By DJ Siddiqi @DJSiddiqi on July 9, 2014
The Baltimore Ravens are just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. However, they endured a rough 2013 season which saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in the Joe Flacco-John Harbaugh era. The Ravens finished third in the AFC North with a record of 8-8. Here are five reasons why fans should expect a similar fate for Baltimore in 2014.
One of the keys to being a successful NFL team is how well your offense converts in the red zone. The Ravens do not convert very well in the red zone. In 2013, Baltimore ranked 31st in the NFL in red zone TD percentage, converting just 46.2 percent of the time. A lot of these issues were due to injuries, but even with the return of tight end Dennis Pitta and the addition of Steve Smith, the Ravens should still be below average in the red zone.
The Ravens have a lot of holes to fix on defense. Baltimore was known for its top defenses over the past decade, but in 2013, the defense regressed to levels of average. The unit ranked 16th in interceptions and sacks forced. Entering 2014, the Ravens have to figure out who their nickel cornerback and starting free safety will be, along with improving the depth at the defensive line positions.
It's a miracle the Ravens were able to finish with a .500 record in 2013 considering all of the injuries and uninspired play the team went through. Ray Rice was one of those Ravens players who had a terrible season. Rice ran for 660 yards on 214 carries for a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. Bernard Pierce was just as bad as he ran for 2.9 yards-per-carry on 152 carries. If the running game is bad, the Ravens' season will be bad yet again.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Rice, Pierce and the Ravens' offensive unit struggled in 2013 was due to the terrible play of the offensive line. The Ravens' offensive line allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season, as Baltimore's offense finished the season ranked 29th in total offense. Due to the lack of cohesion along the offensive line, Joe Flacco threw 22 interceptions, which led the AFC.
With the exception of the Cleveland Browns, every team in the AFC North is evenly matched. Despite winning the division last season, the Cincinnati Bengals went 2-2 in games against the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers went 2-2 in games against the Ravens and Bengals. Although all three teams are evenly matched when it pertains to head-to-head matchups, of all three teams, the Ravens have the most holes to fix.
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