weather icon Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

NFL countdown: Ravens crave playoff breakthrough

This is the 31st in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Thursday season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

Everything went according to script for quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens last season … until the playoffs.

Jackson earned NFL MVP honors and led the Ravens to a 14-2 record, but it all came to a screeching halt in a 28-12 divisional playoff loss to Tennessee. That postseason failure came a year after Baltimore fell behind the Los Angeles Chargers 23-3 in an eventual 23-17 wild-card loss.

There’s only one way for Jackson to silence his doubters.

“Look at what Jackson has done in the regular season, but he hasn’t won a playoff game yet,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “He needs to take the next step.”

Jackson seemingly has the team to do that this season. A 14-2 team got better in the offseason, and anything less than an AFC championship game showdown with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City will feel like a failure.

The Ravens boosted their pass rush by adding Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and drafted Louisiana State linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round, but they won’t have Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, who was released after an altercation with a teammate.

On offense, Baltimore took Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round to add to a run attack that amassed nearly a thousand more yards on the ground than any other team last season (206 yards per game).

And Jackson, entering only his third season at age 23, could make another leap, a scary thought after he threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with only six interceptions last season while adding 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said the Ravens are almost on par with the Chiefs at the top of the NFL, but they will have to deal with a difficult schedule and a tough division with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati all likely to be improved.

“I would bet under Baltimore wins (11½),” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t win the division.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

Like and follow Vegas Nation