Last season the Ravens made a surprising run to the AFC Championship game, something that nobody expected was possible.
Generally, when a team ends their season just one game shy of the Super Bowl expectations the next season are incredibly high.
I am a die hard Ravens fan but I always have realistic expectations for my team. Some fans automatically expect this team to win the Super Bowl just because of where they finished last year and many fans often have blinders on when it comes to looking at their team.
This year’s Ravens team is more then capable of making a return trip back to the AFC Championship game but I am not penciling them in there yet. My realistic expectations for this team are a Wild Card berth and a return trip back to the playoffs.
Given everything that has happened in the offseason and the amount of parody from season to season in the NFL it is really hard to realistically expect your team to win the Super Bowl.
I thought that the Ravens could of done more in this free agency period to get them over the hump and make expectations even higher. Defensively this team lost its starting linebacker and starting safety and the mastermind behind the defense. These tools will be hard to replace and are one of the reasons my expectations are not as high as others.
For years the Ravens have wasted a Super Bowl caliber defense because of an inept offense and I thought that this season the identity of this franchise should of shifted to offense.
The Ravens defense will likely not be a top five defense like it was the past nine seasons but having a top 15 offense should combat this and make the team very hard to beat.
In the draft however the Ravens only addressed the offensive side of the ball with a right tackle in the 1st round, tight end in the 5th round and running back in the 6thround.
In my opinion this team was one big time playmaker away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender for years and I believe they dropped the ball this offseason.
For the first time in the history of the franchise the Ravens finally have a "franchise" quarterback but he need some weapons to throw to. I understand that protecting him is vital and believe that Michael Oher will bolster the offensive line and help protect Joe Flacco for many years.
However, you could have all the time in the world to throw but if you do not have people to get open then your offense will not be successful.
Anquan Boldin would of put this team over the top and I believe would of led them to the Super Bowl. The Ravens could still get him but as of right now it looks like he will stay in Arizona.
Another reason I do not have incredibly high expectations for this team in 2009 is because of their schedule, their division and Tom Brady.
The Ravens have a tough schedule and as everyone knows, there is no "gimmie" in the NFL. Last season the Ravens schedule was tough on paper but during the season, many of their opponents under achieved which many people believe watered down their schedule.
I usually do not put too much stock in analyzing the schedule in the offseason, but right now, it looks like a difficult, but not impossible road for the Ravens.
Last season the AFC North had the two best teams in the AFC and two of the worst teams in the NFL but this season I do not see the division being this bad.
The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is quickly becoming the fiercest in all of pro football but last season the Steelers defeated the Ravens in all three match ups. If the Ravens are to reach "the promised land" they will need to go through Pittsburgh which is no easy task.
Lastly the Ravens will also have to deal with teams from other divisions that are going to be in the Wild Card hunt. The Patriots finished with the same record as the Ravens last season but missed the playoffs because of the tie- breakers. With Tom Brady back under center it looks like the Patriots will be one of the elite teams in the NFL yet again.
The Jets, Bills and Texans also improved and the Colts,Titans, Chargers and Broncos should be right in the thick of the playoff hunt. With so few spots and so many teams fighting for those spots, teams have to play their best week in and week out to win.
There is no doubt that the expectations are there and this is one of the most talented Ravens team in the history of the franchise. I am more then a realist of other people so I am not going to anoint the Ravens just yet.
All that being said, I would be surprised to see this team not make the playoffs in 2009.