Ravens 2009 expectations

June 11, 2009 |

I was going to write a blog called “Gopher Ball Guthire” about Jeremy Guthrie’s propsensity to give up the long ball, but I decided to shift gears.

The Ravens rule this town and training camp is less then 50 days away, so I decided to write a Ravens blog.

Here are my realistic expectiations for this team and why I have those expectations:

Last season the Ravens made a surprising run to the AFC Championship game, something that nobody expected was possible.

Generally, when a team ends their season just four minutes shy of the Super Bowl, the expectations for next season are incredibly high.

I am a die hard Ravens fan but I always have realistic expectations for my team. Some fans automatically expect this team to win the Super Bowl just because of where they finished last year and many fans often have blinders on when it comes to looking at their team.

This year’s Ravens team is more then capable of making a return trip back to the AFC Championship game but I am not penciling them in there yet. My realistic expectations for this team are a Wild Card berth and a return trip back to the playoffs.

Given everything that has happened in the off-season and the amount of parody from season to season in the NFL it is really hard to realistically expect your team to win the Super Bowl.

I thought that the Ravens could have done more in this free agency period to get them over the hump and make expectations even higher. Defensively, this team lost its starting linebacker and starting safety and the mastermind behind the defense. These tools will be hard to replace and are one of the reasons my expectations are not as high as others.

For years the Ravens have wasted a Super Bowl caliber defense because of an inept offense and I thought that this season the identity of this franchise should have shifted to offense.

The Ravens defense will likely not be a top five defense like it was the past nine seasons but having a top 15 offense would combat this and make the team very hard to beat.

In the draft, however, the Ravens only addressed the offensive side of the ball with a right tackle in the 1st round, tight end in the 5th round and running back in the 6th round.

In my opinion this team was one big time playmaker away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender for years and I believe they dropped the ball by not acquiring one this off-season.

For the first time in the history of the franchise the Ravens finally have a “franchise” quarterback but he needs some weapons to throw to. I understand that protecting him is vital and believe that Michael Oher will bolster the offensive line and help protect Joe Flacco for many years.

However, you could have all the time in the world to throw but if you do not have people to get open meaning your offense will not be able to make many big plays this team so desperately needs.

Anquan Boldin would have put this team over the top and I believe would have led them to the Super Bowl. The Ravens could still get him but as of right now it looks like he will stay in Arizona.

Another reason I do not have incredibly high expectations for this team in 2009 is because of their schedule, their division and Tom Brady.

The Ravens have a tough schedule and as everyone knows, there is no “gimmie” in the NFL. Last season the Ravens schedule was tough on paper, but during the season, many of their opponents under achieved which many people believe watered down their schedule.

I usually do not put too much stock in analyzing the schedule in the off-season, but right now it looks like a difficult, but not impossible road for the Ravens.

Last season the AFC North had the two best teams in the AFC and two of the worst teams in the NFL, but this season I do not see the division being this bad.

Cleveland and Cincinnati are by no means “world beaters” but they have improved from last season and I do not see them being as bad as they were last year.

The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is quickly becoming the fiercest in all of pro football but last season the Steelers defeated the Ravens in all three match ups. If the Ravens are to reach “the promised land” they will need to go through Pittsburgh which is no easy task.

Lastly, the Ravens will also have to deal with teams from other divisions that are going to be in the Wild Card hunt. The Patriots finished with the same record as the Ravens last season but missed the playoffs because of the tie- breakers. With Tom Brady back under center it looks like the Patriots will be one of the elite teams in the NFL yet again.

The Jets, Bills and Texans also improved and the Colts, Titans, Chargers and Broncos should be right in the thick of the playoff hunt. With so few spots and so many teams fighting for those spots, teams have to play their best week in and week out to win.

There is no doubt that the expectations are there and this is one of the most talented Ravens team in the history of the franchise. I am more of a realist than other people so I am not going to anoint the Ravens just yet.

All that being said, I would be surprised to see this team not make the playoffs in 2009 and wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Miami in February.