After two straight solid seasons to start the Joe Flacco era, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves among the few teams who can ask if 2010 is “the year.”
For the last decade, Baltimore made a name for itself by playing powerhouse defense, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But it could be a team personality change – from defensive to offensive – that puts Baltimore over the top in 2010 on the Sportsbook odds:
Odds to Win Division: -115 Regular Season Win Total: 10 (OV -120, UN -110) Super Bowl Odds: +1200
The Ravens actually slipped in the win column from 2008 to 2009, falling from 11 wins to nine. As a result, they disappointed many bettors who picked the OVER on their win total last year. With a number like 10 for 2010, however, the Ravens should pay back anyone willing to think positive again. In fact, the OVER may well be a steal this season.
The Baltimore Ravens were a top-five rushing team in 2009 and could match that rank again in 2010. Ray Rice has emerged as a superstar; in his first season as Baltimore’s every down back, he ran for 1,339 yards but also caught 78 passes for 702 yards. Willis McGahee complemented him perfectly as the Ravens’ goal-line back. As long as that tandem stands, Baltimore should run the ball well again.
The major gains this season should come in the passing game. Joe Flacco already showed remarkable poise and excellent arm strength in his first two seasons; now, he has some real targets. Baltimore acquired Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth to join Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason in a deep receiving corps. Considering that Flacco has Michael “Blind Side” Oher protecting him, Baltimore could become an elite all-around offensive team in 2010. The Ravens had the NFL’s No. 3 defense in 2009 and will be a surefire Super Bowl contender if that unit can be anywhere near as effective. The only problem is that Lewis and Reed are getting long in the tooth; their play will drop off any day now and someone new will have to emerge as the defensive leader.
A look at Baltimore’s schedule suggests the Ravens have a good shot to eclipse 10 wins. They play three of their first four games on the road but get to face Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger, who will still be suspended in Week 4. They also get weaker opponents like Cleveland (twice), Denver, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay – all at home. They should go at least 4-1 over that stretch alone. The Ravens look like the AFC North frontrunner and are a strong pick to represent the AFC at Super Bowl XLV.