The AFC North sent three of its teams to the playoffs last season, as the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns finished the regular season with at least 11 wins.
But will history repeat itself in 2021? Former NFL quarterback and NFL on CBS analyst Boomer Esiason doesn't believe so. In fact, he has a hunch that the Ravens will fall significantly short of their Super Bowl expectations.
"I'm [out on the Ravens], as far as the playoffs are concerned," Esiason told The Zach Gelb Show on Wednesday. "They've retooled their team. They're going to hopefully have a little bit better passing attack -- they were the worst passing team in football last year. It's beyond belief that a team that can be so poor throwing the football can make it to the playoffs.
"Well, they got to it with defense. They lost [linebacker] Matt Judon, they traded [offensive tackle] Orlando Brown. There's some moving parts down there, too. They'll still be able to run the ball better than most teams in the league, simply because their quarterback is so gifted. I'm not sold they're offensive enough to make it to the playoffs this year."
Baltimore's offensive numbers were alarming in 2020. In 16 games, third-year quarterback Lamar Jackson ranked 22nd in the NFL in passing yards (2,757), and the Ravens finished the campaign with a league-low 406 pass attempts. Overall, the unit ranked dead last in completions (257) and average passing yards (171.2).
To make matters worse, Baltimore was bitten by the dreaded preseason injury bug in August, as second-year running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the team's final exhibition game. As a rookie in 2020, the Ohio State product rushed for 805 total yards on 134 attempts with nine touchdowns, and his 6.0 yards per carry ranked first among all running backs.
The Ravens will open the 2021 campaign against the Raiders in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 13. According to the William Hill Sportsbook, Baltimore has the best odds (+120) to win the AFC North, and the third-best odds (+650) to win the conference.
The entire NFL conversation between Esiason and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.