The Baltimore Ravens are serious about the Lombardi Trophy this year. They used this off season to add youth, quality and depth to their already stacked squad. Another successful draft highlighted by quality picks Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle added youth and agility to last year’s #3 defense. They added defensive backs with veteran experience to add depth to a secondary still marked by injuries. The recent signing of 2-time Pro-Bow QB Marc Bulger added quality leadership to a QB group which lacked a veteran to help Joe Flacco progress. The addition of Jim Zorn provided him the teacher he needs to take the next step when he takes the field against the New York Jets this year and battles the likes of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie for his first test.
The Ravens will study their opposition thoroughly and be prepared when they take the field to battle those in their way of the Trophy. Here is a look at those that have been chosen to be part of the Ravens' Super Bowl run:
Game 1: @ the New York Jets, Monday Night Football Sept. 13th @ 7:00 pm
Out: Lito Shephard CB, Thomas Jones RB, Alan Faneca G
In: Antonio Cromartie CB, LaDainian Tomlinson RB, Santonio Holmes WR, Jason Taylor LB
The New York Jets have made it clear they are not taking a detour on their path to the Super Bowl. With quality additions to the #1 defense it will be hard to find the open spaces against Rex’s boys. Their downfall will be their offense. LaDainian Tomlinson is not the same player, as he will realize when he faces Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs in the season opener. Mark Sanchez is not going to make leaps and bounds in productivity and may find it hard to be a leader with the likes of Taylor, Cromartie and Tomlinson around him.
Game 2: @ the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday afternoon Sept. 19th @ 1:00 pm
Out: Shane Graham K
The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t done much to improve their squad this off season and Chris Benson, a big part of their success last year, was just arrested for punching someone in the face. Ever since T.J. Houshmandzadeh left, Chad Ochocinco has been their lone star for Carson Palmer to play with. They failed to bring in trouble maker T.O. in an effort to help their team to a consecutive division title.
The Cleveland Browns have been one of the most aggressive NFL teams so far this off season, but not much to show for it. Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are back-ups at best and there are no real big names in this city except for LeBron James (though not for long it seems). This is a team in transition and with no chemistry. It will take another year or two at least to make a run at a division championship.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a lot to endure these past couple of months. The Roethlisberger affair, Willy Colon with a season "ending" injury and Limas Sweed on the Injured Reserve. Trying to come back from a disappointing season where they tied with the Ravens in the division, they will have to do so without Big Ben at QB for at least the first 4 games. Unlucky for them, they play the Ravens for the 4th game in Pittsburgh, so Ben will have to try to beat them in Baltimore.
The Ravens need to make a statement right here. These 4 games involve last year’s #1 defense and three division rivals. Santonio Holmes is out in game 1 and Roethlisberger is out in game 4. Cleveland will not have it together enough yet to do anything scary. Cincinnati has a good offense and defense. They might pose the only threat right now. Worst case scenario: Ravens 2-1 in the division and 3-1 overall. Looking good so far.