It seems like an eternity since the Ravens won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, holding off a then can’t miss youngster named Colin Kaepernick in the final minutes to pull out a 34-31 victory.
That game capped off a magical postseason sprinkled with fairy dust that propelled the underdogs to a world championship in linebacker Ray Lewis’s final season.
The Ravens pulled out a double overtime win against top-seeded Denver after a miracle pass by Flacco tied it in regulation and became the last team to win a playoff game against New England in Gillette Stadium, that is how nicely that the stars aligned that year.
But that was five years ago, which IS an eternity in the NFL.
The Ravens have been at best mediocre ever since that big day in New Orleans with only one trip to the playoffs since that ended with an early ouster.
2017 is being seen by some as a referendum on head coach John Harbaugh whose once-shining star has dimmed considerably after he bested his brother Jim’s team for the championship.
The Ravens could have made the playoffs last year but fell victim to a Christmas Day miracle in Pittsburgh when their arch-rival pulled off a stunning fourth quarter comeback.
They finished 8-8.
Quarterback Joe Flacco bounced back from a serious knee injury to throw for 4,317 yards and 20 touchdowns but had 15 interceptions as well as a miserable 6.42 yards per attempt.
Not that it was all his fault, his receiving corps wasn’t very good and the running game was inconsistent at best.
Baltimore hasn’t had a legitimate running back since the days of Ray Rice. Justin Forsett had one good year in 2014 but otherwise, it’s been running back by committee or in layman’s terms: we have no running back.
The team did add oft-injured dual threat Danny Woodhead in the offseason but he has been plagued with health issues.
Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. hung up his cleats after a sixteen-year career but he was on his last legs during his three-year tenure with the Ravens despite his early brilliance in Carolina.
Flacco will now have to rely on Mike Wallace, Breshard Perriman and Kansas City Chiefs castoff Jeremy Maclin as well as favorite target tight end Dennis Pitta who is finally healthy again.
Considering that Baltimore did little to address their offensive deficiencies since last season, it is going to be up to the defense to keep games close and hope that the mad bomber Flacco can hit some of his signature Hail Mary passes or that clutch kicker Justin Tucker is able to steal a couple of wins off of his foot.
With the Ravens, it always begins and ends with defense, the team’s trademark since the days of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and the rest of that bad-assed wrecking crew.
However, this year will see changes on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are linemen Elvis Dumervil and Timmy Jernigan as well as linebacker Zachary Orr.
Baltimore added former Arizona Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson and ex-Dallas Cowboy cornerback Brandon Carr as well as spent their first four draft picks on young defensive talent.
The D will be once again be led by linebacker Terrell Suggs, hard-hitting safety Eric Weddell and nose tackle Brandon Williams. It will once again be the strength of the team.
What does it all add up to?
In a division ruled by the Steelers and with the Cincinnati Bengals having reloaded offensively, it probably means another season out of the playoffs for the Ravens and a possible housecleaning.