The Ravens are going to be a competitive team this season, barring serious injury, and should finish with ten wins in the regular season. They have all of the pieces in place and are a better team than when the season ended last year. Joe Flacco should only improve, and the Ravens have helped him at tight end by picking up L.J. Smith and on the offensive line with the drafting of Michael Oher.
There are several factors that could contribute to the Ravens doing poorly. If Joe Flacco doesn’t progress (or worse, if he regresses) the Ravens won’t do as well. Last year Flacco played beyond expectations for a rookie quarterback, but he still had a few “rookie” games. He didn’t fare so well against the Colts or the Giants, throwing five interceptions and just one touchdown in games against those teams.
Furthermore, the Ravens are in a tough conference. The Steelers won the Super Bowl and they were able to retain all of their importance pieces. The Browns could also be a dangerous team. They have young, talented quarterbacks and an offense that was explosive the season before last. With Eric Mangini taking over the coaching duties, the Browns could make some waves in the AFC North.
Finally, the Ravens must remain healthy. Like every team in the NFL, injuries are going to affect how well the team does to a degree. For the Ravens, there are several key players who must stay healthy for them to contend. Baltimore can probably weather through a quarterback injury as Troy Smith isn’t much of a drop off (if any) from Joe Flacco, but if they lose any of their leaders on defense, such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, or Haloti Ngata, it could be a long season. Remember, just 2 years back the Ravens only won five games. Injuries on their defense played a huge role in their poor showing. They made the playoffs in the both seasons that bookended their 5-11 outing, which, in retrospect, makes that losing season seem like more of an anomaly than a trend.
However, if the Ravens can avoid all of these hazards, they have a puncher’s chance of making it to the Super Bowl and even winning it. They have a championship caliber defense, and their offense seems just good enough to win most games. If this sounds familiar, it’s because that is the exact same formula that won them a Super Bowl in 2000.