With the season a mere five days away, we might as well lock in our projections for the 2011 season while we still can.
I was a game off last year, predicting a 13-3 record with the Ravens finishing 12-4. And this year I'll go in reverse, predicting a 12-4 record while expecting a 13-3 season.
After the brutal loss to the Steelers in the playoffs, in addition to the regular season loss at home to Pittsburgh, I think this is the year the Ravens finally get over the Pittsburgh hump. I've got nothing riding on that other than the laws of probability, since the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger starting under center are 7-2 against the Ravens. It's time the Ravens started to even out that record on statistical averages alone. And adding a deep threat in Lee Evans, shoring up the offensive line and a better pass rush should go a long way in bringing down the Steelers.
And that's really what the 2011 season comes down to: beating Pittsburgh. With the Ravens and Steelers each having an easy schedule on paper, the games between these two teams will likely be what determines the AFC North.
So what better way to start the season than with the Ravens hosting the Steelers in week 1?
Having said all that, I do wonder if the Ravens can beat the Steelers. It's gotten to the point in this rivalry where Ravens fan just have to expect something to go wrong. And how could I not feel that way after the playoff loss in Pittsburgh last January, where everything did go wrong? So while I am excited for the season, I am reserved in my excitement, because until the Ravens actually prove that they can beat Roethlisberger and the Steelers, I don't believe they can.
So instead of going through each game, I'll say this. The Ravens will split with the Steelers this year and drop three out of four games against the Texans, Jets, Colts and Chargers. They usually have trouble beating better teams -- and those five teams are easily the best teams they'll face this year. That said, I do hope they can surpass my expectations because I believe the Ravens are better than the Texans, Jets, Colts and Chargers. It's time we started beating the better teams in the NFL instead of feasting off the also-rans and losing close games to elite teams. The Ravens should be an elite tam this year, so they better play like one.
So while I am predicting another 12-4 year that could likely see us getting the wild card and going on the road....again...deep down I am hoping for more. If this team plays to its ability, two losses starts to sound pretty realistic.
Until then, I'll see you on Sunday. Go Ravens.