As the Baltimore Orioles fade, most of Maryland will turn their attention towards the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens tonight. But get those words out of your system today, because once the season starts, they are last year’s Champions, not this year’s. When they kick off tonight, we look forward, not backwards. It’s a new season, and a new team for the Ravens.
Most of the NFL world has focused on what the Ravens lost this offseason, but that is shortsighted. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has done a remarkable job at overhauling the team. So while the rest of the world focuses on what the purple-and-black lost, I’ve constantly had to remind everyone what they’ve gained.
Outside of the wide receiver position, the Baltimore Ravens are better today then they were seven months ago as they held the Vince Lombardi trophy. Yes, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, and Anquan Boldin are all gone. But it’s not about who they lost. It’s about who they gained, and Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Daryl Smith, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Matt Elam, Brandon Stokley, Aaron Mellette, Marlon Brown, John Simon, and even Dallas Clark can all contribute. While individually they may not all be upgrades over the player they “replaced,” as a whole this team should be ready to compete again. I think Ozzie & Company have more than filled the holes that may have been there.
Oh, and Lardarius Webb returns from injury.
I know a lot of so-called “experts” are once again picking the Bengals to rise to the top of the AFC North, but I’ll believe it when I see it. You can never count out the Steelers either. But for me, the Ravens are the favorites to win the division, and I truly believe, the Ravens have a great shot repeating as Champions of the AFC.
Baltimore’s defense is going to be better than last year’s championship team. And if the WR/TE players can step up, then this offense should take a step forward with an up-tempo offense under Jim Caldwell.
Call me a homer, but I’m very optimistic when it comes to the quality of this year’s squad. My Super Bowl prediction? A rematch of last year, as both teams have improved this offseason. I’ll pick the 49ers (with Seattle close behind) and the Ravens to meet up in snowy New York in February.
(My dog, Gracie, is ready for a special edition of Purple Friday!)