So how do we know that the Ravens are thinking Super Bowl this year? Well outside of the idea that every team in the NFL thinks they have a shot at the big game every year, the Ravens have been quietly amassing talent in the right spots.
Last year was clearly a wakeup call to the coaches, players and front office that they have a special group here. Getting so close despite having a non-existant secondary is impressive for any team. Having the lead against the eventual Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, is even more impressive. While the Patriots would eventually end up demolishing the Indianapolis Colts and barely squeaking by the Seattle Seahawks for the Lombardi, the Ravens were primed to be even better had they beaten the Patriots.
Against the Seahawks run-first offense, the Ravens would have been able to seriously limit the damage that running back Marshawn Lynch could do as they did all season long. That would have meant putting the ball in the hands of Russell Wilson. While Wilson has already won a Super Bowl, he was just okay against one of the worst secondaries in the league. Wilson hit on only 57% of his passes in the Super Bowl, but threw for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Ravens would have been able to pin their ears back against Wilson and get far more pressure on him than the Patriots could, even though the Patriots ended the game with 3 sacks on Wilson. By disrupting him even further and taking away the running game, the Ravens could have seriously beaten up on the Seahawks offense. Add in Joe Flacco's legendary postseason performance and a rushing attack that was one of the best in the league and the Ravens could have milked the clock with Justin Forsett and hit on some throws in order to put points on the board.
In 2015, the Ravens look even better. In part due to the health of the team right now. Everyone is coming back from their injuries and looking solid. That includes players that weren't able to even see the field last year in Brent Urban, and Kapron Lewis-Moore. Add in a fully healthy Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb looking to redeem himself from his previous injuries and you have a great setup when added to the rest of the defense
On offense, the Ravens are able to have continuity that they haven't had during Joe Flacco's career. The offensive line is coming back in it's entirety and fully healthy. Running back Justin Forsett is back after signing an extension with the Ravens and is looking hungry to go further than he ever has before. Steve Smith returns and looks like he finally has everything down to go with the chemistry with Flacco. The rest of the offense is relatively new but looking great early in the process. With new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman keeping the offensive scheme generally the same but adding in some new wrinkles, this should be the best offense the Ravens have ever had.
With the offense and defense excelling at levels rarely seen before, and combined together, the Ravens clearly have a lot of talent. But it's what they have done with regards to depth that is even more telling.
That starts with the signing of Matt Schaub to back up Joe Flacco. Even though he has not done well so far in practices, he is a veteran quarterback that has led teams before. While Flacco has yet to miss a game, the Ravens tried to secure a quarterback that could be counted on as a game manager at the very least and could be relied on to sling the ball around if necessary. Ozzie Newsome has also added a ton of help in the secondary, which was needed after last season. Cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Casius Vaughn are new Ravens that should be competing for some playing time and add much needed veteran depth at that position if a player were to go down. Kendrick Lewis gets added to free safety since that position is in a bit of a toss up right now. All of the former weak spots for the Ravens could now be argued as some of the deepest and strongest this year.
As the Ravens know, health and depth are some of the most important things towards winning a Super Bowl. This year, the Ravens have made sure that they have both in their quest to bring home another trophy.