Fly, Ravens, fly? Super Bowl path needs playmakers, healthy Joe Flacco

Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Baltimore Ravens, who finished the season 9-7. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.

Westgate odds to win Super Bowl LIII: 40-1

Middle of the pack: The Ravens' odds to win the Super Bowl are rightfully tied for 19th in the NFL -- not as good as the Patriots (5-to-1) and not as bad as the Browns (100-1). Lagging in the middle of the road is where the Ravens have remained since hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy in 2012. Baltimore is the definition of mediocrity over the past five seasons with a 40-40 record. Want some hope? Just look at the current Super Bowl champions. Before celebrating their first Super Bowl title, the Philadelphia Eagles went 38-42 (.475) in their previous five seasons. Of course, the Eagles captured a championship with a change at head coach and quarterback.

If the Ravens want to jump from the middle of the pack to the top of it, they need to add offensive playmakers in free agency and the draft, get improved play out of quarterback Joe Flacco and receive more consistency from their defense.

Both owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh emphasized the need to bring more game-changers to the NFL's No. 27 offense. Baltimore's top receiver was Mike Wallace, who has one 1,000-yard season over the past six years, and their best tight end was Benjamin Watson, a 37-year-old coming off an Achilles injury. It's no wonder that the Ravens ranked last in the NFL with 37 plays of 20 or more yards and five touchdowns of 20-plus yards last season.

In addition to upgrading the offensive supporting cast, Baltimore has to get Flacco back on track. Since being the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco has thrown 98 touchdowns and 74 interceptions over the past five seasons for a 82.1 passer rating, which ranks No. 36 in the NFL. Injuries have been a factor for Flacco recently, but he'll also acknowledge that he hasn't played well. The Ravens are hoping he'll carry his play over the last seven games (10 touchdowns, three interceptions) into 2018.

The Ravens defense has to step up its game, and it goes beyond the troublesome scores in the final minutes of the game. Baltimore's No. 12 ranking is skewed by the level of competition. The Ravens allowed 13.3 points in nine games against backup or rookie quarterbacks. Baltimore gave up an average of 26.1 points in seven games against experienced starting quarterbacks. The Ravens have to raise their game in 2018, when they're scheduled to face the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Philip Rivers.