Not too many people outside of this town are giving the Baltimore Ravens much of a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Almost double-digit underdogs in their last two playoff games and a FG underdogs against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, analysts and add-makers alike are still not counting the Ravens as among favorites to play in February of 2014.
The Ravens are already listed as a 7.5 point 'dog at the Denver Broncos to open the 2013 regular season. They will then host the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans to round out their first three games. These first three games will set the tone for the season, as the Ravens will then go on a two game round trip. It might just be the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, but they are still away games.
How Baltimore fares in those first three games will tell everyone whether this team should be taken seriously after losing more than half of its defensive starters but rebounded with some excellent free agent pick-ups. Chemistry is important in the NFL and with a new look in many positions, the jury will still be out on how these new players mesh when the season opens.
Although there is every expectation that the Ravens should defeat the Browns, the Broncos and Texans both crushed Baltimore in the 2012 regular season. Regardless of the Texans not getting past the New England Patriots in the post-season nor the Ravens miracle win at Denver in the same round of the playoffs, these two teams are both expected to run away with their respective divisions next season.
Even a split in those two match-ups would be satisfactory to most people and a sweep would elevate Baltimore to contender status right out of the box. One would think the Ravens would have a better chance defending their home turf versus Houston than having lightning strike twice and upsetting the very, very angry Broncos at Mile High Stadium.
No one will know for sure what will transpire until late September. However, keep an eye out on all three opponents through the NFL Draft later this week, preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season if you want to know how smart all those negative so-called expert analysts really are.