The Baltimore Ravens enter the 2012-13 NFL season fresh off the heels of an AFC North championship. While the Ravens finished 2011 as the AFC North champs, they fell short of their ultimate goal which was a Super Bowl title. Baltimore faced off against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game but suffered a three point loss, 23-20, as the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore will look to make another run in 2012 and they enter the season as one of the top teams in the AFC. How will the Ravens fair this season? Let’s take a look.
2011 Record: 12-4
Key Additions: Sean Considine, S — Darryl Blackstock, LB — Corey Graham, CB — Ryan McBean, DT — Curtis Painter, QB
Key Losses: Ben Grubbs, OG — Jarrett Johnson, LB — Ricky Williams, RB — Chris Carr, CB — Cory Redding, DT — Tom Zbikowski, S — Bryant McKinnie, OT
Offense: The Ravens have one of the best running backs in the entire league in Ray Rice so there is no question that the offense revolves around him. Joe Flacco has shown no signs of real improvement throughout his career and the team will need to take pressure off his shoulders until he proves that he can be the man to lead the team.
Rice controlling the ball in the middle of the offense and second-year pro Torrey Smith gives the Ravens an interesting attack that will be fun to watch. The weapons are there for the Ravens to have a solid force on the offensive side of the ball and it is just up to Joe Flacco to hold it all together.
Defense: The Baltimore Ravens have long been known for their talent on defense but times are changing as the defensive unit ages. Ray Lewis will always be a leader but Terrell Suggs appears that he will miss significant time this season and it will be a major blow to the Ravens pass rush. Ed Reed is also injury prone and there is cause for concern in the Ravens defensive backfield.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers having an explosive passing attack and the emergence of the Cincinnati Bengals passing game with Andy Dalton and AJ Green, the Ravens should be concerned about the potential holes on the defensive side of the ball.
Coaching: John Harbaugh has done a brilliant job during his time as Ravens head coach. The team has lived up to expectations under his direction but it is time for Harbaugh to show that he can take the Ravens to the next level. Baltimore is always in the mix and it’s now up to Harbaugh to gather the troops and prepare them for another deep run.
Breakout Player: Corey Graham, cornerback. Graham is a special teams ace but he has also made his impact felt on the defensive side of the ball during training camp. Graham has made some big plays — including at least four interceptions — and impressed the coaching staff with his play.
Since the Ravens will need to use multiple defensive backs against their division rivals, Graham will have every opportunity to make his impact felt. Keep an eye out for Graham in the Ravens defensive backfield and on special teams.
2012 Prediction: The Ravens are an aging group on the defensive side of the ball and questions remain about whether or not Joe Flacco is the man that can lead this team to the promised land in the future. There are a lot of questions surrounding this team and a slight fall back from last season seems imminent.
Predicted Record: 9-7
Overview: Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery has made it no secret that the Ravens plan to rely heavily on the legs of Ray Rice this season. Rice will need another big season to keep the Ravens right where they want to be in the AFC North and playoff picture. However, asking Rice to do everything could prove to be a negative and hurt the longevity of his career. The Ravens will also need Joe Flacco to step up and finally show some improvement. Baltimore needs to find out this year if Flacco can lead them to the next level or else it is time to move on.
While there are concerns about age and health on the defensive side of the ball, that unit is still the strength for Baltimore. They need a few players to step up and help the Ravens live up to their preseason expectations.