Defining a Successful Season for the 2020 Baltimore Ravens

2020 Baltimore Ravens

The 2020 Baltimore Ravens kicked off their season the only way they know how to. Led by another stellar Lamar Jackson performance, the Ravens won their fifth-straight season opener and their fourth-straight by more than 20 points. Baltimore defeated the division rival Cleveland Browns by a final score of 38-6 in another Ravens romp — becoming the fifth game Jackson has won by 30 or more points in his career.

While these types of victories are becoming more common for a Ravens team that since the beginning of the 2019 season, have absolutely hammered any team that does not bring their A-game, Baltimore is trying to take the next step when it comes to contending in the NFL. Jackson has made it clear his ultimate football goal is to win a Super Bowl and he is still without his first playoff win. Consistently putting together seasons as good as the Ravens 2020 season was, with the salary cap, is very hard — even if they look great one week into the season. 2019 ended poorly for the Ravens and they can never be sure just how much time their core has left together.

So what would constitute as a successful season for the Ravens this year? Baltimore looks to have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL in 2020 but coming off of a disappointing end to 2019, the Ravens need to have sky-high goals for tIe new football season.

What is a Successful Season for the 2020 Baltimore Ravens?

The Ravens Are Too Talented Not To Improve on 2019

A lot has been made about the Ravens roster in 2020 and the 12 players they sent to the Pro Bowl just a year ago. Headed by the 2019 Most Valuable Player, Lamar Jackson, the Ravens may have the most complete roster in the NFL. While the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes have a high flying and borderline unstoppable offense, their defense pails in comparison to the Ravens. There are also a number of great defenses throughout the NFL – the Pittsburgh Steelers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Chicago Bears –  but only the 8-8 Dallas Cowboys outgained Baltimore on offense last season.

Now in 2020, the Ravens have arguably gotten better. Key stars in Baltimore such as Jackson, Marquise Brown, and Mark Andrews have another year of NFL experience under their belts while new additions Calais Campbell and rookie Patrick Queen add needed reinforcements to some of the Ravens less successful position groups from a year ago. The Ravens showed no weaknesses in their season opener and do not appear to have any liabilities within their starters. There are no perfect teams in the NFL but the argument could be made that Baltimore should be favored in every game they play in 2020. The Ravens under Jackson have lost to just four different teams in his 24 career starts.

Pundits have almost unanimous picked the Ravens to win the division in 2020 and they look far-and-beyond like the best team in their division. No team has three-peated in the AFC North since the NFL’s realignment in 2002 but it would be shocking to see any team other than the Ravens take the crown this year. Their offense is dynamic, their defense is mean and they have a shot to finish as the number-one unit on both sides of the ball. Anything short of at least playoff appearance would be a colossal failure.

John Harbaugh Knows How To Win

To the majority of teams in the NFL, a winning season is usually considered a success. To the Ravens and John Harbaugh, anything short of making a run at a championship is considered a let-down. After getting the job as Ravens head coach in 2008, Harbaugh became the first coach in history to reach the playoffs and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons in 2012. He has since won just one playoff game — the 2014 Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, this does not mean Harbaugh has not turned out positive results. Over his 13 year Ravens career, Harbaugh has finished under .500 just once and has an overall winning percentage of .615. Only three active coaches with at least five seasons coached have a better percentage than Harbaugh.

Harbaugh’s only lull came during the 2015 season when the Ravens went 5-11. The following four seasons, Baltimore has increased their win total from the previous year culminating in their highest win total in franchise history in 2019. The only thing missing from that season was a playoff win. While the Harbaugh-Jackson partnership is off to a hot start, Harbaugh and Joe Flacco never had problems winning in the postseason. The coach and previous Ravens starting quarterback made the playoffs six times over their tenure and have an overall record of 10-5 — never once going one-and-done. Jackson has now gone 0-2 in his first two tries at the NFL playoffs.

Even after one of his most successful seasons in 2019, Harbaugh needs his team to step it up again in 2020. The standard Harbaugh has set is so high, that even after a 9-7 2018 season, there were clamorings for him to be fired. While that likely wouldn’t be the case if he were to finish the regular season with another 14 wins, with the roster the Ravens have assembled, he cannot keep finishing in the same place. Harbaugh has a history of winning and he needs to show improvement from his last two years with at least one playoff win in 2020.

Jackson Needs To Get His First

As previously mentioned, Jackson has had a lot of regular-season success to this point in his career but his first postseason win continues to allude him. It has been a rough first two tries as well.

In Jackson’s rookie season, he drew a matchup against a Los Angeles Chargers team that had he had beaten just two weeks earlier. The playoff game was out of hand early with Jackson looking his age (as he became the youngest quarterback to start a game in playoff history) in front of a ferocious Chargers pass rush that prayed on an equally inexperienced Ravens offensive line. Jackson spent the majority of the game running for his life, passing for just 25 yards early in the fourth quarter, and despite a valiant effort to force a comeback late in the game, ultimately ended up with his first playoff loss.

Last year’s 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans was maybe worse but did not fall as much on Jackson. Jackson finished the game with over 500 yards of total offense and was easily the best skill player on Baltimore’s offense that day. His receivers dropped a combined seven balls all while his team went 0-4 on fourth down.

2020 is now the time for Jackson to get his first. He has already shown he is able to put up numbers in big games but a first playoff win would mean a lot more. 31 quarterbacks have gone 0-2 in their first two playoff appearances but only two have gone on to win a Super Bowl after — the Manning Brothers. Both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning started their playoff careers going winless in their first two contests but went on to win multiple championships. Peyton actually fell to 0-3 before even getting his first playoff win. This means it is possible to have a slow start and still win a Super Bowl, but it is a rarity.

While Jackson has had an incredibly strong start to his career, he needs to get his first playoff win sooner rather than later. Coming up when it matters most is one of the key traits in evaluating a quarterback’s career, and Jackson needs to win his first in 2020 if he hopes to have the best shot at collecting the ring he so heavily desires.

A Successful Season = Division Title and an AFC Championship Appearance

The Ravens have a lot of things going for them in 2020 but Baltimore needs to have more success than they have had in previous years. Harbaugh’s team has seen their good regular seasons go to waste after making the playoffs in back-to-back years and any result that does not see them build on their last two playoff losses would be a failure. Therefore, a successful season would need to include at least a playoff win and should include an appearance in the AFC Championship game. The Cheifs should be the only team in the AFC with a legit chance of challenging the Ravens for a Super Bowl appearance. If they can avoid them (after their Week 3 matchup), Baltimore should continue to be a favorite in almost all of their games.

Jackson needs his first playoff win and he has the roster and head coach to do it with. There isn’t a big challenger to the Ravens in the AFC North, giving them a fairly straight-froward way into the playoffs, even if they do not come away with a first-round bye like in 2019. Improving on last season’s incredible regular season is going to be hard but the Ravens have all the tools in house to make a serious run at the Super Bowl.

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