JOE FLACCO needs to be more consistent than he was last year. His rifle arm will yield a handful of Wow! throws each week, some of which will result in big plays. But the Ravens can't subsist on that; they want a quick, rhythmic passing attack. Flacco must rediscover his disciplined mechanics and decision making. He simply had too many incomplete passes, unrecognized open receivers and inexcusable interceptions in 2016.
• Baltimore needs to be much more run-oriented than it was a year ago. Yes, losing top zone runner KENNETH DIXON for '17 with a left-knee injury hurts. But TERRANCE WEST, while less disciplined, is still capable of making defenders miss. DANNY WOODHEAD has been signed from San Diego as a passing-down weapon—he can line up anywhere as a receiver, plus he's great on check-downs—but he is also capable of running out of three-receiver sets, which fits Baltimore's zone ground game. A run-oriented offense would give a boost to the receivers, who would face more basic coverages.
• Former Cardinals safety TONY JEFFERSON was a great free-agent pickup this offseason. Defensive coordinator DEAN PEES played a lot of zone coverage in '16, but with Jefferson, who can match up with tight ends anywhere on the field, Pees can use more man-to-man—and then deploy the expansive blitz packages that he loves.
• Baltimore's was far and away the best run defense in football before it wore down after Week 13. Tackles BRANDON WILLIAMS and MICHAEL PIERCE were the main reasons. Both can anchor against double teams, and Williams can move shockingly well for a 6'1" 340-pounder.
• TERRELL SUGGS is a Hall of Famer. He doesn't just rush the passer. His edge-setting and ball-chasing in run defense are superb. And there isn't a stat for this, but Suggs is adept at jamming tight ends as they come off the line, which compromises an offense's spacing and timing. Also, teams are reluctant to run read-option against Suggs because, dating to the Super Bowl XLVII win over the 49ers, he has shown an eagerness to drill the quarterback whether he keeps the ball or hands it off.
"FLACCO HAD TOO MANY INCOMPLETIONS AND INEXCUSABLE INTERCEPTIONS."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
47 BRANDON WILLIAMS NT
69 MARSHAL YANDA RG
85 TERRELL SUGGS OLB
101 C.J. MOSLEY LB
112 TONY JEFFERSON SS
122 ERIC WEDDLE FS
136 JOE FLACCO QB
274 JEREMY MACLIN WR
279 BRANDON CARR CB
323 MICHAEL PIERCE DE
324 RONNIE STANLEY LT
394 DANNY WOODHEAD RB