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Health is the only thing in the way of the Baltimore Ravens becoming a Super Bowl contender

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

People are making the mistake of reading into the Baltimore Ravens 5-11 season. Some people seem to be of the mindset that the Ravens were 5-11  mainly due to a lack of execution.Those people would be wrong. However, those of us who watched the Ravens very closely during the 2015 season understood that the team had over 20 players sent to injured reserve such as the following Key players:

  • QB Joe Flacco (torn ACL/MCL)
  • OLB Terrell Suggs (torn Achilles)
  • WRSteve Smith Sr. (torn Achilles)
  • WR Breshad Perriman (PCL sprain)
  • LT Eugene Monroe (shoulder)
  • TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
  • RB Justin Forsett (broken arm)
  • TE Crockett Gillmore (back)
  • C Jeremy Zuttah (torn pectoral muscle)
  • DB Matt Elam (torn bicep)
  • WR Michael Campanaro (back)
  • CB Will Davis (torn ACL)
Those are 12 capable starters for the Ravens who had their seasons cut short. Out of the 12 players listed above, 10 of them played a big part in the Ravens eliminating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game during the 2014 postseason.

10 of those players played a role in almost eliminating the 2014 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional round in that same postseason as well. If the Ravens held on to one of those 14 point leads that the team had on two separate occasions, this article wouldn't be written the way it is being written.

Also, among the 12 players listed above, 11 of them are returning to the Ravens for the 2016 season. The Ravens have gotten a lot deeper on defense especially with the pass rush. The Ravens added linebackers in Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon, to go along with linemen in Bronson Kaufusi and Willie Henry to bring heat to the quarterback and also provide rest of Outside linebackers in Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Za'Darius Smith.

Not to mention, in the secondary, the Ravens added a veteran Pro Bowl safety in Eric Weddle and a quality cornerback in Jarraud Powers. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to regain his old form as he will recover from a  foot injury (Lisfranc) that caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and slowed him down during the entire 2015 season.

In addition, Ravens Cornerback Shareece Wright played well during 2015 as the season went along as he played a big role in the defense finishing the season eighth in pass defense after the unit was ranked near the bottom of the league in first eight weeks of the season.

On offense, the free agent signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace and the selection 2016 fourth round draft pick wide receiver Chris Moore helps bring speed the Ravens offense which has enough receivers who can work the underneath routes in coverage. Oh and the tight end depth consisting of Gillmore, Pitta, Maxx Williams and Benjamin Watson could very well be the best group of tight ends on one team in the entire NFL.

What about the Ravens selecting running back Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft? Many consider him to be the second best running back in his draft class only behind Ezekiel Elliott who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the fourth overall pick.

The Ravens are a dangerous contender in the sense that the team could be a sleeping giant. If the Ravens are getting ignored by NFL teams the same way the media seems to be ignoring the Ravens, a lot of NFL teams are in for a rude awakening in 2016.

AFC East

When you look at the landscape of the AFC, the Patriots still control the AFC East as the Dolphins, Bills and Jets have question marks at quarterback.

AFC South

In the AFC South, the Titans and Jaguars haven't proven to be a legit contender and the Texans have a question mark at quarterback. The Colts have a quarterback in Andrew Luck, but he is recovering from his own injuries and the Colts organization has done little to surround Luck with the necessary talent around him.


AFC West

The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos have a question mark at quarterback with Peyton Manning retiring. The Chargers have a quarterback in Phillip Rivers, but like Luck with the Colts, the organization has surrounded him with little to work with. The Chiefs may very well be the favorite to win the division, but quarterback Alex Smith has to prove that he can win games with his arm more consistently especially against the better teams in the AFC.


Overall

The Ravens, on paper, really have four teams in the AFC to deal with and those teams are the Patriots, Steelers, Bengals and Chiefs if the Ravens are able to stay healthy. If the Ravens can avoid the injury bug, I don't see many teams beating this team in 2016.

When the 2016 schedule was revealed, I had the Ravens at 13-3. Others shouldn't look at what the Ravens are based on the 2015 season. The Ravens are a historically dangerous team for everyone in the AFC. Over the last 16 seasons, the perennial playoff contenders like the Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Broncos and Giants are all teams that have won at least one Super Bowl in that time frame and have at least two Super Bowl appearances in that time frame as well. Do you know what those five teams have in common? All of them have lost to the Ravens in the playoffs since 2000.

The Ravens are not going to go away quietly.