2018 Baltimore Ravens: Being an underdog is an advantage
While the addition of Lamar Jackson to the Baltimore Ravens has brought on a lot of outside attention, the Ravens are still underdogs. Outside of Baltimore, they are not a top sell and they aren’t supposed to be contenders:
The Baltimore Ravens are the underdogs in the AFC North. People think the Cleveland Browns will be better, but nobody expects a 0-16 season to turn to gold. The Cincinnati Bengals don’t strike anybody as division winners. It seems like everybody with a microphone or a keyboard is racing to pick the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 2018 AFC North champions.
In the back of their minds, the national media knows the Ravens could be good. The Ravens have only had one losing season under John Harbaugh and were so close to the playoffs two years in a row. The Ravens are the team that poses the greatest threat to the Steelers. While Pittsburgh is coming off a 13-3 season and has an elite offense, the Ravens are being under looked.
Pittsburgh is the favorite to win the division, and that is rightfully so. Ben Roethlisberger seems to have more weapons than anybody in the NFL. The Steelers are coming off a great season and they certainly aren’t going away. The Steelers have the most figured out and they come into the season as the presumptive AFC North representative for the postseason.
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Baltimore is coming out of an offseason of change. 12 rookies were drafted in April, the Ravens receiving corps is almost entirely new and Don Martindale replaced Dean Pees as defensive coordinator. The Ravens could have a quarterback controversy brewing. Lamar Jackson was a huge star in the college ranks. He won a Heisman trophy and was essentially Mr. Highlight Reel for the Louisville Cardinals. Jackson brings attention that the Ravens are not used to seeing.
That being said, Jackson’s presence is only fueling the national narrative that everything was Joe Flacco’s fault and that the Ravens aren’t going to contend for anything while he is under center. It’s rhetoric that ignores the fact that Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP and he always has had redeemable qualities even on his worse days, but that’s the broken record we keep hearing.
Flacco is the quarterback going forward, which means the Ravens are the underdog. This has always suited the purple and black. The Ravens have always been a team that likes to be the underdog. It goes back to Super Bowl XXXV when the Ravens weren’t supposed to beat the Giants, but they stomped them. It’s part of the culture in Baltimore. “Play like a Raven” means that you play like you have something to prove.
The Steelers should know better than to overlook Baltimore. They swept the Ravens in 2017, but their 39-38 victory against the Ravens showed cracks in the armor. While the Steelers were planning on a rematch with the New England Patriots in the AFC title fight, the Jacksonville Jaguars exposed those vulnerabilities. The Steelers walk into the 2018 season with the same strengths, but don’t be certain that the same problems won’t come back around for the Steelers. Pittsburgh didn’t take Jacksonville seriously, what happens if they do that with the Ravens?
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The Ravens are underdogs, but they have a chance to be a strong team. Should Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and or John Brown have rebound seasons, the offense could become much more potent. The Ravens are betting on a new look offense, and from the looks of things they may win the bet. Baltimore is an underdog, but the Ravens are potentially the most underrated team in the league. The Ravens could sneak up on the Steelers and take the division crown. They could sneak up on everybody.