Friday, August 7, 2009

NFL Preview Show Extravaganza: Baltimore Ravens

Our final conference championship team is being profiled today.

The 2008 season had plenty of surprises to go around. Indeed, one of the bigger surprises in the AFC was the resurgence of the Ravens, led by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie head coach John Harbaugh.

The coach and quarterback led the Ravens to an 11-5 record and a AFC Wild Card spot. The offense finished just outside of the top 10 in scoring. Flacco fell 29 yards shy of a 3,000 yard passing season. While Flacco might have thrown 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, he did a good job managing the offense (by that I mean not letting crap fall apart).

Of course, it helps when you have a good running game. The tandem of LaRon McClain, Willis McGahee and Ron Rice ran for a combined 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns (zero TD's for Rice).

Another good ingredient for the Ravens season, the defense. Let's face it, it's not the Ravens unless they have a good defense. Once again, they were a top 10 defense, in 2008. Since 2003, the Ravens have been a top 10 defense five times (out of six). When you go back to 1999, they've only finished outside the top 10 in defense twice (once in 2007 and once in 2002).

Keep this in mind, 2008 was a first for the Ravens under Harbaugh, who in fact is a disciple of recently deceased Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson. Harbaugh might have a good defensive mind, but he'll have to go into the 2009 season without defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Ryan left to coach the New York Jets. Consider this, the Ravens have had Ryan, Mike Nolan and Marvin Lewis as defensive coordinators. New coordinator Greg Mattison has quite a bit to live up to.

If the Ravens want to re-live their success of the 2008 season, they'll have to follow through on their commitment to defense and running the football...and Flacco needs to throw some touchdown passes.

Now it is time for those burnin' yearbook style questions:

Most Offensive Player (Offensive MVP): Ummmmm...Get back to me later.
Most Defensive Player (Defensive MVP): All of them?
Best New Guy (Rookie of the Year): Michael Oher
Coolest Twitter Page: Fabian Washington
Coolest Names (Top 3): Ernie Wheelwright, Haruki Nakamura, Oniel Cousins
Most Likely to Succeed (Team MVP): Snoop Dog?
In 2009, the Ravens will go: 10-6

That's all I have for today. I'll be back Monday with a look at the Bears.

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