3 Huge Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Are Ready to Rule the AFC North in 2022

Going from worst to first in your division sounds like a daunting task, but for the Baltimore Ravens, it’s more of a revenge tour to reclaim their stake as one of the best teams in the AFC.

Aside from 2014 and 2019, a team has gone from last to first in its division every year since 2002. The 2021 Cincinnati Bengals took things even further, going from the AFC North cellar to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens, in particular, have a great chance at maintaining this streak. They finished fourth in their division in last year with an 8-9 record but currently boast the best odds to win the AFC North this season.

Here are three reasons why the Ravens are built to win the division title in 2022.

The Ravens are no longer cursed by the injury bug

Baltimore finished last season with a losing record, but it wasn’t really because of their play on the field. Their season was derailed injuries to several of their top players. Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and many more either missed the entire season or a significant amount of time in 2021.

The Ravens have been very cautious about playing their best players in the preseason. Dobbins suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game last year and missed the entire season. Edwards, Dobbins’ backup, went down with the same injury a few weeks later.

Dobbins dominated as a rookie, rushing for 805 yards and nine touchdowns despite only starting in one game. He’s on pace to return before Week 1, and the Ravens should be able to reclaim the league rushing title if that’s the case. Edwards also had a successful 2020 campaign, recording his third-consecutive season with 700 rushing yards while also scoring a career-high six touchdowns. He’s slated to return in Week 5 after serving his time on the PUP list.

Humphrey and Peters have been practicing and will be at full strength for the start of the season. Both corners made the All-Pro list together in 2019 and have combined for 12 interceptions, 57 passes defended, and 15 forced fumbles since then.

If the Ravens are going to win the division and compete in the AFC, much of it will depend on when and how each player performs when they return.

Baltimore’s 2022 draft class is bound to make a massive impact this season

The NFL Draft is the best opportunity for teams to bounce back after a losing season, and the Ravens took full advantage of it, as their first four picks were all home run selections. 

In the first round, the Ravens drafted a top-five prospect in Kyle Hamilton at 14th overall before taking Tyler Linderbaum with the 25th pick. Both players dropped in the draft for separate reasons but, thus far, look like valuable picks.

Hamilton dominated at Notre Dame, allowing zero touchdowns in his three-year career. He’s still in contention with Marcus Williams to be the starting free safety for the Ravens. He recorded five tackles, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery in two preseason appearances.

Linderbaum, on the other hand, was an All-American at Iowa and was voted the top center in the country last season. He fits perfectly into Baltimore’s run-first scheme and has the opportunity to start right away with Bradley Bozeman playing for the Carolina Panthers now.

The Ravens also made strong selections with edge rusher David Ojabo, nose tackle Travis Jones, and tight end Isaiah Likely. Jones, a third-round pick from UConn, has made plenty of noise this preseason. He recorded a sack, a tackle for loss ,and a quarterback hit in two games. He’s a physical and powerful tackle that has consistently won his battles up front in the preseason.

Meanwhile, Likely was the ninth tight end taken off the board but has played as if he was the best. The Coastal Carolina product had a monster game against the Cardinals, racking up eight receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore already has a Pro Bowl tight end in Mark Andrews, but the offense could start running a two tight end set with the emergence of Likely.

Ojabo will miss the 2022 season after suffering a torn Achilles in his Pro Day. But the other four rookies are going to see plenty of snaps, if not start, immediately and could receive Pro Bowl nominations in the near future.

The other three AFC North teams will likely take a step back in 2022

For the longest time, the AFC North has been widely regarded as the toughest division in football. That sentiment remained true last season, with the Bengals making the Super Bowl in February. However, the division has seen a lot of shakeups this offseason, and things may not be as tough as they once were.

The Bengals should be able to replicate its success from last season. Just about every starter is returning along with a new and improved offensive line. However, the Super Bowl hangover is real, and many teams have not fared as well the following season.

The Cleveland Browns were destined to make it to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons after the addition of Deshaun Watson. But in light of his 11-game suspension, Jacoby Brissett will be commanding the offense for the time being. He went 2-3 in five starts last season for the Miami Dolphins and finished with a 78.1 passer rating. The Browns roster is superb all around, but with a backup quarterback leading the charge, it could easily derail a season before Watson returns.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been on a slow decline the past few seasons but have yet to record a losing campaign under Mike Tomlin. That might change in 2022, with Ben Roethlisberger officially retiring this offseason.

The Steelers are now in the midst of a quarterback battle between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. Trubisky will be on his third team in six seasons after serving as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo. Pickett, meanwhile, hasn’t played in a meaningful NFL game yet but is coming off a solid showing in his first three preseason games. Their offensive line has also been revamped this season after allowing 38 sacks in 2021 but still projects as one of the worst units in the NFL. 

The Steelers have a more than stellar roster but could suffer the same fate as the Browns if Trubisky or Pickett don’t play up to par.

As of now, Cincinnati is the only true contender for the AFC North title, and the first game between the two on Oct. 9 will be the ultimate test. If the Ravens pass, the rest of the league should take notice.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.

RELATED: Steve Young Angrily Declares Lamar Jackson Is Being ‘Held Back’ By Ravens Offensive Scheme