20 players were placed on injured reserve last season, 20. Terrell Suggs, Justin Forsett, Joe Flacco and Steve Smith were 4 key players specifically, who were injured. All 4 are crucial impact players to this team. Add the vast majority of role players that were hurt and it’s easy to drag the 2015 Baltimore Ravens into the 5-11 box.
The biggest question of all is whether or not the Ravens will be able to make the playoffs in 2016.
Realistically, the team should be able to crank out 8 wins, at least. That’s if the Ravens are able to remain healthy, a task that can be graving in all kinds of ways. Here, I will breakdown my thoughts on what could make or break the Ravens from entering the playoffs.
If the team can be healthy throughout, maybe that alone will be the key to the playoffs?
The good news is that the team should have everyone back, but the bad news is that those players coming back might not be in shape, which can take time. Joe Flacco should be set to go by preseason, does that mean he will be feeling 100%? No. Don’t expect Suggs or Smith Sr to come back with fire and be kings on the field. In fact, they might just be shadows of their former self’s.
A slow start could be devastating to this team.
The schedule is fairly easy up until the last four weeks of the season. The Ravens need to get the majority of their wins earlier on in the year and that starts with their first four games.
They start off at home against the Buffalo Bills, then hit a two game road stretch against the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that, they come home to the Oakland Raiders.
All four of those games are winnable. Ironically, 3 of those teams beat them last year. Don’t think the bad blood will still smell? Oh, it will. Former Ravens, Ed Reed, now an assistant defensive backs coach on the Bills, seems to think they will beat the Ravens week one. Why? Well because it’s his birthday and he never loses on his birthday.
What should be at least 2-3 wins to kick off the year could easily be 4 losses. If anything, last season taught us that.
With the Ravens schedule progressively getting harder as the season goes on, it’s almost ironic that the players coming back from rehab could struggle to perform up to standards during an easier part of the schedule. Games that should be won, need to be won.
The AFC North shows no mercy.
This division is b-r-u-t-a-l. The best division in football, hands down. Don’t expect a welcome back party from the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Cincinnati Bengals. Hell, even the Cleveland Browns will be looking to split the series with Baltimore again or a sweep. Baltimore knows what they will get each time they face a division rival and they will be shown no mercy. This division could send the big 3 to the playoffs, or it could be a repeat of last year. The Ravens have to win division games and do so while healthy.
Is age really just a number?
Steve Smith is 37 and rehabbing a ruptured Achilles tendon. Terrell Suggs is rehabbing a torn Achilles and he is 33 years old. Is age really just a number?
Eventually, things will slow down for these two aging vets, if they haven’t already.
I’m by no means calling out Steve for being ‘old’. He will definitely be the same fiery competitor that he has always been. Will his body handle it though? The NFL is a rough sport and anyone who has ever played the game knows.
If these two vets can come back and provide a spark, this team could make the playoffs. Their leadership is valued just as much if not more than their play on field. It seems that after Suggs went down in week one, the entire team spiraled downhill. Maybe that was a sign of how important his presence is to this team. With that being said, the team struggled from week one to finish games. Whether it was the offense or the defense, lack of consistency was a huge issue.
Getting back to the basics.
As i mentioned above, the team lacked consistency on both sides of the ball. It seems that the team is eager to get back to what they do best: running the ball, opening up the pass game and playing solid defense. Several things they did horribly at last year.
Marc Trestman was entering a new offensive system in which he had to adjust to. Now after a full year under his belt, he should be able to put together solid offensive packages for getting the run game going and utilizing the tight ends group loaded with four talented players. The defense showed improvement last season, finishing the year in the top 10, a surprising feat for a 5-11 team.
The talent is there, on both sides of the ball, there’s guys who can make plays. No doubt that they have the players to make a run, the biggest concern will be chemistry. Can the offense connect and can the defense communicate?
In an NFL now designed for a heavy passing game, this team is trying to get back to running the ball. Sounds easy right?