The Ravens defeated the mighty San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl last season, but there are some doubts surrounding the team given some key losses in the offseason.
Meanwhile, Manning got a new toy in former New England Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker.
Will the Ravens push past the doubters this season?
I think they will.
Baltimore is just one of the teams I expect to surprise in 2013-14. Read on for my top contenders to surprise as well as my Week 1 NFL power rankings.
Note: The top contenders to surprise are ranked in order of most surprising.
3. Baltimore Ravens
So, legendary safety Ed Reed left in the offseason. So did safety Bernard Pollard. So did outside linebacker Paul Kruger. So did inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. So did receiver Anquan Boldin.
Oh yeah, and Ray Lewis retired.
With that being said, the Ravens also signed some guy named Elvis Dumervil, had a strong draft with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown, and grabbed a great fit in former New York Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty.
The Ravens still have Joe Flacco too. Flacco's value in the regular season can be debated, but there's no question that the veteran raises his level of play when the postseason comes around.
2. St. Louis Rams
Opinions vary on just how much St. Louis will improve this season after a strong offseason.
The Rams added two potential future stars in receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree, grabbed four-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long, and added former Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook.
There are some concerns in the backfield after the departure of longtime stalwart Steven Jackson, but the Rams intend on employing a spread offense to at least partially mask Jackson's absence.
Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to show he can make a difference this season after improving in 2012. He has the weapons to do so. I think it could all come together for Jeff Fisher's squad.
1. Miami Dolphins
I liked what the Dolphins were doing the moment they hired former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin before the 2012 season.
First and foremost, Philbin has put in place a fine coaching staff. That was evident when young quarterback Ryan Tannehill gradually improved throughout the course of the 2012 campaign.
Adding former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Mike Wallace was another step in the right direction, as was inking former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes and former Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
The Dolphins have toyed with the idea of going .500 every season since reaching the playoffs in 2008-09. I think the Dolphins do that and more in 2013.
Ryan Rudnansky's Week 1 NFL Power Rankings
|2||San Francisco 49ers|
|3||Green Bay Packers|
|6||New England Patriots|
|11||New Orleans Saints|
|12||New York Giants|
|17||St. Louis Rams|
|20||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|24||San Diego Chargers|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs|
|30||New York Jets|