Baltimore Ravens: One Advantage over Each Division Foe in 2012
Over the last three seasons, three different teams have been crowned AFC North champs. All four teams in the division finished 2011 as a top ten defense (fewest total yards allowed per game) and each team has a quarterback to build around.
Year after year this is one of the most competitive divisions in football but I think I've found the distinct advantage the Baltimore Ravens have over each team as the preseason is right around the corner.
Cleveland Browns: Youth Movement
The Browns have done an outstanding job of stocking up on talent during the last couple drafts and they will likely be much improved in 2012. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson are the core of a rebuilt offense and the defense is led by talented/seriously underrated defensive back Joe Haden.
Besides lacking any elite pass catcher whatsoever, youth and inexperience will likely be the Browns biggest weakness this year. Weeden and Richardson are talented but the veteran defenses of the AFC North will likely give them problems in their rookie seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals: Consistent Play
Somehow the Bengals completely rebuilt their offense in only two years. Gone are diva wide receivers and complaining quarterbacks and now Cincy has a young core of offensive stars, led by receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. Even their defense has improved, ranked 7th in total defense in 2011.
The main advantage the Ravens have over this team is consistency. Baltimore has made the playoffs each of that last four seasons, reaching the AFC Championship twice during that time. Cincinnati, on the other hand, hasn't posted back-to-back winning seasons since 1981-82. That doesn't bode well for the Bengals in 2012.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Aging Roster
The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is the best of its kind in professional football so sweeping Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006 has a special place in the hearts of Ravens fans. One look at the Steelers' roster and this might be a sign of things to come.
It's quite possible that the heralded Steel Curtain defense may have nine...count em...nine starters over 30 years old. The Ravens have two and they just happen to be two future Hall of Famers. Look for the Ravens' offense to have continued success against this unit until they start to overhaul their roster. Especially the secondary, which the Steelers didn't address in the offseason.
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