BALTIMORE RAVENS (14-3)
New faces: : DE Calais Campbell, DE Derek Wolfe, G D.J. Fluker, LB Patrick Queen, RB J.K. Dobbins, WR Devin Duvernay, LB Malik Harrison.
Key losses: G Marshal Yanda, DT Michael Pierce, TE Hayden Hurst, RT James Hurst, LB Patrick Onawuasor, LB Josh Bynes, DE Chris Wormley, WR Seth Roberts, S Tony Jefferson, CB Brandon Carr, S Earl Thomas.
Strengths: Offense put up record numbers last year behind versatile QB Lamar Jackson, who worked hard during offseason to be even better in 2020. He’s got four solid running backs, with Dobbins joining an already impressive trio of Mark Ingram, Gus Williams and Justice Hill. Receivers Marquise Brown and Willie Snead, along with tight end Mark Andrews, will be joined by Chris Moore and Duvernay to help make passing game worthy supplement to ground attack that last year racked up record 3,296 yards.
Weaknesses: Ravens hope Campbell and Wolfe fortify defensive front pierced for 217 yards rushing in playoff loss to Tennessee, but they’ll need strong production from Queen at middle linebacker. In addition, offensive line must make up for loss of Yanda, a potential Hall of Famer, and is counting on C Matt Skura to return to form after knee injury kept him sidelined for final four games and postseason.
Pandemic Development: Ravens had two players opt out, KR De’Anthony Thomas and reserve Andre Smith. Team appears to have solid handle on enforcing necessary protocols to keep players healthy, as no positive tests were announced after training camp moved into high gear in middle of August. With essentially same coaching staff as last year, there weren’t too many additions to playbook that couldn’t be taught during Zoom sessions that replaced minicamp workouts.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Jackson provides big points with arm and legs, qualities that should make him high pick in any fantasy draft. He ran for 1,206 yards and seven TDs in 2019 and threw for 3,127 yards and 36 scores.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 13-2. Over/under wins: 11 1/2.
Expectations: Ravens went 14-2 during 2019 regular season and entered playoffs looking to go distance, quest that went awry with loss at home to Tennessee in their first postseason game. GM Eric DeCosta worked to fortify defense and appears to have filled holes. Ravens have drive and manpower to finish what they started last year. Nothing less than reaching Super Bowl will do for team with reigning NFL MVP guiding offense, and defense good enough to cut loose seven-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, deemed derisive influence in very positive locker room.
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