2010 NFL Preview: Ravens Go 12-4, Finish Second in AFC North
The Baltimore Ravens have made some great moves this off-season to really improve the team. Like their arch rivals the Steelers, anyone who thinks the Ravens are just another great "D" are in for a big surprise. The Ravens have all the tools to be an offensive powerhouse. That is with or without Jared Gaither at right tackle on the offensive line.
What will hold the Ravens back from winning the AFC North, and taking home field advantage throughout the playoffs? They have one tough schedule. On top of that, two of the old guard warriors on defense have to stay healthy if they want to keep those old bodies on the field. No matter how good their fill-ins, not having Ray Lewis and Ed Reed out there will hurt.
So I have the Ravens at 12-4 and finishing just behind the Steelers. This will set up another AFC Championship potentially in Pittsburgh. You may not agree with my analysis or predictions, so feel free to chime in.
Game 1 @ NY Jets
If there is one team who improved themselves more than the Ravens did this off-season, it was the NY Jets. The Ravens open the season traveling up to New Jersey where the Jets will open their new stadium.
Between the new stadium and Rex Ryan looking to show up his old team, the Jets come in sky high for this opening Monday night game of the year.
Their shut-down corners do the job on Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. The rest of the defense smothers the Baltimore running game. The Jets D looks a lot like the Ravens; for good reason too.
In the meantime, the Jets have a one-two punch of LT and Greene to go along with Ravens-killer Santonio Holmes. But it is the Jets up-and-coming tight end Dustin Keller who puts the nail in the coffin of the Ravens.
The Jets open up the new stadium with a 24-17 win!
Game 2 @ Cincinnati Bengals
Week 2 has the Ravens still on the road and starting off a three-week stretch against their AFC North rivals. The Bengals remain true to form. They can't put two consecutive good years together.
The Ravens flex their offensive muscles against the Bengals, lighting them up for 36 points. In the meantime, the Ravens D, after losing to the Jets, shuts out the lights on the Bengals and holding them to 12 points.
Final: 36-12 Ravens for their first win of the season.
Game 3 Cleveland Browns
The Ravens home-opener has the hapless Cleveland Browns coming to town. Jake Delhomme is starting for the Browns, and the Ravens feast on interceptions.
In the meantime, a very balanced Baltimore offense fires on all cylinders. Ray Rice runs for 100 yards, and Boldin goes over 100 yards receiving for the day.
The Ravens win this one 28-14.
Game 4 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh. Not one of their favorite places to play, but Big Ben is still out on suspension. The Ravens find Heinz Field a little more friendly without him.
It is a real un-Steelers-Ravens game, with a final score of 31-28. The Ravens win on a last second field goal.
Game 5 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos come to town for game five, and no Tim Tebow is not the starter. But Brady Quinn gets his first start of the year as Josh McDaniels is moving beyond Kyle Orton.
But it really doesn't make a difference who is playing quarterback for Denver. John Elway couldn't help here. The Ravens just overwhelm them on both sides of the ball.
It's a party Sunday as the Ravens win an easy one, 28-10.
Game 6 @ New England Patriots
The Ravens return to the scene of their last win of last year. Tom Brady remembers that loss well. He and the rest of the Pats have something to prove.
He and Coach Belichick craft a masterful game plan that keeps the Ravens off-balance. Plus, the Patriots play a hard-hitting game that leaves a few Ravens, including Lewis, pretty banged up.
Brady leads a late drive in the fourth quarter and the Pats take one from the Ravens, 24-21.
Game 7 Buffalo Bills
The Ravens are mad about the loss to New England and the poor Bills pay the price. Buffalo comes to town, and they are just not equipped to compete with the likes of the Ravens.
It isn't pretty, but the Ravens rest a lot of starters in the fourth quarter, giving some rookies some playing time.
The Ravens win this one 31-6
Game 8 Miami Dolphins
With a bye week to heal up some nicks and bruises, the Ravens next entertain the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have a very balanced offense and a tough-nosed defense.
The Ravens give as good as they get in one of the toughest games of the season. The Ravens are very lucky to escape with a 21-17 victory over the 'Fins.
Game 9 @ Atlanta Falcons
The Ravens travel down to Atlanta to take on the dangerous Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan tries his best to lead the birds to victory but he comes up short.
The Atlanta defense is not up to stopping the Ravens balanced attack. Flacco lights up the scoreboard, and the Ravens win a surprisingly high scoring game 27-24.
Game 10 @ Carolina Panthers
The Ravens next game finds them traveling down to Charlotte to play the Panthers. Rookie QB Jimmy Clauses wishes they didn't.
The Ravens again put 28 points up on the board and hold the Panthers to 14 points. But the punishing Panther runners again beat up some of the Raven defenders.
The Ravens win this one 28-14.
Game 11 Tampay Bay Buccaneers
Next up: the Tampa Bay Bucs come to town. This one should be a blow out, but the Bucs put up a fight.
Flacco has all he can handle to lead the Ravens to a late touchdown and preserve a 17-14 win for the Ravens.
Heading into a showdown game with the Steelers, the Ravens are pretty beat up, especially Lewis.
Game 12 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers come to town led by Ben Roethlisberger. A few wins under his belt and Steelers Nation loves him again.
This is a typical Steeler-Ravens classic. Ben somehow finds a way though and leads the Steelers on a late drive capped by a Jeff Reed field goal. The Steelers squeak by 24-21 to take over first place in the AFC North.
Game 13 @ Houston Texans
The Ravens are in for another tough one this week. The Texans are a legit playoff contender.
The Texans give the Ravens all they can handle, but at the end of the day the Ravens offense is too much. They win 34-27.
Game 14 New Orleans Saints
It doesn't get any easier for the Ravens as the teeth of the schedule takes its toll. The defending Super Bowl champions Saints come to town. The Ravens would give them a run for their money, but coming off two tough games against the Steelers and Houston, they just don't have what it takes.
The Saints solve the Ravens offense by shutting down Boldin, and stacking the box to shut down the Ravens running game. In the meantime, the Saints offense is just too much.
The Saints win this 28-19, giving the Ravens their fourth and final loss of the regular season.
Game 15 @ Cleveland Browns
The Ravens take out their frustrations against the week sisters of the AFC North. The Browns can't do much as the Ravens are marching to the playoffs.
They beat the poor Browns 28-6.
Game 16 Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens close out the regular season at home against the Bengals. They need the win to nail down the top Wild Card spot over the Patriots, who own a win in head-to-head action.
The Bengals have packed up and are looking for next year all ready. The Ravens win their final regular season game, 21-10.
They are 12-4 the top Wild Card heading into the playoffs, looking to meet Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game one more time. Anything less than the Super Bowl though is not good enough
Playoffs and beyond
The Ravens are in the hunt for the trophy. How will they do? You will have to wait for my playoff preview to find out.
Hope you find this entertaining, and I'm interested in what you think.