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Propinion: Ravens longshots for Super Bowl 51

The biggest sporting event of the year has now past, a new Super Bowl champion has been crowned and, unfortunately this year, it was not the Baltimore Ravens. Now that the Ravens’ tumultuous 2015 season is now over, hope for a better 2016 season can begin. However, the Ravens’ current state does not provide much hope at all that the Ravens will claim their third Lombardi trophy.

In 2015, the Ravens only managed to win five of their 16 games. They averaged 20.5 points per game and allowed an average of 25.1 points per game, resulting in their opponents outscoring them 401–328 throughout the season.

The biggest reason for the Ravens’ 2015 failures is due to an unusually large amount of injuries to the team’s starting lineup. Throughout the season, Baltimore lost key players on both sides of the ball, including Pro Bowlers linebacker Terrell Suggs, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith Jr and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Twenty-two of Baltimore’s players went down with season ending injuries, the seventh most in the league.

Even though the Ravens will improve in 2016 with the return of their injured players, they will have to best their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, who both competed in the playoffs this season. The Bengals were seen as one of the best teams in the NFL until their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, injured his thumb and missed the remainder of the season.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook recently announced the odds for every single team to reach the next Super Bowl. The Steelers were given 8-1 odds, the Bengals 14-1 and the Ravens only received 30-1.

To reach the next Super Bowl, the Ravens would also be forced to face NFL powerhouses in the New England Patriots, and newly crowned Super Bowl champions Denver Broncos.

The offseason is yet another challenge the Ravens will have to face on their way to next season. The Ravens are currently expected to already have reached the limit of next year’s $153 million salary cap.

This means that the Ravens will have to free up salary-cap space to pay players they add in the offseason. To do that, they will most likely have to part ways or renegotiate contracts with star players like Forsett and Flacco, who both have contracts with large cap hits that are currently crippling the Ravens.

Fortunately for the Ravens, they enter next season with a top 10 passing offense despite the injuries to Flacco and Smith. Additionally, 11 of their nine losses were only by a margin of eight points or less.