Outlook on the Baltimore Ravens During Their Bye: Top AFC Contender?

Could the Baltimore Ravens be a top AFC contender now at the mid point of the 2022 season and come playoff time in a few months?


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Lamar Jackson inspired the Baltimore Ravens to a sensational win over Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.

The Ravens look like they are in good shape as a definite top-five AFC playoff contender at 6-3 and on top of the AFC North. Baltimore gets a much-needed bye this week in Week 10 to rest and recover, while hopefully getting some players healthy for the back half of the 2022 NFL season.

The team itself has changed drastically on both sides of the ball in two months, as the defense has stepped up in a big way and the run game has been the crux of their offensive success as opposed to what happened at the start of the season.

With more than half the season gone and over with, the top AFC teams include the AFC East trio (Bills, Jets, Dolphins) and the Chiefs essentially all at six wins. The Bengals, Chargers, Titans, and Patriots are all only a game back with five wins, so the Ravens can’t afford to slack in their playoff push with the remaining eight weeks left after their bye week.

The schedule in the front half, now in hindsight, seems way tougher than the back half on paper, so at least Baltimore went through the hard parts of their schedule and still could’ve gotten more than six wins if certain things transpired or gone their way.

The Ravens just got their sixth win on Monday night against the Saints in New Orleans and looked pretty good despite the injuries to key starters. Their loss to Miami and Buffalo may come back to haunt them in terms of tiebreakers for playoff seeding but they do have wins against the Jets, Patriots, and the Bengals from earlier this season.

If the Ravens sweep Cincinnati, Baltimore should still have a good shot to win the AFC North.

After their bye, Baltimore plays the reeling Panthers at home in M&T Bank Stadium. After that, they go to Jacksonville and then play Denver at home, which are two bottom-tier teams that don’t look to be serious contenders this year.

The Ravens finish their division matchup with the Browns (incoming Deshaun Watson at quarterback) in Cleveland but get to see rookie Kenny Pickett and the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time this year before that. The Falcons come in between at home for the Ravens before they face the Steelers in Baltimore to then finish off the season with a rematch with the Bengals in Cincinnati.

If the Ravens can avoid any trap games and play like a real contender, I could see them going five or maybe more wins if they take care of business with their division foes, to total a record of ten or eleven plus wins to end the year realistically.

Despite losing a few key players due to season-ending injuries like wide receiver Rashod Bateman, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, and cornerback Kyle Fuller; the Ravens should get safety Marcus Williams, running back J.K. Dobbins, and rookie edge rusher David Ojabo back in a few weeks.

Both tight end Mark Andrews and running back Gus Edwards were dealing with injuries that ruled them out in the most recent game but they should be good to go after the bye week.

New addition Roquan Smith already made his impact felt on the Ravens’ defense against the Saints this past Monday night, as he made some big tackles and covered Saints running back Alvin Kamara one on one a few times, something that is normally very difficult to do for most defenders.

Roquan was acquired via trade the day before the NFL trade deadline, as Baltimore sent a 2023 second and 2023 fifth-round pick along with linebacker A.J. Klein to the Chicago Bears. Both Lamar Jackson and Roquan are looking to get paid in the offseason and are represented by themselves, meaning they both don’t have an agent to deal with contract negotiations.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith
Former Chicago Bears Linebacker Roquan Smith debuts for the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints in Week 9. Copyright: 2022 Getty Images (Creator: Jonathan Bachman | Credit: Getty Images)

Now with Roquan in the mix, linebacker Patrick Queen will play next to him. Forming a dynamic linebacking duo in the middle.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey and edge rusher Justin Houston have been the big standouts this year so far. As Humphrey has been following up with an All-Pro caliber type season as a shutdown coverage corner.

Houston has been a revelation, bringing the pressure and getting home to opposing quarterbacks constantly as he is tied at 2nd on the sack leader list with 8.5 sacks. Despite missing a few games due to injury and putting up those numbers in six total games played this season.

The upgrades at the offensive line have catapulted the Ravens’ efficiency in the run game with a healthy Ronnie Stanley at the left tackle position opposite Morgan Moses on the right side, with rookie center Tyler Lindebaum anchoring the middle of the line. In the absence of Dobbins and Edwards, Kenyan Drake has dominated in a handful of games when given the opportunity to get most of the workload as he leads the team in rushing, other than the main rushing threat at quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Despite having a lack of wide receiver talent, Devin Duvernay has been exceeding expectations when he is used in various ways and is leading the team in receiving yards among their wide receivers.

But Mark Andrews is the focal point in the receiving game for Baltimore, as he is third among all tight ends in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns by tight ends (5). The rookie tight end Isaiah Likely has flashed as a receiver, so I expect his involvement to increase moving forward even when Andrews is healthy.

But this offense, and the team in general, will revolve around Jackson and his play on the field, despite not having the most weapons compared to other quarterbacks. Jackson has thrown the fourth most touchdowns so far (16) and is leading quarterbacks in rushing yards (and is eighth on the list for rushing yards including running backs).

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker
Justin Tucker reacted after making a game-winning field goal as the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. Copyright: 2022 Getty Images

Of course, the Ravens win games off the leg of Justin Tucker as, one of, if not, the best kicker of all time. The true GOAT: the Greatest of All Time at the kicker position making those long clutch field goals.

He is the ultimate fail-safe in case Baltimore is in a pinch and needs a game-winning kick on the line. Tucker gives them an advantage over pretty much any team in that type of situation or other similar scenarios.

Currently, the Ravens sit in third place behind the Chiefs and Bills if the playoffs happened this week heading into Week 10 with the 2022 NFL Playoff Picture.