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Baltimore Ravens 2021 Season Preview: Still the team to beat in the AFC North?

The Baltimore Ravens 2021 season preview looks the same as it has for over a decade now. This team should compete in the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL, making their 2021 season preview familiar. The Ravens only had one losing season despite wielding Joe Flacco as a starter for an eleven-year stretch. With Lamar Jackson at the helm, the team is 30-7 in the regular season — that’s decent, I guess?

Baltimore Ravens 2021 season preview

The Baltimore Ravens have the 13th-hardest schedule in the NFL. They play five games against teams projected to win at least 10 games. Out of division, those ten-win teams include the Chiefs, Rams, and Packers. The Ravens also face the Cleveland Browns twice, which will have a massive impact on the top of the AFC North.

Additionally, Baltimore battles Indianapolis, who were projected to win many contests, but they recently lost Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson for a similarly lengthy timeline. The 2021 Ravens might avoid both players in their Week 5 matchup with the Colts.

Luckily for Baltimore, the great teams they play in 2021 are all home games, sans one on the road in Cleveland. The Ravens also face the Bears, Lions, and Bengals (twice) throughout the season, which should help add to their win total.

Offseason additions and losses

The Ravens run like a well-lubricated machine. They’re also never one to sit on their hands, and the 2021 free-agency cycle was no exception. Baltimore’s season preview is greatly affected by the moves they made in the spring. They lost a few contributors, but they re-signed and acquired more than they lost.

Matthew Judon heads to the Patriots, while Yannick Ngakoue relocates to the glitz of Las Vegas. The Ravens also lost Willie Snead, Jihad Ward, and Matt Skura. However, their biggest loss came from trading Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs. Of all their losses, that is the one they were unable to make up.

To throw some Flex Seal on the issue, they signed Alejandro Villanueva to be their right tackle in 2021. He’s no Brown, but he’s a veteran presence that has been with the rival Steelers since 2015. To help bolster the offensive line further, Baltimore added guard Kevin Zeitler to the mix.

Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee both remain Ravens after the 2021 free-agency cycle, and they added Justin Houston as a veteran presence rushing the passer. Sammy Watkins helps the pass-catching issues the Ravens have recently dealt with. When healthy, Watkins could be a fine WR2 behind rookie Rashod Bateman. Yes, Bateman is going to be the guy in Baltimore (more on that later.)

2021 NFL Draft

Heck, we’ll do it live! Bateman is already creating waves at Ravens camp, with video evidence of him dusting Marlon Humphrey in one-on-one reps. He is a flexible route runner that has the ability to be the off-brand version of Justin Jefferson. Bateman could make a massive difference in the Ravens’ passing attack in a league where separation is king and his quarterback flourishes over the middle.

Baltimore’s second first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft could be just as impactful. Still, there’s a lot more projection with Odafe Oweh than Bateman. Oweh is one of the freakiest EDGE prospects ever. His athleticism doesn’t make sense. Yet, “raw” might not even cover just how much of a project he is. If there’s one organization I trust to develop this position, it’s the Ravens. They also drafted Notre Dame EDGE rusher Daelin Hayes.

Ravens draft for the brand

The Ravens didn’t stop there. The entire fanbase appears to be head over heels with Georgia guard Ben Cleveland, who the Ravens selected in Round 3. This monster of a man eats squirrel and has visible abs at 340 pounds. They don’t make blockers as sturdy as him.

Brandon Stephens was a surprising pick in Round 4, but then the Ravens went back to the defensive back well with Ohio State’s Shaun Wade. Stephens has position versatility, as does Wade. He’s heavier than Wade, and his ball production during his final two seasons at SMU was outstanding. Wade struggled with his move to the outside, so his deployment in Baltimore will be interesting.

The Ravens also drafted WR Tylan Wallace, who was incredibly productive in his time at Oklahoma State. He makes some unbelievable plays outside of his frame. He must stay healthy at the NFL level, though. Ben Mason is a brand pick for the Ravens’ rushing attack. He will impress as a lead blocker between the tackles.

Where do Baltimore players rank in PFN’s Top 100?

Four Ravens make PFN’s Top 100 NFL Players heading into the 2021 NFL season.

93) Justin Tucker

The Ravens certainly didn’t fall short on PFN’s Top 100. Tucker was the only specialist voted to the list, proving that only 99% of specialists aren’t actually people. Tucker is multifaceted. The trained opera singer is the most accurate kicker of all time. That type of mark deserves credit.

53) Ronnie Stanley

Stanley dropped some spots after facing injury in 2020, but his standing amongst offensive tackles in the NFL is cemented. He’s a technical wizard that continues to prove his worth to the organization. Stanley has not allowed a sack in the past two seasons.

43) Marlon Humphrey

Humphrey might be the most versatile cornerback in the league. He follows the opposition’s best offensive weapons, so he spends a lot of time having to defend two-way go’s from the slot against elite receivers and tight ends. Given modern rules, sometimes he gets beat. But Humphrey is as consistent a true CB1 as it gets. He also forced a league-high 8 fumbles last year.

30) Lamar Jackson

The narratives surrounding Jackson can become frustrating. The former league MVP has been stuck with mediocre outside receiving help and poor passing schemes. Hopefully, in 2021, he proves his worth as a passer who’s asked to do more with reinforcements alongside him. On his feet, Jackson is a game-wrecker.

Ravens 2021 prediction

John Harbaugh is the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL behind Mike Tomlin. So, one could argue he’s actually the longest-tenured because the Steelers haven’t fired a coach since the Vietnam War. They just don’t do it. Harbaugh is an outstanding coach, with only one losing season to his name.

Greg Roman has been around for a while now. The construction of his rushing attack is sublime. He uses his personnel incredibly well in that respect. His passing concepts, however, do not maximize efficiency.

Don “Wink” Martindale has been the defensive coordinator since 2018, and despite having lackluster pass-rush personnel at times, his defenses have flourished.

Offense

Baltimore’s offense took a step back in 2020. In 2019, they were the most efficient offense in the league. This offense could propel the team to another division title with revitalized weapons and a facelift of the passing attack.

Defense

Baltimore’s defense fell outside the top 10 in efficiency last season, but they’ve worked hard to improve the defensive line. The secondary should be back to being elite with Tavon Young’s return.

2021 record prediction

The Ravens’ 2021 schedule doesn’t hurt the preview of their season win total, but even winning 12 games might not be enough. Whether we admit it or not, the Browns have built themselves quite a roster. However, a 12-5 record is certainly nothing to scoff at in Baltimore.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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