Baltimore Ravens: So Close Last Year. Can They Go All The Way in 2009?

Shamira TuckerCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 07: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens yells incouragement to Ed Reed #20 against the San Francisco 49ers before an NFL game on October 7, 2007 at Monster Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

I am sure most of us can agree that the Baltimore Ravens did a phenomenal job this past 2008-2009 season. Even though it ended in a disappointing loss in the Playoffs. But what a turn around for the team, with terrific draft picks that were made, the right element with Coach John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco on fire his rookie season!

Once again we proved to all of those doubters out there that the Ravens aren't a team to sleep on... They are still a solid performing team. Those holes in offense were patched up and we got out of that slump, from the previous season, and back on top of playing as one of the best.

Now onto my realistic expectations for the 2009-2010 NFL season.

The Ravens can make it to the playoffs again. But how do they get there? First of all, they need to keep Joe Flacco healthy. He made a few "classic" rookie mistakes last year but he will come back playing even more impressive than his debut season.

But what gave me hope that we had finally found something special in a QB, was in the third quarter of the home opener where Flacco made a 38 yard TD run. WOW! I knew the Ravens were onto something good.

The offense still needs to acquire some more strength. Eliminate what weaknesses still may exist on that side of the fence. It can be done. Point blank, the offense needs to develop more of a bond, a trust with one another. You could see some uncertainty periodically during games. Effective communication is key.

What also needs to happen is getting back to normal on being a top performer in third down conversions and in the red zone. Last season was just a bit of a disappointment in that area. 

Avoid penalties as much as possible. Some mistakes that were made on the part of some players were careless ones that could have been prevented. Don't slack on performance, stay "in the zone" at all times and don't let your focus be broken.

What it will also take to exceed this upcoming season will be team unity on the part of the players, coaches and staff working together cohesively all the time.

Another is OFFENSE, OFFENSE, OFFENSE has to be up to par, nothing less. We have the right players to get the job done but they must play tenaciously every single game and not let the other team see them sweat. They must stay resilient.

The Ravens can't afford to lose their top players during the season. But rookies always have their time to shine and contribute to the team whenever their team calls on them. Hardly ever have they let the team down when they needed them the most.

Defense needs to get back to being healthy due to some injuries sustained throughout last season. Hopefully all those that were a little banged up will be in peak performance playing shape by the time pre-season rolls around. It was a relief that Ray Lewis was re-signed and Terrell Suggs franchised. Two MVPs in my book.

What could potentially be some downfalls or obstacles for the Ravens in 2009 are the fact that Rex Ryan left big shoes to fill in Baltimore. Finding the right fit will be a good test to the team. How well will everyone click and work together?

That will be interesting to see what the team decides upon.

Another stipulation may be that the offense still is not exactly where it needs to be but practice makes perfect. Good draft picks were obtained that should be a wonderful help. There still is a ways to go before the Ravens offense can be on that same magnificent pedestal as their defense, one of the best in the league; to be feared.

The team of purple and black will once again be a force to be reckoned with. Just making sure the team overall is on top of their game is crucial. Making the right play calls is just as important. But the Baltimore Ravens are going to come back being refreshed, robust and ready to play smashmouth football this year.