Ravens hold key to 2024 AFC North race with biggest X-Factor

Will the Ravens come out on top?
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens / Rob Carr/GettyImages

The Baltimore Ravens made some big changes in the offseason, but none of them will be quite as impactful as what they have done on the offensive line. After signing Derrick Henry to team with Lamar Jackson, the line is an area of severe uncertainty heading into 2024.

John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler signed with the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, respectively, in free agency, while Morgan Moses was traded to the Jets. These moves left three holes on the offensive line in a division where any little weakness will be exposed by three other playoff-worthy teams.

Baltimore might be one of the more complete rosters in the league, but they will need to contend with an elite Cleveland Browns defense, a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that upgraded at quarterback with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, and a Cincinnati Bengals team with Joe Burrow returning to full health.

Bleacher Report seems to believe that Baltimore's offensive line could determine the fate of the division, as they identified the Ravens' ability to protect Jackson as the factor that will determine who ends up as the division winner. Baltimore seems to have confidence in their group of young studs.

B/R declares Baltimore Ravens' offensive line biggest AFC North X-Factor

The Ravens' most likely starting offensive line combination includes 2023 seventh-round pick Andrew Vorhees and Ben Cleveland holding down the starting guard spots while promising rookie Roger Rosengarten gets the edge over Daniel Faalele and veteran switchblades Josh Jones and Patrick Mekari at right tackle.

To take the most optimistic view possible, Vorhees was regarded as a possible Top 100 player before his injury, and Cleveland has been around the team for years as a trusted backup. Rosengarten has a claim to being the best pass-blocking pure right tackle in the 2024 class after a showstopping career at Washington.

This new-look offensive line will be put through the ringer quite early in the 2024 season. The first three weeks include games against Chris Jones' Chiefs, Maxx Crosby's Raiders, and Micah Parsons' Cowboys. Six division games in total mean biannual games with Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson, and TJ Watt.

If the Ravens are on top of the AFC North yet again, that is likely a sign that the offensive line managed to create huge holes for Derrick Henry to run through and built Jackson an impenetrable wall that slowed down a murderer's row of elite pass rushers.