Baltimore Ravens Predictions
The Baltimore Ravens won the AFC North with a 12-4 record in 2011. They actually finished tied with Pittsburgh, but would sweep the Steelers in the season series to earn the tiebreaker. Baltimore made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game where it would lose to the New England Patriots 23-20. A dropped pass in the end zone by Lee Evans and a missed field goal in the closing seconds cost the Ravens a chance at a Super bowl.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has quieted his critics by compiling a 44-20 record in his four seasons here. He also has five playoff wins, but will certainly need to win a Super Bowl victory to be considered among the coaching greats. After back-to-back 12-win seasons, it’s time for this team to take that next step. Here is a preview of their offense and defense, as well as my prediction on where the Ravens finish in the AFC North in ’12.
The offense has held Baltimore back for years, but it’s finally starting to come around. The Ravens averaged 23.6 points and 339 total yards per game last year to finish among the top-half of the NFL in both statistical categories. They should continue to improve on this side of the ball.
Joe Flacco is much better than he gets credit for and should be considered among the top ten quarterbacks in the game. The fifth-year pro completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 3,610 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. He played his best in their biggest games. He was flawless in two wins over Pittsburgh and played well enough to beat New England in the AFC title game.
Baltimore managed to sign Ray Rice to a long-term deal this offseason. Rice finished second in the NFL in rushing (1,364 yards, 4.7/carry, 12 TD) while also catching 76 balls for 704 yards and three touchdowns. He is the key to the offense as he had less than 100 combined yards in four of their five losses last year. Rookie Bernard Pierce (Temple) was taken in the third round and will back up Rice.
The Ravens have upgraded their receiving corps over the last few years. Anquan Baldin (57 receptions, 887 yards, three TD) has led the team in receiving each of the last two seasons, but he hasn’t quite been the playmaker they were hoping for. Torrey Smith (50, 841 yards, seven TD) came out of nowhere in his rookie season to become the deep threat they had been missing. Ed Dickson (54, 528, five TD) is quietly becoming one of the best young TE’s in the game.
The offensive line is in good hands with C Matt Birk, RG Marshal Yanda and RT Michael Oher. This trio has started every game for three straight years and helped the Ravens amass 125 rushing yards per game and 4.3/carry while allowing just 33 sacks in ’11. LT Bryant McKinnie proved to be an excellent offseason addition last year. Rookie LG Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) was drafted in the second round and will battle second-year LG Jah Reid (UCF) for starting duties.
Baltimore has been known for having one of the best defenses in the league year in and year out. It finished third in total defense (289 yards/game) while allowing just 16.6 points per game last season. The Ravens have yielded fewer than 17 points per game for four straight seasons. They will be working with their third defensive coordinator in three years as Dan Pees takes over for Chuck Pagano, who is now the Indianapolis head coach.
The defensive line is anchored by arguably the best run-stuffer in the business in DT Haloti Ngata (64 tackles, 5 sacks). He is surrounded by a pair of promising young talents in third-year NT Terrence Cody (34 tackles) and second-year DE Pernell McPhee (23 tackles, 6 sacks).
While the linebacker corps has been the heart and soul of the defense for years, it takes a big hit this season. That’s because ’11 NFL Defensive MVP Terrell Suggs (70 tackles, 14 sacks, two INT) suffered an Achilles injury that will likely keep him out for most of the season. Also, Jarret Johnson (56 tackles, 7.5 for loss) has moved on to San Diego.
LILB Ray Lewis (95 tackles, 4 for loss, eight passes defended) remains the leader of the defense, but he’s now 37 and entering his 17th year in the league. RILB Jameel McClain (84 tackles, 3.5 for loss) has learned a lot from Lewis and is playing at a high level. LOLB Paul Kruger (15 tackles, 5.5 sacks) takes over for Suggs, while rookie ROLB Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) was taken in the second round and is expected to start right away.
The secondary continues to be led by 34-year-old FS Ed Reed (52 tackles, eight pass break-ups, three INT). He is one of the most feared safeties in the game because of his knack for always finding the ball. SS Bernard Polard (75 tackles, 14 passes defended) came on strong last year. Lardarius Webb (67 tackles, 20 pass break-ups, five INT) and Jimmy Smith (20 tackles, eight pass break-ups, two INT) will combine to form one of the best CB tandems in the league this season. Cary Williams (78 tackles, 18 pass break-ups) and Corey Graham (16 tackles, three INT) add solid depth.
AFC North Prediction – 2nd Place (10-6 Record)
With the losses of Suggs and Johnson at linebacker, the Ravens are sure to take a step back defensively this year. The offense should continue to improve behind Flacco, Rice and a dominant O-line. Baltimore benefited from the 28th-toughest schedule last season, but it will play the 13th-toughest schedule in ’12. The Ravens have to travel to play Philadelphia, Houston and San Diego, while also facing New England, Denver and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at home. They’ll have to settle for a second-place finish in the AFC North and a Wildcard berth.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions
|AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots|
|San Diego Chargers||Baltimore Ravens Predictions||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets|
|Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns||Houston Texans||Miami Dolphins|
|Denver Broncos||Cincinnati Bengals||Tennessee Titans||Buffalo Bills|
|NFC West||NFC North||NFC South||NFC East|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons||Philadelphia Eagles|
|St. Louis Rams||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New York Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Bucs||Dallas Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Minnesota Vikings||Carolina Panthers||Washington Redskins|