Did the Ravens suffer from the Super Bowl hangover, was it the loss of team leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, or just Joe Flacco suffering from “Mo Money Mo Problems” after signing his anchor of a deal coming off of a great playoff run the year prior. Coach John Harbaugh returns and looks to right the ship after an 8-8 season that could have easily gone the other way had they not lost so many close games (5 losses by less than 6 points).
The Ravens offense took a large step back, mainly Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Flacco, the 100 million dollar man had more put on his plate and struggled, throwing 22 interceptions. Rice rushed for only 660 yards and lost carries to Bernard Pierce and after an offseason incident could lose even more touches. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will look to be more balanced this year by running more, easing the burden on Flacco. When it comes time to throw, the top option and at times the only option last season will be WR Torry Smith. Smith is a burner who caught 65 passes for 1128 yds and 4 Tds. The addition of veteran Steve Smith who is angry ( no surprise there) after being released by the Panthers will give the offense another a second option in the passing game. The return of a healthy Dennis Pitta, who was Flacco’s security blanket during the Super Bowl run should help as well. The Ravens offensive line is led by standout guard Marshall Yanda. There are question marks at right tackle and center though. The key for this offense is to cut down the turnovers.
The Ravens once again had one of the better defenses in the league, headed up by coordinator Dean Pees. In the draft they used their first three choices to add a player at all 3 levels in LB CJ Mosley, DT Tim Jernigan, and S Terrence Brooks. As long as Haloti Ngata is in the middle of their front it will be hard to run against this group. Their front 7 is loaded with talented players. Outside Linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are counted on to bring the pressure from the outside and are one of the best combos in the game. Young corners Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are talented and only getting better.
The Ravens have an impressive cast of players on defense that will be one of the best defenses in the league. The question is what do they get from the offense? Can Flacco cut down on the turnovers and just flat out play better? Can Ray Rice return to his old form? Does Steve Smith have anything left in the tank? They do have a very favorable schedule which will help. Really favorable!
Baltimore Ravens – Prediction 11-5
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