Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Sessler examines the Baltimore Ravens.
1) One of the AFC's top defenses
The Ravens missed the postseason last autumn, but rolled through much of the campaign with a playoff-worthy defense that allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL. Expect the same from a young roster that pitched three shutouts last season and still fields talent at every level.
Brandon Williams remains a powerful anchor up front with Michael Pierce and Willie Henry alongside him. The ageless Terrell Suggs is coming off an 11-sack campaign, while Matt Judon added eight QB takedowns of his own. C.J. Mosley is one of the game's better inside linebackers. Shall we go on? Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey form a talented four-pack of cover men, while Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson doubled as one of the league's top safety duos in 2017.
This group caught viewers by surprise last season, but not this time around. Baltimore's defense will decide how far the Ravens travel come September.
2) New-look receiver room
The Raiders essentially switched out Crabtree for an aging Jordy Nelson, but Crabtree is arguably the better player -- even if he tends to wear out a locker room. Brown is coming off two health-impacted campaigns in Arizona, but the player we saw previously could stretch the field and annoy defenses. Snead hauled in 141 catches for the Saints from 2015 to 2016 before struggling last year through injuries and a suspension. A fresh start will help.
We've come this far without mentioning Breshad Perriman, the 2015 first-rounder with just 43 catches over three lackluster seasons. He's no sure bet to make a roster that heads into September asking a trio of veterans to lead the way.
3) Alex Collins and Baltimore's backfield
It remains unclear why Seattle -- a team that struggled to run ball -- decided to part ways with Collins last September.
Plucked up by Baltimore and placed into the lineup by Week 2, Collins immediately settled in as the team's starter. He looked the part, too, running with fury and purpose to finish with 973 yards at 4.6 yards per carry, good enough for ninth-best league-wide.
The Ravens want to pound the ball and create balance around a latter-stages Joe Flacco. Marshal Yanda will help as one of the finest guards in the NFL, but the rest of Baltimore's line has issues. That was also true last year, but Collins just barreled on through. With Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon in the wings, the Ravens showed how they feel about this group by ignoring runners in the draft.
4) Justin Tucker
He's nothing short of the best kicker in club history and a future Hall of Famer. Tucker is 15-for-17 on kicks of 50-plus yards over the past two seasons and -- while others tediously botch chip shots -- perfect on all 205 of his career extra points.
NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt listed Tucker as the greatest kicker of all-time, a sentiment tough to disagree with.
Rotoworld's Evan Silva noted that Baltimore notched a 2-5 record in one-score games last season. Year on year, these figures tend to drift back toward the center. Good news for Baltimore, especially with a nuclear weapon like Tucker operating with the game on the line.
5) Total organizational consistency
Players come and go, but Baltimore's organizational health remains. From ownership to the front office to John Harbaugh's coaching staff, this team has uniformly scouted players and stuck to their shared philosophy for years.
Longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome will step away after this season to play a supporting role, but the Ravens already house his successor in the experienced Eric DeCosta. If Harbaugh felt the heat in recent years, he's also a Super Bowl-winning coach and someone owner Steve Bisciotti has shown extreme loyalty to.
Bisciotti has also shown faith in Flacco, but the veteran passer is likely playing his final year in Baltimore. Rookie Lamar Jackson isn't expected to take over during the regular season, but stranger things have happened -- far more bizarre.
While quarterback battles and shifting front offices might frazzle lesser teams, the Ravens just go about their business. It's been that way for years. They'll be hanging around in the AFC come Week 17 -- bank on it.