The "Power Core" Pre-Season Power Rankings #29
A model of how not to manage a salary cap, the Baltimore Ravens paid the price for a drink from Lombardi's Grail. Worse yet, they move to the AFC North where they finished a woeful 2-4 against their new division compatriots (Steelers, Browns, Bengals). Although they ended last season 10 – 6 and throttled a weak Miami team in the Wild Card round, the Ravens were an outright disappointment from the first tear of Jamal Lewis' knee.
#29 Baltimore Ravens (10 – 6 Second in AFC Central)
Midway through the pounding at Heinz Field last January, I realized that the Ravens all season were a team without purpose. They had already won the Super Bowl a year earlier and fatefully tried to repeat that glory. Once that realization it, it was evident the Ravens would struggle and fall faster than Andrew Dice Clay's career. Watching men like Tony Siragusa, Ray Lewis and Chris McAllister get bullied and beaten in Pittsburgh was a harsh reminder that no one or team can wear the crown for long.
The Good: They get Jamal Lewis back and got rid of Elvis Grbac. Lewis should give them a much need presence on the ground behind an above average offensive line, although he won't get consistent until the midway point of the season (rust). Grbac's fall just baffled me last year. It was like he completely lost every kahuna he had on him. Ray Lewis returns and although he'll be playing a different system (3 – 4) he is still Ray Lewis. Teams will still game-plan around him. Matt Stover (thanks StillTheOne) returns in the role of reliable kicker.
The Bad: Grbac's replacement is Chris Redman or Jeff Blake. Not exactly the Dynamic Duo. The Raven switch to a 3 –4 this year but don't have any real nose tackle. Don't be surprised to see this defense struggle early and often due more to the style than the talent (although depleted). Billick if he was smart (and that's a big "if") will change back to the (4 – 3) because of the lack of LB depth. They also lost their best offensive weapon Jermaine Lewis.
The Ugly: This team will only get worse. Billick is not the type of coach that will be able to motivate his undersized, under-talented, over-paid team.
Synopsis: Losing 12 of 22 starters and couple that with an unproven starting Quarterback, this Ravens team is in for a very long season. There are still many teams that harbor animosity against Baltimore for their ego trip two years ago. 6 wins would be a successful season. 7 would be a miracle. 5 sounds just about right.