The last round:
• The AFC is about the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs this year. It’s like the NFC in the 1990s with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
NAY. The Ravens MUST win a playoff game to be taken seriously, like it or not — and beating the Chiefs in the regular season this year would also help. Do I believe the Ravens and Chiefs are the two best teams in the AFC? Yes. Did I believe that last year? Also, yes. When the AFC Championship Game kicked off, it was the Titans and Chiefs playing. It took the Ravens a few years of the Joe Flacco-John Harbaugh regime to really show that they could hold up their end of the bargain in the rivalry with the Steelers when it counted. They did get there eventually. I believe this incarnation of the Ravens can climb that mountain, too, but they need to go do it.
• Marquise Brown is going to explode this season.
YAY. I believe this in my bones. If he stays healthy, and continues to build that trust and rapport with Jackson, Brown could become a true star at receiver, finally satisfying that thirst for Ravens fans. He is fast. He is quick. He has better hands than I had thought when they drafted him. And he is, by all I have seen, a worker. This is the formula for becoming a great receiver in this league.
• The Ravens will have more than 12 players in next year’s Pro Bowl.
NAY. Come on. More than 12? The team became “the next hot thing” last year and that helps get guys in the Pro Bowl, and they also had ridiculously good health. Remember when the team used to get in Yanda, Tucker and, well, probably Suggs? Players come. Players go. And the new hot flavor gets taken to play in the Pro Bowl. I would never, never, never predict a team getting 12 nods to the Pro Bowl.
• The Ravens have the best defensive backfield in the league.
YAY. I’m going to say they do right now, on paper, but there are other really good units out there. Plus, Tavon Young‘s injury still concerns me, Jimmy Smith‘s legs (and everything else) have aged another year and Marcus Peters had maybe his best and most consistent stretch of games since he’s been in the league after arriving from the Rams.
Earl Thomas should have a better season in Year 2, and Chuck Clark brings stability to the other safety spot. To me, Marlon Humphrey is the sure-fire stud of this group, and the others need to keep their games at a high level for the Ravens to be the top backfield in the league this year. They can. Will they?