The Baltimore Ravens were ravaged with injuries in 2021. So much so that PFF’s WAR-Adjusted Injuries Lost (WAIL) statistic indicates that the Ravens lost about 2.86 wins last season. That would’ve put the team in the playoffs with either a 10-7 or 11-6 record. They possibly would’ve been ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North. Maybe Lamar Jackson makes the run instead of Joe Burrow, who knows?
The point is that despite everyone expecting the Bengals and Deshaun Watson-led Browns to duke it out atop the AFC North standings, the Ravens are still a menacing threat in not just the AFC North, but the entire AFC.
That 2.86 WAIL mark makes the Ravens the sixth team since 2013 to lose more than two games due to injury. The other five teams are the 2020 San Francisco 49ers, the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, the 2018 49ers, the 2017 Green Bay Packers, and the 2013 Packers. Do you remember what each of those teams did the following season? Let me tell you.
The 2014 Packers won 12 games and made their first conference championship appearance since 2010 when they won the Super Bowl. The 2019 49ers won 13 games and lost to Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. The 2021 Cowboys won their division for the first time in four years, posted their most wins since 2016 and lost in the Wild Card Round, but had a chance to win if not for the officials getting in Dak Prescott’s way. The 2021 49ers won that game and then beat Aaron Rodgers to reach the NFC Championship and, if not for a dropped interception from Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers probably win that game. The only exception is the 2018 Packers, who won just six games and promptly fired Mike McCarthy, but I think it’s safe to say that John Harbaugh is a better coach than McCarthy was, so I doubt the same fate will befall the Ravens in 2022.
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But not only are the Ravens getting back a lot of talent they didn’t have in 2021, they’ve also gained talent through the draft and free agency. Normally, the loss of someone like Bradley Bozeman would destroy a power run scheme, but the Ravens managed to avoid that by drafting Tyler Linderbaum. The Ravens snagged arguably the two best players at their respective positions during the draft, bolstering their offensive line and secondary, all while only giving up an underperforming receiver. Sure, you might be thinking that the absence of Marquise Brown will weaken their passing attack, but Rashod Bateman had a very limited role in the offense last year due to injuries. If healthy, there’s a good chance that Bateman could slide directly into Brown’s role in the offense. He may not be as fast as Brown was, but he brings other skills to the table that Brown couldn’t. Plus of course, no matter how Bateman turns out in 2022, the passing attack will still run through Mark Andrews. Basically, the loss of Brown shouldn’t change the team’s offense much at all.
The AFC North is a battlefield that could see three or four (don’t rule out Mike Tomlin) teams reach the playoffs next season. However, while all attention is being held by the reigning AFC Champion Bengals and the new-look Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have quietly built up one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. Barring any major injuries in 2022, they won’t just compete, they will contend.