Where Do the Baltimore Ravens Stand in the AFC North Now?

Mike Fast@@michaelfast1Contributor IMarch 28, 2013

courtesy: baltimoreravens.com
courtesy: baltimoreravens.com

Fifty-three days ago, the 2012 Baltimore Ravens gained access to an exclusive club, as they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy inside a euphoric Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

One hundred sixty-one days from now, Baltimore will begin the 2013 NFL regular season (on the road).

The Ravens have proven they are the best football team in the world, at least until the next season starts.

They've also proven they are the best team in the AFC North.

Since 2010, the Ravens are 14-4 in AFC North play and have won two division titles (2011, 2012). The Steelers have the next best mark with a 12-6 divisional record and one division title (2010) in that time.

The Ravens have made more than a few moves this offseason, most of which have been viewed as negative. The free agents they have signed haven't received much acclaim.

Until this past Tuesday, that is.

After passing a physical on Tuesday morning, Elvis Dumervil signed his new five-year contract and officially became a member of the Ravens. Long story short, he is a tremendous player still in his prime.

Dumervil has missed just five starts in the past five years, and has recorded 55.0 sacks in that time.

Here's a look at how Dumervil's peers view him.

Compared to the rest of the division, the Ravens are fairly young, talented and experienced.

Pittsburgh has experienced players, but many of their stars (Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, Casey Hampton) are either old, injured or old and injured. Those four players (all of whom are starters) have missed a combined 26 starts since 2011.

Cleveland is in the opposite position. They are young with no real playoff experience and will play 2013 under the direction of first-time head coach Rob Chudzinski. Since 2008, when the Ravens made a shift in leadership (head coach, quarterback), the Browns haven't won more than five games in a season.

While the Ravens should be the favorite to win the AFC North for the third time in a row, the Bengals are right there with them as strong candidates to win the division.

From 2008-2010, the Bengals won 18 games. Since 2011, when the Bengals drafted quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals have won 19 games. In a September 2012 press conference, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called Green "maybe the best receiver in football."

Green has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and is the best player on the team that's the biggest threat to the Ravens. However, he has just nine receptions for 122 yards and zero touchdowns in three games against the Ravens.

Sure the Ravens lost a lot of veteran leadership over the last few weeks, but they did retain the reigning Super Bowl MVP: Joe Flacco. If you don't think that is a very big deal, watch the tape and check the stats.

What other Super Bowl MVP, who just signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract, stops at McDonald's on his way home? There's an element of humor and humility in that which shows Flacco and the Ravens don't put themselves on a pedestal.

Baltimore's schedule will get considerably more challenging in 2013, as they'll host Super Bowl contenders New England, Green Bay and Houston, as well as Minnesota. The Ravens will also have to travel to Denver, Chicago and Detroit.

Baltimore is one of six teams (Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh) who have won a Super Bowl that still have that same combination of head coach and quarterback in tact.

In today's NFL, to have a good head coach and quarterback each year and not worry about change is a plus.

To have a Super Bowl-winning coach and quarterback who've been together for five years and know what it takes to win tough games is a major plus.