Baltimore Ravens: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

Alexander YoungbloodContributor IIIJune 1, 2011

Baltimore Ravens: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Im
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens have been perennial playoff shoo-ins the past few years in the AFC North.

    This year looks to be no different with the Ravens hoping to top their division and make a bid for the Super Bowl.

    With the close loss to the arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, the Ravens are looking to come back with a vengeance.

    Here are some bold predictions for the Ravens' 2011-12 season.

Ray Lewis Will Have Another 100-Plus Solo Tackles Season

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    There is no doubt who the backbone of the Ravens team is: Ray Lewis.

    The nightmarish linebacker has not slowed down his motor over his 15-season career and continues to outperform most of his younger counterparts in his position.

    At 36, his chances of getting another Super Bowl ring are waning, but the Ravens are poised to have one of their best seasons, and I expect Ray Lewis to lead the defensive push for the team.

    Lewis had one of his better seasons of the past five years last season, recording 102 solo tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

    I expect more of the same passion from Lewis this year as he tries to will his team to the top once again.

The Ravens Will Sweep Both Regular-Season Games Against the Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball after being hit by safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh,
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The opening week for the Ravens will be stellar.

    Playing on September 11th at their home field against the Steelers, I expect them to come out with all guns blazing.

    The disappointing loss in the playoffs will still be fresh in the Ravens' mind and Joe Flacco will play with resolve and precision.

    With their bye in Week 5, I expect them to run through the Texans, Jaguars and Cardinals after losing to the Jets at home in Week 4. 

    The Ravens will ride this momentum through to their game at Pittsburgh and place themselves in prime position for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Jimmy Smith Will Have an Immediate Impact

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    AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 10: Jordan Shipley #8 of the Texas Longhorns wrestles for control of the ball with cornerback Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes for an incomplete pass on October 10, 2009 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Tex
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Jimmy Smith was an excellent choice for the Ravens first pick.

    GM Ozzie Newsome said this about Smith when asked which rookie would have the biggest impact:

    "I think Jimmy will have the biggest, and I kind of hope so because [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] wants me to be right on this one.  So, I need for Jimmy to have the biggest impact this year."

    Smith has all the tools to be an immediate presence on the field and establish his reputation as a shutdown corner.

    Newsome said: "Jimmy’s impact may not be in interceptions, [pass breakups] or a bunch of tackles.  It might be that people get to the point very early on into the season not to throw at him.  When that happens, that will allow our defense to do a lot of creative things.”

    Smith's size and ability will open up a lot of other areas for the Ravens on defense.

The Ravens Will Be a One of the More Prepared Teams Post-Lockout

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    HONOLULU, HI - FEBRUARY 04:  In this handout photo provided by Pepsi MAX, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on the set of the Funny Or Die Pepsi MAX video on February 4, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Pepsi MAX via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    The NFL Lockout has been haunting all the teams this season.

    A players-only practice took place last week as they are set on performing well with each other this season.

    Joe Flacco, when asked about his rookie players, stated: "The young guys are staying at a hotel and I'm staying with them."

    Ray Lewis' charismatic interview on ESPN, in which he gave his opinion of the lockout, shows the resolve the leaders of the team have while overcoming the struggles from the lockout.

The Ravens Will Clinch AFC North and Go to the AFC Championship

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09:  Linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a play during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    With a strong regular season showing, I predict the Ravens will clinch the AFC North and secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. 

    They will then make it to at least the AFC championship game for the first time since their loss to the Steelers in 2009.

    The main concern this season will be if the offensive line will be able to be strong, secure a run game and protect Flacco, who was sacked more times last season than any other.

    Newsome has strengthened the offensive line with the drafting of NFL-ready tackle Jah Reid out of UCF.

    If their line can hold up, will a Super Bowl be waiting in the wings?

    Only time will tell, but I expect an extremely strong showing from this high-powered team this season.