The Baltimore Ravens thrived in 2011 with a strong defense and successful ground game. Joe Flacco pitched in with 3,600 yards, but they didn't have a receiver hit 1,000 yards.
Torrey Smith needs to step up this season if the Ravens are going to retain their AFC North crown and get past the conference championship game.
Baltimore's defense wasn't expected to carry the load in 2012. Cary Williams had a game-altering interception return for a touchdown on Thursday night, but the unit will struggle without Terrell Suggs.
They entered Thursday's contest tied for 15th in points allowed and near the bottom of the league in yards allowed.
Ray Rice will continue to do his work to lead the Raven offense. He's a threat on any play, be it carrying the ball or working in the passing game.
But Flacco needs some help from his receivers to move the chains.
Anquan Boldin is a solid possession receiver and Dennis Pitta will give consistent production from the tight end spot. But the offense needs a deep threat that can stretch the field and make plays.
Smith has the talent to take that role and will be the difference in the team squeaking into the playoffs or pounding its way to the Super Bowl.
The first two weeks of 2012 should have had Ravens fans concerned with Smith and the offense. He had a total of just 108 receiving yards and hadn't found the end zone.
Week 3 was an emotional one for Smith as his family lost his younger brother, Tevin Jones, in a motorcycle accident early that morning. Smith responded with one of the best games of his young career, posting 127 receiving yards and his first touchdown of 2012.
The Ravens need him to prove that can be his norm, not just an emotional reaction to a tragic event.
He did just that on Thursday night, posting 97 yards and a touchdown on six receptions during the first three quarters.
Smith was quiet in the fourth quarter. Boldin had a better matchup and Smith missed time after limping off the field.
Torrey Smith has yet to play a down since leaving the game with injury. Been jogging on sideline though.— Ravens RapidReports (@CBSRavens) September 28, 2012
The good news for Ravens fans is he showed he can be the spark the Ravens need on offense. Their passing game needs to flourish for them to win games this season and Smith will be the key to their production.
The Ravens can go as far as Smith will take them in 2012.