There’s one question that seems to loom among Baltimore Ravens fans heading into the 2016 NFL season: will the team be able to bounce back from its disastrous season last year?
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen (2) hands the ball off to Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen (37) during the first half an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
The 2015 campaign was by far the worst season for “Ravens Nation” in nearly a decade. Just about every star player on the team suffered from serious injuries, ultimately causing Baltimore to finish with a 5-11 record. It marked the first time the Ravens posted a losing record under head coach John Harbaugh; the last time the Ravens went 5-11 was in 2007, the year before Harbaugh was hired.
The good news for Ravens fans is that the history of the franchise suggests Baltimore should successfully bounce back into winning form this season.
Baltimore hasn’t suffered back-to-back losing seasons in 18 years. In fact, the Ravens have followed every losing season over that span with one of their best years. They followed a 7-9 season in 2002 with a 10-6 record in 2003, and followed a 6-10 season in 2005 with a 13-3 record in 2006. When they ended 2007 with a 5-11 record, Harbaugh took over the team and led them to an 11-5 record in 2008.
Fans are hoping the trend continues as several star Ravens players return from injury.
Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco missed games for the first time in his nine-year career last season when he went down with a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11. 2011 Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon in the first game of the season, and five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith tore his own Achilles in Week Seven. All three players are expected to be healthy and ready to play by the start of training camp.
Baltimore will also expect several other contributors to return from injury. It wasn’t just Flacco, Suggs and Smith who went down last season; the Ravens had a record 20 players sent to the Injured Reserve (IR) list, including Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett, who broke his arm in Week 11. Rookie first-round draft pick receiver Breshad Perriman also went on IR after suffering a knee injury during last summer’s training camp. Forsett and Perriman could both be starters for Baltimore this season.
If the Ravens avoid the injury bug this year, they could be as successful as they were in 2014, when they finished with a 10-6 record and reached the second round of the playoffs. That year they ranked eighth on offense and sixth on defense. Many of the key contributors from 2014 are still on the team. There are some new faces, such as two-time All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, who was signed after nine years with the San Diego Chargers. Speedy veteran receiver Mike Wallace is also a new addition; most Ravens fans remember him as a deep-threat receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both are tough players that fit the mold of what it takes to play on a Ravens team that has always prided itself for a “smash-mouth” style of football.
Prediction: Considering the new additions, along with an abundant amount of players returning from injury, expect Baltimore to avoid missing postseason play in back-to-back seasons and return to double-digit wins. Although they face a tough schedule that includes elite opponents like the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, they should still find a way to finish 10-6 and earn at least a Wild Card seed into the AFC playoffs.