Baltimore Ravens Still AFC North Favorites?

By Thomas Emerick
John Harbaugh
Evan Habeeb-USA Today Sports

The Baltimore Ravens entered the 2013 NFL offseason as fairly disrespected favorites out of the AFC North, as much as favorites can be disrespected. The defending Super Bowl champions have to battle the aging Pittsburgh Steelers, a Cincinnati Bengals franchise that has not won a playoff game in decades, and the perennial loser Cleveland Browns. Does not sound like the late-aughts AFC North in my opinion at least.

Yet, the Ravens got +180 odds heading into the offseason from Bovada and have only downgraded to +190 since. As the Dennis Pitta injury probably dissuades the public, I bet that number will drop to 2-to-1 (+200). Meanwhile, (for now) healthy Ben Roethlisberger have evened the Ravens at +190 on Bovada, leading me to wonder how much respect Baltimore is really getting as they defend a Super Bowl championship.

This truly could be the most disrespected champ in recent memory, which is fitting for a team that did not get a huge shot behind quarterback Joe Flacco or when Coach John Harbaugh faced off against more-revered sibling Jim Harbaugh in the Super Bowl.

What Baltimore does have is younger blood to replace aging vets. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were way over the hill before playing their final down in a Ravens uniform, and free safety Michael Huff and second-round rookie linebacker Arthur Brown could truly turn out to be an upgrade upon their predecessors’ 2012 performance. Throw in Flacco’s momentum from the end of last year, and this team very much deserves an edge on Pittsburgh and Cincy.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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