Once upon a midnight deary, players and coaches wondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious blitzes of forgotten lore, and while they all nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as if someone was gently rapping, rapping at their stadium doors. “Tis some visitor,” They muttered tapping at our stadium door...” but little do they know outside stand; Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and John Harbaugh all saying “You as Super Bowl Champions? Quoth the Raven- NEVERMORE.”
Baltimore Raven fans, LISTEN UP! Start purchasing your tickets to Arlington, Texas for Super Bowl XLV because that is exactly where you are going. All the pieces are now coming together in Maryland. After a fantastic draft and a robbery of a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for WR Anquan Boldin, the Ravens have now ascended the crystal staircase to the elite NFL teams.
Yes this may be a little premature, but, I would seriously lookout for these Baltimore Ravens. Last year they started out of the gates, flying full speed and quickly got off to a 3-0 start before stumbling to a 3-3 record, before eventually finishing the season 9-7, losing 20-3 in Indianapolis Colts.
One main problem that plagued this team was the injury to Ed Reed and a lack of play makers in the secondary. Ed Reed being injured really effected this team. Whenever the opposing quarterback scans the field he is always thinking “Where the hell is Reed?” and that little split second hesitation usually causes the quarterback to go down, or make an ill advised throw that could potentially be intercepted. Without Ed in the lineup the lack of play makers in the secondary really caused a lot of problems. Baltimore still doesn't really have an answer for its only real potential weakness. That is why many applauded the Ravens draft but questioned it as well when no needs in the secondary were met. Best option for the Baltimore Ravens would be to sign one of the veteran corners still available in free agency such as, Will Allen, Dre Bly, Fred Smoot, Ken Lucas, etc. But, until this need is addressed the Ravens do have one glaring weakness, and it is their cornerback position.
However, when it comes to the defensive line and linebackers, this team ranks tops of the NFL. I think one rookie to lookout for is Sergio Kindle from Texas. He will undoubtedly benefit from the wisdom of arguably one of the greatest linebackers of all time in Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs will mentor Sergio and in time, he will undoubtedly be a Pro Bowler. Well... there is one slight problem. All 3 of the previous mentioned linebackers will probably experience a decline in their numbers for the fact that offensive players will actually have a tough time making it to the second line of defense when a combined total of 699 pounds is waiting for them dead center at the line of scrimmage, in Terrance Cody and Haloti Ngata. They are both very young (21 & 26) and will cause a lot of havoc. With all these positives, there is still one more problem.
The other huge problem that hurt this team was the fact that they practically had only one play maker, by the name Ray Rice. While Derrick Mason is a great wideout, before the end of the season he will be hitting 37 and I don't see him lasting much more than 1 season. The 2nd starting wide receiver is Mark Clayton, and while he has some skill and can get open, I just don't trust the consistency of his hands, especially after he went butterfingers on 4th down when the Ravens were deep in New England Patriot territory that I truly believe cost them the game. That is why I believe the Ravens made the best off-season move by trading for disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Joe Flacco must be sending John Harbaurgh and Raven management roses and chocolates everyday since they made this trade. Boldin is the key missing puzzle piece that this team needs. Anquan has spent 7 seasons in the NFL and has over 1,000 yards receiving in 5 of those 7 seasons (some seasons were marred by injury.) Now, Joe Flacco has 2 great receivers to throw to and hopefully now that opposing defenses will actually have to think about covering more than just Derrick Mason, will open up more running lanes for Ray Rice.
Ray Rice is a special player that I truly believe will be in absolute contention for MVP of the NFL alongside fellow quarterback Joe Flacco. Ray Rice was this team's offense last year. Racking up 1,339 yards rushing, 8 TD's (7 rush, 1 receiving) and just broke 700 yards receiving (702). I honestly think with all these new additions to this team, Ray Rice will resemble Marshall Faulk of 1999, in which Faulk rushed and received for over 1,000 yards. As for Joe Flacco, with an upgraded defense, and new weapons on offense, I can see him throwing for 4,000 yards and about 30 touchdowns next to about only 10 interceptions.
Also, as a little aside, may it be noted that my personal offensive rookie of the year, Michael Oher, is being moved to left tackle to protect Flacco's blindside. One thing is for sure, Joe Cool's jersey will remain clean and crisp this entire season. With a great offensive line giving Joe Flacco time to throw and Ray Rice open wholes to run through, they will both see the end-zone so many times, these Ravens might as well rent out a nest. Oh, and by the way, one huge problem for the NFL and especially the AFC North, is that both Michael Oher and Ray Rice are both 23, and Joe Flacco is 25, so sorry to the AFC North teams, I hope you didn't plan on winning very many games for the next.... I don't know. 6-10 years?
To wrap it all up, the Baltimore Ravens will be the AFC Champions. They have the quarterback, the coach, the leadership, the fans, the everything. Their division is weakening. With Big Ben's legal problems, the Cleveland Browns in the rebuilding stage, and Carson Palmer getting up in age, it's all but guaranteed that the Baltimore Ravens will be wearing their AFC North Divisional Champion hats and tees for the next few seasons. This is a potential dynasty in the making, so just to let you know if the Ravens are holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year, that I called it.