Injuries plagued the Baltimore Ravens in 2021. So much so that PFF’s WAR-Adjusted Injuries Lost (WAIL) statistic shows the Ravens lost about 2.86 wins last season. That would have put the team in the playoffs with a 10-7 or 11-6 record. They might have been in the AFC North before the Bengals. Maybe Lamar Jackson will make the run instead of Joe Burrow, who knows?
The point is that while everyone expects the Bengals and the Deshaun Watson-led Browns to make it to the top of the AFC North rankings, the Ravens are still a menace not only in the AFC North but in the entire AFC pose a threat.
That 2.86 WAIL mark makes the Ravens the sixth team since 2013 to lose more than two games through 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 these teams did the following season? let me tell you
The 2014 Packers won 12 games and made their first appearance in a conference championship 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, had their most wins since 2016 and lost in the wild card round, but had a chance to win if not for the Officials standing in Dak Prescott’s way. The 2021 49ers won that game and then beat Aaron Rodgers for the NFC Championship, if not for one dropped interception by Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers are likely to win this game. The only exception is the 2018 Packers, who only won six games and promptly fired Mike McCarthy, but I think it’s safe to say that John Harbaugh is a better coach than McCarthy, so I doubt the 2022 Ravens will have the same fate will overtake.
But not only are the Ravens getting back a lot of talent they didn’t have in 2021, they also gained talent through draft and free agency. Normally, losing someone like Bradley Bozeman would destroy a power run program, but the Ravens managed to avoid that by calling up Tyler Linderbaum. The Ravens arguably grabbed the top two players in their respective positions during the draft, strengthening their offensive line and secondary while giving up an underperforming receiver. Sure, you might think Marquise Brown’s absence will weaken her passing attack, but Rashod Bateman played a very limited role on offense last year due to injuries. If he’s healthy, there’s a good chance Bateman will step straight into Brown’s role on offense. He may not be as fast as Brown, but he brings other skills to the table that Brown couldn’t. And no matter how Bateman develops in 2022, the passing attack will of course still run through Mark Andrews. Basically, Brown’s failure shouldn’t change much on the team’s offensive.
The AFC North is a battleground where three or four (don’t rule out Mike Tomlin) teams could make the playoffs next season. But while all the attention is on the reigning AFC champions Bengals and the new-look Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have quietly built one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. Barring major injuries in 2022, they will not only compete, they will fight.