As the Ravens training camp is nearing the one week mark and the first preseason game is close at hand, I thought it would atimeto preview the 2010 team. The anticipation that this season will end in Dallas with Coach Harbaugh hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy is palpable. Expectations for this team is Super Bowl or bust. But before printing up tickets for Dallas let the season begin and what happens.
Reasons for the excitement is the remodeled offensfrom a year ago. This season QB Joe Flacco has more eapons with the additionof wide outs Donte Stallworth and Anquan Boldin. Boldin isa tough as nails receiver. Anyone who can come back to play after having his jaw nearly shattered and play with his mouth wired shut is a bad dude. But can he assume the role as a number one receiver is yet to be decided since he was the no. 2 in Arizona. Also can Bolding be a threat downfield is another interesting quesion to be determined. Dontae Stallworth is another wait and see prospect. He was suspended from the league for substance abuse and killing a construction worker while driving drunk. Hopefully, he has his act together because he is a deep threat the Ravens have been looking for in years. At tight end, Heap does have some miles left,but in case the injury bug hits him again the Ravens were wise to draft two tight ends that look promising. The offensive line is young,but talented and is a group that has been together for a year. This is a dominating bunch as long as Jared Gaither can stay healthy on the field and if this group can count out penalties. At the backs is probably the best duo if not tandem with Ray Rice,Willis McGhee, and Le’Ron McClain. Flacco is undeniably the leader at QB. He is ready to be a leader and brak out as a Pro Bowl Quarterback. However, if Flacco gets hurtthe Ravens made a wise pickup in signing a former All – Pro in Marc Bulger.
Believe or not the question with this team is on the devensive side. Sure the defense will be at least a top ten team in the league wise,buta admittingly this unit is getting older with Ray Lewis in his 15th year as a starter and Ed Reed recovering from hip surgery and my not be able to return until Week 6 of the season and there is a load of injuries at both corner positions. Fortunately, Fabian Washington and LaDarius Webb will be back sooner than thought from ACL injuries. The front line of the D will be tougher and bigger to block with the addition of Mount Terrance Cody to play alongside Ngata and Kelly Gregg. The kicking game will be much improved with eigther Billy Cundiff or Shayne Graham.
What will determine the season is the schedule. The scheduledoesn’t do the Ravens any favors as five out of the first 7 games are against either playoff or potential playoff teams with the first two with the Jets and Bengals on the road. But the game against Pittsburgh will be tough, but very winnable as the Steelers will be withouhout Roethlisberger. However the rest of the schedule does get easier with the likes of a rebuilding Carolina, and a potentially bad Tampa and Buffalo squad while four out of the last 6 are at home for the playoff hunt.
Overall, the Ravens will make the playoffs. The will win the division as Cincinnati could slip a notch, Pittsburgh will struggle without Ben during the first six games and Cleveland as pathetic as always. But going to the Super Bowl will be rough as the Colts will still be thre and tough to beat with Manning. The Jets has improved and are a Super Bowl team. New England will be fighting for playoffs and San Diego will be difficult. No matter what I think the Ravens will be in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV and after hosting the AFC title game in Baltimroe for the first time since 1970. The hopes and expectations are high,but they are attainable.