Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Baltimore Ravens


2011 Record: 12-4-0 (1st in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: John Harbaugh

Key Additions: DB Sean Considine; CB Corey Graham; WR Jacoby Jones; QB Curtis Painter; TE Billy Bajema

Key Losses: CB Chris Carr; WR Lee Evans; DL Cory Redding; LB Jarret Johnson; OL Ben Grubbs; DB Tom Zbikowski; DB Haruki Nakamura; RB Ricky Williams

Offense: Quarterback Joe Flacco returns as the starter after leading the Ravens to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Flacco put up decent numbers a year ago, passing for 3,610 yards with 20 touchdowns and twelve interceptions. Backing up is Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter.
Ray Rice is the main cog in the Ravens' offense as he rushed for 1,364 yards (4.7 ypc average)  and twelve touchdowns last season. He also had 76 receptions for 704 yards and three more touchdowns.
Along with Rice is rookie Bernard Pierce (Temple) and Anthony Allen to fill in as Ricky Williams retired following the 2011 campaign. The fullback is Vonta Leach.
At wide receiver is Anquan Boldin (57 catches for 887 yards and three TD) and Torrey Smith, a burner who had 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Also in the mix is free agent Jacoby Jones (31, 512, two TD with Houston in 2011), Tandon Doss, David Reed and LaQuan Williams.
The tight ends are Ed Dickson (54, 528, five TD) and Dennis Pitta, who had 40 grabs for 405 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive line is made up of guards Jah Reid and Marshal Yanda, center Matt Birk and tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie.  In reserve are Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Justin Boren and Ramon Harewood.
The Ravens' running game was tenth overall a year ago, averaging 125 yards a game while the passing ranked 19th with 214 yards per game. Overall, the Ravens finished 15th in the NFL by averaging 339 yards per game. The offense also scored 30 or more points four times last season while averaging just under 24 points a game.

Defense: This unit continues to shine year in and year out even though some of the key players are getting older.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis is entering his 17th season in 2012 and along with veterans like Ed Reed (safety) continues to lead the defense to greatness.
The Ravens were among the league leaders in all major categories on defense in 2011, getting 48 quarterback sacks while finishing third in scoring defense with 266 points allowed.
The pass defense was fourth overall, giving up 196 yards a game while the run defense finished second in the NFL, allowing just 96 yards per game. Overall, the Ravens were third in yards allowed with 292 yards per game.
Up front in the 3-4 defense is nose tackle Terrence Cody along with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and defensive end Pernell McPhee.
The linebackers are solid with Lewis in the middle along with Paul Kruger, Jameel McClain and rookie Courtney Upshaw, who was a defensive force while helping lead Alabama to a collegiate national championship.
If there is a familiar name missing from that group it's because linebacker Terrell Suggs, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 201l, may be out possibly all season due to a serious Achilles injury in the off-season. Suggs registered 14 quarterback sacks to lead the AFC last season. In addition, he also made two interceptions.
Other linebackers in the fold are Brendon Ayanbadejo, Albert McClellan, Dannell Ellerbe, Sergio Kindle and Chavis Williams.
The secondary, which is among the best in the NFL, has the veteran Ed Reed (three interceptions) at safety along with Bernard Pollard. The corners are Ledarius Webb (five picks) and Cary Williams. Free agent Corey Graham is available when needed as well as Jimmy Smith (two INT), Emanuel Cook, Sean Considine and Chykie Brown.

OUTLOOK: This team came very close to getting to the Super Bowl last year, but for a missed 32-yard field goal late in the 23-20 AFC Championship Game loss at New England.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has been there as the Ravens have made the playoffs the past four years, only to fall short each time, including twice in the AFC title game.
So, if the Ravens are going to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl, then Joe Flacco must continue to improve the offense along with the defense doing what they do best during the regular season. The special teams must contribute as well when the post-season arrives.
The proverbial "window of opportunity" stays open only so long in the NFL and the Ravens know this is their time and if all goes well, this team should make another deep playoff run in 2012.
The arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers always present a challenge in the AFC North and will do so once again this season.
Baltimore is a solid team all around with good, veteran leadership and an All-Pro running back in Ray Rice to help Flacco lead the offense. So, another playoff appearance following an 11-5 season looks to be in order this year.
How far the Ravens go from there is all up to them and they know it's Super Bowl or bust this season. Maybe, just maybe they finally get to the big game this year.

Week 1- vs. Cincinnati
Week 2- at Philadelphia
Week 3- vs. New England
Week 4- vs. Cleveland
Week 5- at Kansas City
Week 6- vs. Dallas
Week 7- at Houston
Week 8- BYE
Week 9- at Cleveland
Week 10- vs. Oakland
Week 11- at Pittsburgh
Week 12- at San Diego
Week 13- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 14- at Washington
Week 15- vs. Denver
Week 16- vs. NY Giants
Week 17- at Cincinnati

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