan Moore, was added via a fourth-round draft pick.”

Now, it may be unfair to completely write off the linemen they have coming in given that most of them haven’t had the chance to step up. However, given the consistency they’ve had and the chemistry they built in the process over the last decade, it’s hard to be confident that a brand new group like this can keep Ben healthy through an extended season.

Other issues for the Steelers

Not to mention, they spent this year’s first round pick on a heck of a running back from Alabama in Najee Harris, but if the offensive line is causing him to meet defenders at the line of scrimmage on a regular basis it may as well still be James Conner back there.

The defense will still be among the better units in football, but even that side of the ball has seen its fair share of losses. Bud Dupree chose to head for greener pastures in Tennessee, Mike Hilton the same to Cincinnati, and Steven Nelson was deemed a cap casualty and released. They didn’t address those holes until day three of the draft, so it’ll take a mighty effort from Watt, Heyward, and company to replicate their prior success.

Wrap up

Overall the AFC North is improving in a lot of ways, but the Ravens have managed to stay ahead of that curve every step of the way. We’ve got some exciting divisional match-ups to look forward to in the coming years, and probably a lot of Sundays spent on the edge of our seats as a result.

NEXT POST: The Ravens don;t need Julio Jones to make it work

It wasn’t too long ago that people considered the AFC North to be the true class of the NFL, and should the new young crop of talent across the board live up to their full potential, it won’t be long before that again becomes a reality.