Happy Wednesday, Ravens Nation! First off, I just want to let you guys know that I am terribly sorry for not writing the mailbag on the normal scheduled day. I did not receive enough questions to do it, so I decided to do it a day late to get more questions. Unfortunately, my plan did not work, and I still only have a few questions. This will be a short mailbag, but a mailbag nonetheless. Let's get started!
Q1: Who do you think will be the wild card teams in the AFC next season? - sttopher315 on BB.
I officially made my predictions on the playoffs and playoff seeding for both the NFC and AFC, right before the Ravens began their game against the Broncos on September 5th. My AFC wild card teams were the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the Texans and Ravens winning their respected divisions, the Bengals and Colts will both come in second, also clinching themselves another wild card spot in the playoffs.
The Bengals have changed very little, and they have one of the best wide receivers in the game in AJ Green. Andy Dalton can finally be trusted as a quarterback, and the connection between Dalton and Green has gotten stronger since last season. The running backs are looking well. Rookie Giovani Bernard and veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis are posing a threat to opponents' defenses. As for their defense, they have guys like Vontaze Burfict, James Harrison, Geno Atkins, King Dunlap, etc. With those names on a single defense, it could be dangerous for offenses, as long as they can continue to work well together.
The Colts were defeated by the Ravens in the AFC Wild Card Round of the playoffs last season, but that doesn't seem to have stomped out their motivational fire. Despite losing in the playoffs and their head coach Chuck Pagano returning, they are still looking well from a motivational standpoint. As for on the field, Reggie Wayne is still one of the NFL's top receivers, Andrew Luck is still a talented young QB, RB's Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw will dominate the running game pretty well, and young players like T.Y. Hilton will be the face of this football team. The Colts are another team that barely changed in the offseason, and if I were the Houston Texans, I'd be a little worried about the Indianapolis Colts being right behind them in the division race.
Q2: Do you believe the Browns are more competitive this year, or are they still by far the weakest in the division? - sttopher315 on BB.
Last season, the Browns lost eleven games. Of those eleven games, five of them were lost by a touchdown or less, including the week four match-up against the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns were not an awful team last year, even though they went 5-11.
To me, it doesn't seem possible that the Browns finish last in the division. They have improved from last season, and they did well at showing it in a close loss to the Dolphins in Week One. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Titans, they lost their starting center, a starting linebacker and a running back, all for the season in their Week One game.
At this point in time, it looks as if the Steelers are in the race to be the last team in the AFC North, and I would not be surprised at all if they were to do so. The Browns, on the other hand, will have a better record than last season, but come in third place in the division, the highest they've finished since the 2010 season.
If you want me to be honest, then I'll tell you that I am a little nervous about the game this Sunday in Baltimore against the Browns. Last season when the Browns came to Baltimore, in a game I went to, the Ravens played a great game all the way through, until the end where the Browns came back and came close to winning the game. Thankfully, the Ravens' defense stopped them from getting the ball into the end zone, getting Baltimore the win, 23-16.
If you aren't worried about the game, you must be crazy. In a division where everyone is winless, anything could happen.
Q3: Are there any teams that are not known to be powerhouses that could give us trouble this year? - sttopher315 on BB.
Truthfully, if a team is a powerhouse, we'll probably know it before the season. Of course, there are teams like the Kansas City Chiefs that could come out of nowhere and possibly grab a playoff bid.
The Chiefs have been picked by some analysts and writers to make the playoffs (normally with the Ravens being absent from the playoffs) which means that they aren't really a team that nobody expects. I don't believe that there is another AFC team that has the capabilities of coming out of the woodwork, and dominating anyone.
If I had to choose a team that has potential for being a good team, I'd say it would be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills almost defeated the Patriots on Sunday, but they fell short by a score of 23-21. Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel looked good, especially with spreading the ball out. RB Fred Jackson was the leading receiver, while Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson both caught a touchdown pass. TE Scott Chandler also did a great job receiving the ball. As for the defense, they forced two turnovers; a forced fumble and an interception.
If there is any team in the AFC that I say could surprise some people, it would definitely be the Buffalo Bills. As for them being a "powerhouse"... I wouldn't go that far just yet.
Q4: Who do you think our slot/possession/middle-of-the-field receiver is this year? It was supposed to be Boldin, then Pitta, but they are both gone. We have Stokley, but do you believe that Aaron Mellette or Marlon Brown could have immediate impact? - marvun22 on BB.
As for Marlon Brown in the slot, I believe he could see time and success there. In the preseason, he played well in the slot, but since Stokley is the main slot guy, Brown could be seeing more outside routes. Marlon Brown will have success as a Ravens' receiver wherever he plays on the field, but I could see him playing on the outside more than anything. Even in the Broncos game, Marlon Brown played in the slot some and got his first NFL touchdown. Only time will tell where he feels most comfortable playing on the football field.
The Ravens may not have a Wes Welker-type slot receiver, but overall, I don't see a problem with the wide receivers at all. If there is anything to worry about in the Ravens' offense, it would be the hands of tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark, who both bad multiple drops against the Broncos.
Q5: After the way our safeties performed, is it time to name Elam as the starter? - @Aka_Young_Gun
I don't think it's time just yet. FS Michael Huff played an awful football game on Thursday night, allowing passes to be easily completed, touchdowns to be scored, etc.
Rookie Matt Elam may have done a much better job, and he may do a much better job than Huff. However, already benching Huff isn't the way to go, in my opinion. The Ravens need to start Huff and Ihedigbo again, just to test whether or not those two will be the starters of the future. It is only Week One/Week Two, so the Ravens have fourteen/fifteen more games to play, meaning they have time to experiment with the safeties.
On the other hand, starting Elam on Sunday vs. the Browns might not be a bad idea. It would give the Ravens an idea of whether or not Elam can play well as a starter in the NFL. Matt Elam has tons of potential, and the Ravens might need to test him out when it comes game time on Sunday.
Whoever coach Harbaugh decides to start on Sunday, I will respect it, as long as the safeties perform at the level they were expected to before the season began.
Well, that seems to be the end of this week's edition of Tuesday's Mailbag! Hopefully next time we will get more questions to answer, making it a lot more fun! Remember to e-mail me questions to Victorgrayh10@gmail.com OR tweet them to me @Frezeal33 OR put them in the comments below! I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your evening! Go Ravens!