John Harbaugh, Ravens

Baltimore Ravens worth watching as AFC darkhorse

The Baltimore Ravens have been a terrific team throughout Lamar Jackson’s career, and yet nobody stalking them up entering 2022.

Everyone seems to be forgetting about the Baltimore Ravens. Do yourself a favor. Don’t be like them.

Baltimore went 8-9 last season amidst a brutal string of injuries which included the losses of quarterback Lamar Jackson, corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and others for either all or a good chunk of the campaign. Still, had the Ravens won their Week 18 game at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers — which they lost in overtime — they would have reached the playoffs.

 

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Perhaps, despite the initial disappointment, losing that game was a good thing.

Instead of getting into the playoffs with a band of backups and then being crushed in the Wild Card round, Baltimore now gets to be healthy while playing a last-place schedule this year. It sets up for a phenomenal turnaround as veteran head coach John Harbaugh leads a veteran roster into what could be a year ending with a long postseason run.

While Baltimore is still recovering physically from last season, recent trends are good. Peters recently practiced for the first time this summer, while Dobbins could play Week 1 after tearing his ACL in the preseason last year. Harbaugh spoke about the progress Dobbins is making and where he stands following Wednesday’s practice, per ESPN:

“He’s made some good progress this week. We measure times of how fast he runs, how fast he decelerates, how fast he changes direction. You can see the improvement is tangible. So, we’ll see.”

 

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Come Week 1, the Ravens visit MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets, who might well be without starting quarterback Zach Wilson. If Wilson can’t go with his injured knee, the job likely becomes former Baltimore signal-caller Joe Flacco, who won Super Bowl XLVII back in 2012 with the Ravens.

Ultimately, Baltimore is being left in the rearview by many pundits who see the Cincinnati Bengals as favorites in the AFC North, while the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are the conference frontrunners along with Joe Burrow and Co. Then there’s the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos, two teams that upgraded substantially.

Those squads are getting all the ink, while Baltimore has an argument for being as, if not more talented, than any of them.

In three weeks, the Ravens will play meaningful football — hopefully with a healthy team — for the first time in a year. Don’t forget about them.

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