The 2014 Baltimore Ravens could very possibly recapture the AFC North. There, I said it. I know everyone has their eyes focused on the Cincinnati Bengals, looking for that major breakthrough by a team that’s overdue, but….I don’t know. Here’s a disclaimer. I like defense and in the world of NFL football it’s agreed that offense draws the crowds and pays the bills. It just might be though, that the Baltimore Ravens will have enough of both.
Defense – The Ravens won both of their Super Bowl titles with a dominating defense. A 2013 defense that finished just out of the Top 10 in both the run and the pass gets better in 2014. The NFL Draft yielded linebacker C.J. Mosley, who will join Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to give the Ravens a set of linebackers any NFL team would covet. The secondary gets help in the form of rookie safety Terrence Brooks, who is penciled in to take over at free safety and allow Matt Elam to move to strong safety. These are all positive moves for a defense that is always intimidating and has carried the Baltimore Ravens more seasons than not.
Offense – The Ravens took a step back on offense last season and once again, made some moves to improve the situation. Joe Flaco has to play on a higher level, plain and simple. Some say Flaco was weighted down in the pocketbook after signing a huge contract. If that’s the case, and his wallet is still too heavy, Baltimore has a problem. I tend to believe that Joe Flaco just needs more options and in the 2014 NFL season he should have them. Steve Smith, long in the tooth but still effective, will be a reliable short yardage receiver in this offense. That should take some pressure off Torrey Smith, who is a home run guy just looking for a crease.
Big Ifs – Not everything is rosy. The uncertainty of the Ray Rice situation and his diminished performance in 2013 is cause for concern and Baltimore has precious little behind him. If Rice is suspended or just used up, all bets are off. The offensive line also sees some changes as Michael Orr left town and Matt Birk retired. The change could be a positive but is certainly a question mark heading into 2014.
The Baltimore Ravens 2014 Schedule is another factor. As good as the ravens defense should be, they still must face the Bengals, Colts, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, and Chargers, all good offensive teams with solid quarterbacking. Flaco and the offense have to keep up, even if the defense plays well.