Today's question: The Baltimore Ravens were once one of the sure bets to make the playoffs after reaching the postseason each year from 2008 to 2012. But the Ravens are coming off a 5-11 season, their worst since 2007. Will this year mark the first time under coach John Harbaugh that the Ravens fail to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons?
Coley Harvey, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: This has to be a yes from me. And it really has very little to do with the Ravens themselves and more to do with the other teams in the division. Anyone who follows the NFL closely knows the AFC North is the best there is in football. I mean, there’s really no debate about that, is there? With the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens all relevant and perennial postseason contenders, there is no question this is the best division. It is possible those three teams all will make it into the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, but it remains more likely that only two will make the postseason. Right now, a couple of months before the start of the regular season, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have, on paper, the best rosters in the AFC North. Baltimore’s most important games this season will be the ones against the Steelers and Bengals. Win three of the four and the Ravens could be in the mix for the division title.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: The Ravens have made the playoffs so often lately that you just kind of assume they will again this season. But in truth, the Ravens have missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons after making the postseason the first five years that Harbaugh was coach. That's not an upward trend. Joe Flacco is coming off a torn ACL, the team did not have a 700-yard rusher in 2015 and Breshad Perriman must grow into a playmaker. Add in the fact the Ravens are in a division with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and that's too tough a climb. Baltimore will not make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Yes, but that doesn’t have to be an awful thing, because the Ravens will improve greatly from the five-win campaign in 2015. The Ravens will make at least a four-win jump in 2016, but the AFC playoff picture will be crowded once again. Ten wins will likely be a requirement to qualify. The Ravens will be much improved in the secondary and should be healthier than last season. Flacco will have more weapons to utilize. This is a team trending upward, and the NFL is built for quick turnarounds. Still, it won’t be enough. The Ravens’ schedule is designed for a late-season stumble. They travel to New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the final four weeks. That’s brutal. The Ravens have taken ownership of the rivalry with the Steelers of late, so maybe that’s enough to make a push.