Super Bowl Predictions: What the Baltimore Ravens Must Do to Win the Big Game

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2011

Super Bowl Predictions: What the Baltimore Ravens Must Do to Win the Big Game

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    CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 26:  Linebacker Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates as he leaves the field after their game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Super Bowl predictions are heating up as we get closer and closer to the playoffs, and we're taking a look at the Baltimore Ravens.

    The Ravens are a team that has flown under the radar a bit this season and have drawn the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round. If Baltimore wants to get to the Super Bowl, there are certain things that need to happen, and I outline that inside.

    If you agree or disagree, let it be known in the comments.

No. 10: Match the Intensity Shown Against the Saints

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates the Ravens victory after the game against the New Orleans Saints  at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Saints 30-24. (Photo
    Larry French/Getty Images

    When the Ravens took on the defending champions, Baltimore came out with a fire and a passion that hadn't been seen in a long time.

    Baltimore came out on fire from the start and never let up. Everyone played with a little extra edge, and it showed on the field, as the Ravens went on to beat the Saints in a win that turned a lot of heads and had people believing in the Ravens.

    If that kind of mentality is there in the playoffs, Baltimore will be hard to beat.

No. 9: Switch Up the Play-Calling

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    BALTIMORE - 2009:  Cam Cameron of the Baltimore Ravens poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    One thing that has plagued the Ravens this year is bad play-calling.

    Cam Cameron, the offensive coordinator, has become horribly predictable, and teams have figured out what Baltimore is doing on offense pretty quickly. There have to be some plays in there that catch the defense off guard.

    Otherwise, Baltimore won't be in any sort of position to make plays. This is crucial to success this weekend and beyond.

No. 8: Close Out Games

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    HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Cornerback Josh Wilson #37 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates intercepting a pass from Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans in overtime at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    One thing that has been a bit troublesome is how the Ravens close out games.

    Baltimore has a nasty habit of knocking teams to the canvas but not making sure they're down for the count. The Texans game is a perfect example. Houston was dead in the water but came crawling back, and the Ravens had to win in overtime.

    In the playoffs, Baltimore can't afford that. The Ravens have to pound their opponent once they're down, like they did against the Patriots in last year's playoffs.

No. 7: Utilize Speed

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11:  Donte' Stallworth #18 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

    One guy that has been sorely misused this year is Donte' Stallworth.

    When he comes in the game, he could break the game wide open with his speed, yet when he comes in, the Ravens seem to only use a couple of plays with him that are usually a fly route and an end-around or a fake on that play.

    Run some screens with Stallworth and some quick slants, and that speed could be a game-changer.

No. 6: Keep Producing Turnovers

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 21:  Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When Ed Reed came back into the fold, Baltimore got back to producing turnovers at the rate we were used to.

    Baltimore needs to keep forcing other teams into mistakes because turnovers are costly in any game, but in the playoffs, they're backbreakers. Winning that battle can be the difference between advancing to the next round or heading home.

    But once that happens, it brings me to my next point.

No. 5: Turnovers into Points

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the Cincinnati Bengals  at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Once Baltimore gets the ball back on a turnover, it has to turn into points.

    If the Ravens can take the short field and get touchdowns, it's going to cripple their opponents' chances of winning the football game. Baltimore can't settle for field goals once that happens; it has to push for touchdowns.

    Those are momentum shifters and can crush a team's spirit.

No. 4: Joe Flacco Elevates His Game

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens looks for a receiver during the game against the New Orleans Saints  at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Saints 30-24. (Photo by Larry
    Larry French/Getty Images

    With the addition of Anquan Boldin to the Baltimore offense, there were high hopes for Joe Flacco.

    People thought he was going to make the leap to the next level, but that hasn't exactly happened. Flacco's had a good year, not a great year, and he needs to step up if he's going lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl this year.

    He needs to cut down on the mistakes and be crisper with his throws.

No. 3: Ray Rice

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    CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 26:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs by linebacker Eric Barton #50 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Ray Rice is one of the biggest threats in the Baltimore offense, and he needs to be used early and often.

    Rice is such a dangerous threat on passes in the flat that the Ravens should go to those plays over and over again because he's the type of running back that can just kill a defense on those screen plays and then pound it between the tackles.

    He's going to be the key to Baltimore's success.

No. 2: Offensive Line

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Michael Oher #74 of the Baltimore Ravens blocks against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Baltimore's offensive line could stand to improve a bit in the playoffs.

    The Ravens have had major issues on the offensive line at times this season. Guys like Michael Oher have struggled mightily this year, and if you root for the Ravens, you're a little concerned to say the least. These guys need to play up to their potential, and if they do, things will be easier on the offense.

    If not, it could be a long, long time for Joe Flacco and company.

No. 1 Defense Hits the Rewind Button

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals  at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry French/Get
    Larry French/Getty Images

    While Baltimore's defense isn't awful, we all know that unit isn't what it used to be.

    The Ravens' stars are aging, and that age shows at times when the defense just looks gassed and on its last legs during the course of a game. If the defense can step up and play a little bit above the level we've seen this year, Baltimore will be a tough team to beat.

    There's a lot of leadership there, and that could help raise that unit to a new level.

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