The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions and atop of the football world - right now. However, all that doesn't mean much, other than the right to pick last in the 2013 NFL Draft, and get a huge target printed on them by the rest of the league for next season.
It's lonely at the top and the Ravens will find that out in more ways than one from this point forward, at least until a new NFL champion is crowned after Super Bowl 48 next February. As a result of finishing first in the AFC North, the Ravens will play a first-place schedule, meaning that other than the rotating division and conference schedule, Baltimore will also play the other two first-place teams in the AFC.
Meanwhile the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished second in the division, will play the other 2nd place teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers play the other 3rd place teams and the Cleveland Browns, well, who really cares? To be more specific, the AFC North will play the AFC East and NFC North next season as part of the NFL's rotating schedule.
That leaves the AFC South and West, where the Ravens will play the fist place teams in both divisions, the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. In comparison, the 2nd place Bengals will play the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers and the Steelers get the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders. Ouch, tough challenges for the honor of being division champs.
The Ravens will also be picking last in the 2013 NFL Draft in April and will have to figure out which of their many free agents will fit into what will be a very tight salary cap after they pay big bucks to re-sign QB Joe Flacco. Decisions on who to keep and who to let walk will polarize the media and fans, who will have their own opinions on the front office's decisions.
Repeating as Super Bowl Champs in the NFL is a daunting challenge. The New England Patriots did in 2004 and 2005. Before that, the Denver Broncos did it in 1998-99, the Dallas Cowboys in 1993-94 and the San Francisco 49ers in 1989-90.
All in all, only seven times has there been a repeat Super Bowl Champion, including, ugh, this is tough to even write, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did it twice.
A lot of decisions will go into determining the Ravens chances to become part of this list, but Ray Lewis will not be part of it. Whether Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard will be are part of the decisions awaiting GM Ozzie Newsome and his staff.
It all starts right about now.