It’s that time of year when people ask me nearly every day, “Well, how do you think the Ravens are going to do?”
How should I know? (Although, with my recent pick of Jason Dufner to win the PGA Championship (which, he did) and my March selection of the Dodgers to go to the World Series in October (which, they will), I guess folks think I have some sort of crystal ball these days. )
I don’t think the Ravens roster is set yet, so identifying their final record is tough, but I have come up with one stock answer to that “How will the Ravens do?” question that sums up what I think about the upcoming 2013 campaign.
My reply: “I think the Ravens are going to miss Ray Lewis.”
In fact, I think they’re going to miss him a lot.
I’m not basing my guess on what the three pre-season games have revealed, because we all know pre-season football is about as meaningful as a blinking yellow light on a busy road.
My hunch on 2013 is that the Ravens won’t reach double digits in wins. That means, most likely, they’ll finish a 9-7 or 8-8 team. I’ll hedge that bet, a little bit, based on the fact that Ozzie and Eric DeCosta still have roughly ten days to perfect their roster before the opening thriller in Denver. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another veteran or two added between now and next Thursday night.
That said, it would have to be one helluva an addition for me to shake that thought that this year’s Ravens team is due for a dip in the win category.
They’re going to miss Ray Lewis…big time.
The football player – Ray Lewis – is easily replaceable. OK, maybe not EASILY replaceable, but someone will jump in as the inside linebacker and do an adequate enough job. Right now, Darryl Smith seems to be handling that position well, although I do see a little of the “old Ray” in Smith when he tries to keep up with a receiver or tight end in the middle of the field.
The “other” Ray Lewis…the leader, the mentor, the guiding light — there’s just no way in hell anyone comes close to replacing that guy. With all due respect to Terrell Suggs, he has zero chance at all of replicating Lewis as a leader. None. The same goes for the quarterback, who has his own interesting leadership style, but it’s not one that will galvanize a locker room full of players from different cultural, social and economic backgrounds like Lewis could do in his seventeen seasons with the club.
This season was inevitable, of course. Ray Lewis wasn’t going to play forever, deer-antler-spray or not.
And, while I know John Harbaugh won’t want to hear it, a one (or two) season hangover when the greatest player in your franchise’s history departs is almost expected. I expect it, quite honestly.
(Please see next page)