***NOTE: Previews will be done differently from now on. I will no longer post a projected record, nor will I post my projected finish in the division. People get to hung up on the record and forget about the actual write-up. Also, they won’t be as log and drawn out as they previously were.
The Ravens are the defending world champions, but I expect a bit of a Super Bowl hangover to surface. Baltimore, undoubtedly, will be playoff contenders. I have them finishing third in the AFC North, but I believe they’ll be the No.6 seed in the AFC.
GM Ozzie Newsome and company did a fantastic job of reloading this team, rather than accepting a rebuilding mode. Without the many additions via free agency, this team would likely not even be a playoff contender.
QB Joe Flacco is one of the NFL’s best deep ball passers. Including the playoffs, Flacco threw 16 TD passes that were of 20+ yards. He did not throw one interception on a pass that went 20 yards or more in entire 2012 season. Flacco is not far off from truly vaulting himself to an elite QB. Another season like 2012, and Flacco will undoubtedly join the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.
Ray Rice is one of the NFL’s best running backs. Rice possesses good vision, speed, power, and receiving skills; he has everything a running back could want. The Ravens also have in their possession another starter-worthy running back in Bernard Pierce. Pierce played extremely well in the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how long Pierce will be stuck behind Ray Rice.
The Ravens basically gave away Anquan Boldin; that leads me to believe the Ravens have very much a deep faith in Jacoby Jones. Jones did show in 2012 the necessary steps in order to become a starting receiver. Torrey Smith, of course, will start along side Jones. Smith brings a speed element, and the ability to make plays over the middle of the field. David Reed and Tandon Doss are going to compete for the team’s possession receiver. It’ll also be interesting to see where rookie WR Aaron Mellette winds up on the depth chart.
The Ravens have themselves a good set of two tight ends. Dennis Pitta is the team’s No.1 TE option, and he emerged as a true passing threat in 2012. Pitta has great route running skills and good speed. But Pitta is nowhere near being an efficient blocker. Ed Dickson is the No.2 TE, and he sure did have an awful 2012 season. He can be a threat in the passing game, but you can forget about him even making an impact while blocking.
After spending time at left tackle during the regular season, Michael Oher was returned to his more natural position of right tackle in the playoffs. Oher should definitely play better on the right side in 2013. Bryant McKinnie will man down the left side. The Ravens have one of the best guards in the league in RG Marshal Yanda. Gino Gradkowski should fill Matt Birk’s void nicely at center. Kelechi Osmele should have no problem starting at left guard.
The Ravens added Chris Canty and Marcus Spears via free agency. Canty and Spears can both play end or tackle. They both should be a force in run defense. Of course, Terrence Cody and Haloti Ngata are both good defensive lineman as well.
Baltimore still has their great OLB Terrell Suggs. Suggs missed time in the 2012 season due to an ACL injury, expect him to have a much better 2013. The Ravens lost Dannell Ellerbe, but they added Elvis Dumervil and drafted Arthur Brown. Dumervil and Suggs on the outside could be a very dangerous duo.
Matt Elam and Michael Huff are expected to be the starting safties. Elam has already impressed coaches, and he’s got very nice speed. Michael Huff is very good against the run. Neither will make splash plays like Ed Reed, but Huff and Elam can be a very good safety duo for years to come.
The Ravens have a number of options at cornerback. Jimmy Smith and Ladarius Webb are likely to be the starters, but Corey Graham is also in the mix. The cornerback position is full of depth.
Sam Koch has been a very consistent punter for years. Second year kicker Justin Hunter had a very successful rookie campaign. The Ravens have one, if not the most dangerous returners in football in Jacoby Jones.
The more you look at the Ravens, the harder it is to see them having a down year. The Ravens, at worst will finish with the 6th seed in the AFC. It really is amazing how this team was able to reload after losing so many key pieces.
Offense – B-
Defense – B-
Special Teams – B+
Overall – B-