Projected Record: 10-6
AFC North Rank: Tied for 1st with Steelers
The defending Super Bowl Champion underwent a major roster overhaul because the roster was aging and they had a lot of free agents. The Ravens lost several key players on offense and defense. The three most important departures may have been Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin. Although Reed and Lewis were on the down side of their careers, they were the heart and soul of the team because they had been apart of the team for over a decade. The Ravens were forced to let go of Reed and many other free agents because other teams were offering them huge deals. The Ravens will be starting four new defensive players this season because they need to replace Lewis, Reed, Paul Kruger, and Ellebre. The Ravens added veterans Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith, and Michael Huff, during free agency. Although the Ravens were not ranked in the top five or even fifteen in either opposing passing and rushing, they were able to play good enough defense to win the division and win the Super Bowl. In an attempt to add youth on defense, the Ravens drafted Safety Matt Elam, Linebacker Arthur Brown, Defensive Tackle Brandon Williams, and Defensive End John Simon in the first four rounds rounds. Elam is a solid safety and will add depth to the safety position. Arthur Brown will help the Ravens improve their linebacking corp that lost two starters from last year’s team. The other players on the defensive line will improve the depth and allow the Ravens to play more athletically. For the first time in a decade, the Ravens offense led the team to a bulk of their wins.
On offense, the Ravens did not need much help. Joe Flacco looks like he will be ready to become a top ten quarterback in the league. The Ravens also have star running back Ray Rice that they can rely on when Flacco is having a bad game. They finished in the top fifteen in rushing and passing yards per game. In an attempt to replace the production from Anquan Boldin, the Ravens signed Brandon Stokely and will give more playing time to speedster Jacoby Jones. The Ravens may be forced to run the ball more this season because the talent on the outside is not good. Besides, Torrey Smith, the Ravens do not have a lot talent at wide receiver or tight end because of the injury to Dennis Pitta. The Ravens signed tight end Dallas Clark, however he is not have the ability to catch passes like when he was is his prime with the Colts. If the Ravens are going to reproduce their offensive success, Joe Flacco must continue the success he experienced during the playoffs when he was an efficient deep ball thrower and an accurate mid range passer. Rice should also help Flacco because he can do everything that a running back must do to be productive. Rice can block, catch, and run.
The Ravens have a great chance of making the playoffs for a fifth straight season. The Ravens have made the playoffs during every season of Flacco’s career and that streak should continue next year. Although the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they will not be playing at home against the Broncos because the Orioles are playing at home. The Broncos are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Even though they will not have their star defensive end Von Miller, they will still win because they have more talent. After a week one loss to the Broncos, the Ravens will play Browns, Texans, @Bills, and @Dolphins. The Ravens will win three of the four games. Although they are playing at home, the Ravens will not have the talent to beat the Texans. The Texans have been great during the first month of the season when the pressure is the lowest so I give the Texans the edge. Before the Bye, the Ravens will lose the two games against the Packers and @Steelers. The Packers are one of the best teams in the league and the Steelers are one of the toughest teams to beat at home.
After the week 8 Bye, the Ravens will begin their playoff push. The extra week will help a young team refocus and regroup. After the Bye, the Ravens should player better football because they will be more acclimated to playing with each other. The Ravens play four of the first seven games after the Bye at home. Although it is a bold prediction, I expect the Ravens to go on a seven game winning streak. The Ravens will be playing their best football and will be playing the easiest part of their schedule. The Ravens toughest games will be against the Steelers at home and away against the Bears. The Ravens will be able to defeat the Steelers because the crowd at MT&T Stadium will be electrified and the players will definitely rise to the occasion. The Ravens will beat the Bears because the Bears are an inconsistent team. After their seven game win the streak and a win on the road against the Lions, the Ravens will head home and play the New England Patriots. I predict that the Patriots will beat the Ravens because the Patriots will probably be healthy and have a better team than the Ravens. The Ravens will already have clinched the division so their week seventeen game will be meaningless. The Bengals will be fighting for a possible playoff spot so they will not allow the Ravens to beat them at home. The Ravens should finish the season with 10 wins and a 3 or 4 seed in the AFC. The Ravens will win the Wild Card Round, but lose in the next round to the 1 or 2 seed.
On offense, Torrey Smith must take the next step and become a true number one receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens lost a lot of talent on offense because of cap issues and injuries. Smith will be the lone starting receiver or tight end on the roster. Smith has put together two nice seasons over the last two years, but he must improve. Flacco is not a top five quarterback so he must have some talent to work with in order to be successful. Smith has the size and speed to be an 1000 yard receiver and a player that can catch 10 touchdowns. Smith has the ability to go deep and out run defenders. Joe Flacco is a perfect match for Smith because he can throw a great deep ball and allow Smith to run the balls down.
On defense, Terrell Suggs is a great player and continue to produce at a high level if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs. Although Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been a major part of the Ravens defense the last few years, Suggs has been the best player on the defense. Before injuring himself last season, T-Sizzle from Ball so Hard University average 12.5 sacks during his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. If Suggs can return to his form, the Ravens defense will probably not miss a beat because Suggs is one of the best players in football. Although he is heading in the wrong direction, I still believe that Suggs can turn in another 10 or 12 sack season. The Ravens will have a great weapon if Ngata and he can apply pressure on the quarterback and force a few turnovers. When motivated and active, Suggs is a beast and can single handily disrupt an offense.
All pics and stats from espn.com