The Baltimore Ravens have been considered a top team each of the past four years, but this reputation might be sliding in 2012.
The Ravens have numerous questions to answer through the remainder of the offseason and training camp.
If these questions go unanswered, the Ravens will struggle this season.
Questions exist on both sides of the ball, so the Ravens will have trouble dealing with them all, but they must if they are to once again challenge for a Super Bowl.
These five questions demand answers before the Ravens can be considered contenders to repeat as AFC North champions.
Maybe the No. 1 question facing the Ravens this season is the status of their offensive line.
Last year, the offensive line was merely average. While they opened up lanes for Ray Rice fairly well, if inconsistently, they struggled with pass protection at times.
The Houston Texans really exposed the Ravens' offensive line in the playoffs, constantly harassing Joe Flacco and shutting down the Ravens' running game.
This year, the O-line will be even weaker, with Ben Grubbs moving on to New Orleans.
With Bryant McKinnie and Matt Birk aging and a new starter at left guard, the Ravens' offensive line looks like a major weakness heading into this season.
If Birk and McKinnie hold up, though, the Ravens could be solid. Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid and Bobbie Williams should be able to hold the left guard spot down without much of a hitch.
Ultimately, the strength of the offensive line will be determined not by the new guard, but by the play of the tackles. McKinnie and Michael Oher were inconsistent in 2011, and if they don't improve this season, the offense will struggle.
The Ravens are expecting big things from both of them, though, so there is hope that the offensive line will improve. Their improvement will make or break the 2012 season.
When Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles during the offseason, the Ravens pass rush went from fearsome to a major weakness.
Luckily, Suggs' return is a possibility for this season.
Don Banks of SI.com notes that the Ravens are hoping for Suggs to return as a situational pass rusher.
The Ravens will need to be conservative with Suggs, or his career could be at stake. Achilles injuries are difficult to recover from, so the Ravens must not rush Suggs back.
Suggs seems to be recovering quickly, which is great news for the Ravens.
Without Suggs, the Ravens can't win a Super Bowl in 2012. They don't have a proven pass-rusher to take his place, so a quick recovery would be a godsend for the Ravens.
Suggs will continue to rehab and work out in training camp, and how he looks will be one of the hot-button issues for the media.
At that time he will give a good idea of how his recovery is going, and whether or not he will play in 2012.
That Ed Reed has been an outspoken problem this offseason is common knowledge, and that could be a problem if he brings his discontent to training camp.
Of course, this is all assuming that Reed even shows up to camp. Reed is not happy with the fact that his contract is expiring, and he feels disrespected.
All this could add up to an absent Reed in training camp, but if he does show up, will he be a problem?
He could spread his discontent throughout the locker room if given the chance. Reed is a team leader, and if he is unhappy, that could spread quickly.
Reed's attitude will have a big impact on the Ravens' secondary in 2012. A happy Reed would lead a stellar secondary, but if Reed is a malcontent, he could prove to be a liability this season.
Joe Flacco had a down year in 2011. A new group of receivers and a shortened offseason kept Flacco from taking the next step last season.
This season, though, Flacco will have the same tight ends, same top receivers and a full offseason to gel with them.
Thus, Flacco will have no excuses in 2012.
By all accounts, Flacco has been sharp this offseason, which could bode well for the Ravens.
His first real test, though, will be in training camp going against a live defense. The Ravens' secondary is superb, so if Flacco can find success against them, he should play well in 2012.
Billy Cundiff's missed field goal to end the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots was one of the most painful memories in franchise history.
By missing that kick, Cundiff put himself firmly on the hot seat in 2012.
The Ravens were expected to bring in some competition for him, but they only brought in an undrafted free agent in former Texas Longhorn Justin Tucker.
Tucker won't be really given a fair chance to win the job, but the Ravens could still bring in a veteran.
More likely than not, Cundiff will make the team, though, so he will remain a major question this season.
If Cundiff struggles mightily in training camp, the boo birds will be cawing for his release. While that's unlikely, it could make Cundiff an even more unpopular figure, and it could lead to even more struggles in 2012.