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16-0? Analytics and oddsmakers say Ravens on path to perfection

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Spears defends Lamar Jackson's style as a mobile QB (2:06)

Marcus Spears argues that Lamar Jackson's elite athletic ability means people shouldn't be nervous about him taking a catastrophic hit. (2:06)

At this time last year, the Baltimore Ravens were considered a middle-of-the pack team in the NFL, the third best in their division, and in coach John Harbaugh's estimation, an iceberg.

"Ninety percent of what we were going to be capable of was still underwater and people hadn't seen it yet," he said.

As the start of this year's training camp nears, titanic expectations await reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.

Analytics and oddsmakers have the Ravens favored to win all 16 games this season. Baltimore looks just as strong or even better than last season, when it won its last 12 regular-season games to finish 14-2. The Ravens return all but one starter from the NFL's highest-scoring offense and improved the front seven, the weakest part of the defense.

If that doesn't set up the Ravens for success, they play teams whose combined 2019 winning percentage was .438 (worst in the NFL) and travel a total of 6,310 miles, the lowest of any team over the past four years. The Ravens play outside the Eastern time zone only once (a Week 2 game at Houston) and go a stretch of 47 days in which they won't have to board a plane (three home games, short road trips to Washington and Philadelphia in addition to a bye).

As a result, Baltimore is projected to win 12 of its games by over a field goal, including eight by more than a touchdown, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. The easiest game on the Ravens' schedule is home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, whom Baltimore is predicted to beat by 15.9 points.

What does Harbaugh think about all this 16-0 talk?

"It really is just noise -- it's static, it's background," Harbaugh said. "You can't let other people define you. You define yourself."

The 2007 New England Patriots are the only team to record a perfect regular season since the NFL expanded to its 16-game schedule in 1978. Only three other teams -- the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears and the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- have completed undefeated and untied regular seasons in the 101-year history of the league. Only six teams have finished 15-1 and just two of them (1984 49ers and 1985 Bears) won a Super Bowl.

"At the end of the day, the only expectations that matter are the ones that we have for ourselves," Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin said. "If we go out there and say our expectation is to win a Super Bowl, we'll have to start with Week 1. I think [Harbaugh] is great on talking about that and talking about how it starts at Week 1. It doesn't start at Week 16; it doesn't start at the Super Bowl. You have to build yourself a Super Bowl team."

Jackson doesn't lose many regular-season games that he's expected to win, which is why Baltimore being favored in every game this season is so significant. The Ravens are 15-1 as the betting favorites with Jackson as their starting quarterback. Baltimore's .938 win percentage as the favorite with Jackson is the best in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Ravens' toughest games are home on Sept. 28 against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and at the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 18. Baltimore is listed as a 2.5-point favorite in both games.

"We have the Ravens and Chiefs pretty much dead even on a neutral field," said Jeff Davis, the director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook.

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Why Stephen A. doesn't consider Lamar Jackson one of NFL's top 2 QBs

Stephen A. Smith makes a case that Lamar Jackson hasn't done enough yet to be considered one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL.

Few saw Baltimore and Kansas City on equal footing last summer, when the Ravens were ranked No. 16 in ESPN's preseason Football Power Index and had the third-best odds to win the AFC North, behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

Now, Jackson is on the cover of the Madden video game. The Ravens return a dozen Pro Bowl players. Baltimore is the consensus No. 2 team in the NFL, behind the Chiefs, in the Power Rankings.

There's no ambushing teams this season.

"I think there's always a challenge when you have a target on your back, and that just comes with the territory," Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "Everyone's going to bring their best game when they play you, so you just have to be ready for that. And, if you're not ready for that, then you really don't deserve to be the best. So, that just comes with the territory."

ESPN's David Bearman contributed to this article.