Football season is quickly approaching Ravens fans. Training camp is set to open in just under three weeks with high expectations facing the 2012 team. Will 2012 be the year of the Ravens? Let’s breakdown what needs to happen for the Ravens to be playing in February.
Flacco’s Ascension: Will the real Joe Flacco please stand up? The steady quarterback has led the Ravens to 4 straight playoff appearances and remains solidly under center for the defending AFC North Champions, but many want to see more out of the young playcaller. Flacco has said that he doesn’t think he gets the credit he deserves, which a point can be made for given his perennial playoff appearances. But does Flacco really deserve more credit? While he lead the Ravens to the door step of the Super Bowl, his regular season numbers were pedestrian compared to the league’s elite. 3,600 yds, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions = above average. That’s 11th, 13th, and 18th respectively. Ray Rice is a nice back to lean on, but if Flacco wants to be regarded inthe same class as the Rodgers, Brady, Brees, and the Manning brothers – he’s going to have to step us his production.
Rice’s Health: Ray Rice’s 1,364 rushing yards were 2nd only to Maurice Jones-Drew last year. In addition, Rice lead the team with 76 receptions. Rice did it all last year, occasionally getting a breather from a semi-productive Ricky Williams. That won’t be the case this year with Williams having retirned for a 2nd time. Who will backup Rice? Good question – none of the candidates have much NFL experience. If Rice goes down with a major injury or misses a significant amount of time, even more pressure will be placed on Flacco.
An Aging Defence: Can Ray Lewis and Co. ignite the same fire that has kept the Ravensrelevant for the last decade? I’m guessing yes – though Terrell Suggs injury will put them in an early bind. If Lewis, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata can stay healthy, the Ravens defense should hold.
The division is the Ravens to lose — with the main competition for the Super Bowl coming from the (surprise surpise) Patriots. The Ravens have enough talent to beat the Ravens head to head. If Flacco takes the next step, Rice has another big year and the defense stays healthy – there’s no reason to think the Ravens can’t win it all in 2012.