It really comes down to whether Joe Flacco plays like he did down the stretch, doesn’t it?
That will be the key difference between whether the Baltimore Ravens can ultimately defend their Super Bowl title in 2014, along with how their young contributors on defense continue gelling and help Baltimore get hot at the right time. However, during the regular season this defense was rather underwhelming — ranking 25th in the league according to Pro Football Focus’ overall grade — as was Flacco in grading out as the 20th-ranked quarterback during the 2012 NFL season by PFF, tying with now-former-Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb.
So, imagine if Flacco plays somewhere between his pedestrian regular season output and his all-time great postseason production. The Ravens could easily clear the 8.5 season win total line Vegas is hovering around. Each time I see this figure, the only tough decision for me is weather the offense or defense alone would get them above the .500 mark.
It’s safe to expect 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs to return to old form after a tough 2012 campaign that saw him struggle to find the field for a long period of time after an offseason injury. With another offseason to recover, it’s safe to say Baltimore’s best defensive player could hit his ceiling once again.
It is sensible to assume that Suggs, age 30, still has at least a year or two in his prime. This combined with replacing over-the-hill ex-greats in Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, with Michael Huff and the many young pieces on defense, should make their defensive unit even better in 2013. This makes the Ravens +180 for the AFC North title and 50-to-1 Super Bowl odds all the more intriguing with the lack of respect heading the defending champs’ way.