Over the past three seasons, parity in the NFL has been mostly ignored by the AFC North. Excluding the remarkable Cincinnati Bengals run in 2009, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have showcased themselves in a two-horse race for the division crown in recent years.
This season should provide fans with an extra lap to the same exciting race. Pittsburgh has retained many key players from its Super Bowl run of last season and again poses a daunting task to its biggest challenger.
The Ravens lost several key veterans in Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Kelly Gregg this offseason, but welcome back ageless superstars Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
To replace the aforementioned playmakers, head coach John Harbaugh will have to turn to the help of several youngsters acquired in the 2011 and 2010 drafts. Time will tell if they are up to the task of picking up where their predecessors left off.
In recent years, Baltimore's finest have been blanketed in the black and yellow shadow of the Steelers. Pittsburgh quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has posted a career 9-2 record against his rivals, and has not lost to them since 2006.
Will this year provide a stage for the Ravens to reclaim their long-lost division title? Let's take a brief glance at their 2011 schedule to find out.