Ravens favored to win AFC North even with Lamar Jackson extension talks ongoing
After a season where the Baltimore Ravens were ravaged by injuries, they are once again healthy and are ready to compete for the AFC North title. The Ravens are currently the odds-on favorite to win the division with +160 odds, but could ongoing contract negotiations with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson affect their season if it’s not settled soon?
In his four seasons with the Ravens, he has led the organization to three playoff appearances, but was unable to get past the divisional round in any of those seasons. In personal accolades, Jackson was named NFL MVP in 2019 and was an All-Pro in that same year. Even with the success that Jackson has had in just the four years he’s been in the league, there have still been some areas where he still needs to improve.
Over the years, Jackson’s passing accuracy has been questioned and with him having one of his worst passing seasons last year, the noise has not quieted down. Prior to missing the final four regular season games due to an ankle bone bruise, Jackson had thrown for 2,882 yards, 16 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and had the second-lowest quarterback rating of his career at 50.
Everyone knows what Jackson can do on the ground because he’s already one of the best rushing quarterbacks of all-time. However, he will need to make bigger strides as a passer if the Ravens want to make a deeper playoff push. If the Ravens have any questions about Jackson’s abilities, it may really only stem from his deep passing accuracy.
The Ravens figure to be a run-heavy team again since their running back room is finally healthy, but if Jackson’s passing can take a step forward, the Ravens will unlock another level to their offense that could make it increasingly harder for teams to defend against.
What to expect in 2022
Baltimore has the 23rd-hardest regular season schedule in 2022, which gives them the easiest path towards the AFC North title. But with two of the AFC North teams having question marks under center, their path could be much easier or much more difficult.
Their lack of receiving talent could also permeate into a problem for the Ravens if the run-game was ever unable to get going. Tight end Mark Andrews figures to be Jackson’s top receiving target, but the only real option after that is wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Since the Ravens traded receiver Marquise Brown during the NFL draft, Bateman is in line to get a boatload of targets in his second season in the league.
He’s not as fast as Brown, but he brings size that should help with some of Jackson’s shortcomings.
After being a top-three defense in the past two seasons before last year, the Ravens defense was uncharacteristic last year. However, with Marcus Peters and other defenders returning to full health, the Ravens should look more like themselves in 2022.
With the Ravens defense and running back room returning to form, it’s reasonable to think that the Ravens should be favored in the AFC North, but it will be important to watch how extension talks continue with Jackson.