It's that time of year again! The weather gets cooler, you pull your jeans and Ravens sweatshirts out of storage, sip an Octoberfest brew, and anticipate another season of Ravens football.
And this should be a good one, folks. It seems like every other media personality is picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl this year, and rightfully so. With the additions of Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh and the quality draft the Ravens had, this year's Ravens team is finally as good on offense as it is on defense. Maybe even better.
So how should the Ravens do this year? Let's break it down!
@ New York Jets - WIN - The Jets are the other AFC team generating massive hype so far this summer, but for all the wrong reasons. If the Jets were from Jacksonville, you'd hear as much about them as you do the Jaguars. But since they are from New York, have a good-looking young QB in Matt Sanchez, a shutdown corner in Darrelle Revis, and a loudmouth head coach in Rex Ryan, they are media darlings. And while they have a solid defense, their offense is shrouded in question marks. To me they look like the 2004 Ravens: all defense, no offense, and a cocky head coach. Joe Flacco and company may have some trouble moving the ball against the Jets' stout defense, but the Jets should be immobile against the Ravens defense. I see a low scoring affair with the Ravens edging out the Jets for the win. 17-13.
@ Cincinnati Bengals - LOSS - The Bengals swept the Ravens -- and the division -- last season and look to be the Ravens main competition for the division again in 2010. I think the Ravens are too talented on offense to be stifled by the Bengals defense like they were last season, but to overlook the Bengals would be a mistake. They are getting better on defense and they've added some good offensive weapons, starting with Terrell Owens. And with the Ravens riding high from their Monday Night win over the Jets on a short week, I think this could be a stumbling point for the Ravens. 17-20.
Cleveland Browns - WIN - The Browns may be better than they were a year ago, but they still have a long way to go. The Ravens should romp in their home opener. 38-14.
@ Pittsburgh Steelers - WIN - The Ravens lucked out and face the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the last week of Ben Roethlisberger's 4-week suspension. QB Dennis Dixon almost beat the Ravens in Baltimore last year, so this could be a very tough game for the Ravens, but I see the Ravens getting the W. They should have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh last year if Derrick Mason catches a sure-fire touchdown pass, and the Ravens have only gotten better while the Steelers have taken a few steps back. 24-17.
Denver Broncos - WIN - The Ravens always dominate the Broncos in Baltimore and this year should be no different. The Broncos lost their best offensive weapon, Brandon Marshall, this past offseason and look to be headed for a rebuilding year. I see the Ravens winning easily. 30-13.
@ New England Patriots - LOSS - The Ravens drew a tough hand, getting four very tough road games to start the season and this one is no different. The Ravens went 1-1 in New England last year, but could have easily been 2-0. The Patriots are probably a little better than they were in the playoffs last year with Wes Welker coming back, but their defense is stil suspect and the Ravens' new offensive weapons should help the Ravens move down the field against their defense. But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick rarely gets beaten twice by the same team in a calendar year, so I am going to pick with my head and not my heart for this one. 20-23.
Buffalo Bills - WIN - The Bills are going to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. Even winning a close game would be a disappointment. Blowout city. 40-17.
Miami Dolphins - WIN - The Dolphins are a team on the rise, with the addition of Brandon Marshall, and the Wildcat offense has given strong defensive teams fits in the past. But the Ravens handled them twice in 2008 and should look to handle the Dolphins once more. 26-18.
@ Atlanta Falcons - WIN - To me, the Falcons are a mysterious team in 2010. Like the Ravens, the Falcons have been riding the wave of a new head coach in Mike Smith and a young QB in Matt Ryan, but 2009 was a step back for the team, as they missed the playoff despite going 9-7. Will the Falcons be the Falcons of 2008? The Ravens have added more weapons than the Falcons have, so 2010 is where these two team's eerie similarities should end. But this could be a tough game, either way. 24-17.
@ Carolina Panthers - WIN - The Panthers will always have a strong running attack as long as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are lining up in their backfield. But with Matt Moore as their QB, they should be a one dimensional team in 2010. The Ravens should win this game as long as they can stop the run. 28-13.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - WIN - The Bucs are one of those teams content to go through the motions. Their QB is Josh Freeman. Their RB is still Cadillac Williams and their WR's are filled with guys no one has ever heard of. Their defense is nothing like the one that helped win a Super Bowl and dominate the league for years. The Ravens should win easily. 33-10.
Pittsburgh Steelers - WIN - The Ravens haven't beaten a Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacked Steelers team since 2006. It ends here. 17-13.
@ Houston Texans - LOSS - Everyone thinks the Texans are going to challenge the Colts for the division this year, and they have the offense to do it. Coming off a hard-fought win against the Steelers, the Ravens will drop this one in the closing minutes. 20-24.
New Orleans Saints - WIN - The Saints are a multi-faceted offense much like the Colts that can give the Ravens' defense fits. On defense, the Saints are an all or nothing unit, relying on turnovers to be effective. This could go either way for me, but I think the Ravens will rise to the opportunity after a sour loss to the Texans in Houston a week before. This is a statement game for the Ravens as they look to win the division and head into the playoffs. 30-24.
@ Cleveland Browns - WIN - The Browns have a knack for playing division rivals tough at home regardless of how bad they have been, and just last season they lost to the Bengals by 3 points, beat the Steelers, and the Ravens needed turnovers to score points. I expect more of the same in a Ravens close win. 28-24.
Cincinnati Bengals - WIN - This could be for the division, for the playoffs, for everything -- or nothing -- depending on if the Ravens or Bengals already have their postseason position locked up. But with the Bengals having beaten the Ravens in Cincy in week 2, the Ravens will come out determined to end the losing streak versus the Bengals. 28-21.
Ravens 2010 Record: 13-3.
I would give myself a margin of error of -2, meaning an 11-5 season could be very likely. But I just don't see this team having too many letdowns with the firepower they have on offense and with the talent they still have on defense.
2010 should be a very "super" year in Baltimore. Anything less would be a disappointment.