The Ravens won the AFC North with an identical record as the Cincinnati Bengals, 10-6. You have to figure that the Bengals will be a tough opponent next year due to their immense young talent.
Being the closely-fought division that it always is, you can’t count out the Steelers, who despite not performing at their best this past season won’t hover around .500 for much longer.
Add in the Cleveland Browns, who also have some young and exciting players, and its going to be tough for Baltimore to come out on top once again.
Despite the fact that Joe Flacco played out of his mind in the postseason, the Ravens can thank a Tom Brady off-day and a Rahim Moore mental hiccup for their Super Bowl.
After their championship, the Ravens had to bid farewell to their greatest player in franchise history, Ray Lewis. Not only will they miss his performances on the field and his presence in the locker room, but he was the emotional engine that drove Baltimore.
While Lewis is a Hall of Fame talent and perhaps the best linebacker ever, the veteran noticeably lost a step as his career winded to an end. With or without Lewis, this isn’t the same stout Ravens defense we’ve seen in the past. In 2012 the Ravens ranked only 17th in total team defense, a far cry from their perennial top five-ranked defense they’re accustomed to.
The departures this team may face in the offseason could be devastating. Ed Reed is an impeding free agent as is Paul Kruger, and center Matt Birk faces a likely retirement. The Ravens head into the offseason at just $5 million over the projected 2013 salary cap, and that’s before they get a deal done with Joe Flacco. Baltimore's offseason will likely bring about a massive overhaul, which may not be for the best.
Their regular-season struggles may prove too much to even reappear in the 2014 postseason.
Baltimore looked atrocious at times down the stretch in 2012, losing four of its last five games without Lewis in the lineup. Flacco also looked shaky during the regular season, especially on the road where he owned a QB Rating of 74.9.
Statistically and historically speaking, it is hard to repeat in the NFL. It has only happened eight times in history, the last of which was eight years ago. In those eight years, three of the reigning Super Bowl champions failed to even make the postseason. In the age of parity, it is increasingly hard to find a way to get back to the Big Dance. Baltimore faces a tough task ahead as their roster holes and lack of cap-flexibility may cripple them.