Last week we covered some of the things that should boost Ravens fan’s confidence going into the 2012 season. In summary, we discussed the significant contributions expected of our returning veterans (seven of which were named in the NFL’s top-100 list), and the upside potential of the Wizard of Oz’s off-season acquisitions. This week we’ll look at some areas that may give Ravens fans pause before purchasing airline tickets to New Orleans in February 2013.
The biggest external concern for the Ravens is their 16-game schedule – a schedule considered the 4th most difficult in the league. The first half of the season features the Ravens hosting the defending AFC Champion Patriots, the Cowboys, and division rivals Bengals and Browns. Away games include contests against the Eagles, Chiefs, and playoff rival Texans. While I can see a scenario where the Ravens enter the bye week with a 7-0 mark, the pragmatic me says that 5-2 is more realistic.
The second half of the season is where things indeed get interesting. Not only do the Ravens travel to play improved squads in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but they also hit the road to battle their West Coast nemesis Chargers, and their cross town rivalry, RGIII-led Redskins. Home contests don’t offer much solace as we host the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants and the Manning-ized Broncos. Lest the casual observer forget, round two of the season includes two games with our arch-rival Steelers in a 14-day span. Could this 9-game stretch go 9-0…uhmm, maybe? But again pragmatism demands a more realistic view of 6-3 or even 5-4. Summing these figures leads me to the conclusion that Ravens fans should feel happy with an 11-5 season. On the bright side, the rest of the AFC North teams have similarly difficult schedules, and an 11-5 mark will likely take the division.
Internally, Ravens fans assemble premature grey hairs because of injuries, the “O” line, and the “Cam” factor. The chief injury of concern is, of course, to Terrell Suggs. Initially he claimed recovery by mid-season, but it is now considered unlikely that he will return before game thirteen. It will be nice to have #55 back on the field for the Steelers game, but losing his pass rush for the first 2/3 of the season will force Kruger, Kindle and Upshaw to grow up quickly to keep the Ravens defense in the NFL’s top 10. While this is not an impossible proposition, it is less than believable.
Notwithstanding the anti-Flacco-ism and Yanda-optimism prevalent throughout the Ravens Nation, the most serious critiques against this offense lie with the offensive line. Do they have the skill and the depth to make it through a grueling 16-game season? Veterans like Yanda and recent additions like “KO” leave us positive, while aging veterans like Birk, McKinnie, and the inconsistent Oher leave us with concerns.
The final concern we Ravens fans take into 2012 is Cam Cameron’s ability to overcome opposing defenses. Cam recently delivered two consecutive 12-4 seasons, but has yet to deliver an AFC- or Super Bowl-Championship. This is indeed a high standard, but one the Ravens Nation has cause to expect. The Raven’s 2012 offensive weapons are simply too good to ignore. It’s time for Cam to let the big dogs run…or fail…either way, we are ready.