Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/26/12
As a Ravens fan, I was devastated by their loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.  Cundiff’s missed field goal was like something out of a football fan’s worst nightmare.  You could see on everyone’s face that nobody expected it not to go in.  After taking some time to grieve, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that Baltimore has nowhere to go but up.  It’s tough to be thankful for anything right now, but I think this past season yielded some potentially exciting things that could result in a trip back to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
 
1. Flacco is good, despite what people say

Even though he takes a lot of heat, much of it from Baltimore fans, Flacco has proven himself to be a great quarterback.  It’s easy to say otherwise, seeing as how he took a step back in overall performance in 2011, but he still led his team to 13 victories, including a Playoff game.  And he was better than Tom Brady, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who holds the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season, in the Ravens’ loss to New England.  Plus, it’s important to remember how young Flacco is.  The guy’s only 27, and he’s the first NFL quarterback to win a Playoff game every year since his start.  Give him a little more time and the Ravens will definitely get to play in another Super Bowl.
 
2. Torrey Smith will improve
 
Torrey Smith was the talk of the town the week after he ran 152 yards and got three touchdowns against St. Louis in Week 3.  And that was his pro football debut!  This kid came out of nowhere and suddenly gave Baltimore a deep threat.  That turned out to be a one-time thing, though.  His performance fluctuated from week to week afterwards.  He bounced around all season, sometimes being the hero (Week 9 against Pittsburgh), and sometimes looking like a bust (Week 10 against the Seahawks).  The point is this: The kid may not have had a record-setting rookie year, but he proved himself to be a more-than-decent receiver with a promising future.  He just needs more time and experience to hone his skill.
 
3. Lee Evans looked good in the Playoffs
 
There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Evans’ addition to the roster throughout the season due to his injury, but his performances in the Divisional Round and the Conference Championship should satisfy Ravens fans at the very least.  He caught a 30-yard pass from Flacco against the Texans (one-handed, no less) and contributed 39 yards against New England.  Yeah, he dropped the game-winning catch, but only because Sterling Moore knocked it out of his hands.  If Evans can stay healthy, he’ll be a nice weapon for Baltimore next season.
 
4. Dennis Pitta is the next big thing
 
Where the heck did this guy come from?  He had one reception for one yard in 2010, then 40 receptions for 405 yards (and three touchdowns) in 2011.  Like a lot of people, I mistakenly thought he was a rookie since I’d never heard of him before September 11, 2011.  I learned his name and number pretty quickly, though.  He became a crucial component to Baltimore’s formidable offense, juggling receptions with Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson and Torrey Smith.  He’s consistent and he’s showed that he can handle more than two or three receptions a game.  Baltimore’s future is bright with this guy catching the ball.
 
5. Ricky Williams
 
Ricky Williams broke 10,000 yards this past season.  'Nuff said.

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