This isn’t a question our NFL analysis would normally ask of a team that just won the Super Bowl, but it applies to the Baltimore Ravens—can they get better? Not just a little bit better, but this team will need to make substantial improvement if they hope to make another serious run at the brass ring.
When you look at the Baltimore season, you see a lot of mediocrity. They slumped badly at the end of the year, nearly kicked away the division and had to shake up the offensive coaching staff in mid-December to get themselves back on track.
Joe Flacco’s quarterback play was mediocre, ranking around the middle of the league in both completion percentage and yards-per pass. The pass protection was subpar. The defense did not generate much of a pass rush.
But everything came together at the right time. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs got healthy in December. The change in the coaching staff had immediate good effects. Lewis’ retirement announcement gave the Ravens the intangible lift. And Flacco stepped up and had an extraordinary run in the postseason.
The team needed one break—that would be Denver’s Rahim Moore inexplicably letting Jacoby Jones get behind him in the waning moments of their second-round playoff game, but once Baltimore got that break, they didn’t look back.
It adds up to making Baltimore one of the most interesting teams in the NFL for 2013. You can make an argument that the playoff run was a magic ride, and the team will now slide back to being average, especially with Lewis retired and veteran free safety Ed Reed also gone.
But you can also argue that the offensive staff changes unleashed Flacco, and they are here to stay. You can argue that the Ravens played most of 2012 without lockdown corner Lardarius Webb, whom they now have back. You can point out that they made some good acquisitions, like Chris Canty on defense, and that backup running back Bernard Pierce also started to emerge in the postseason.
Either argument is reasonable and Las Vegas seems to shift to the pessimistic side, posting Baltimore’s Over/Under win prop at 8.5. I don’t know that I see the Ravens as Super Bowl-caliber again, but I’m a little more optimistic than that. I would be very surprised if they don’t have at least a winning season and that puts them Over.