Joe Flacco (Photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn/New York Times)
After an incredible playoff run ending with a Super Bowl victory, many would think the Baltimore Ravens would no longer be looked at as the “underdog”. But unfortunately for the Ravens, that is not the case. In fact, the Denver Broncos are favored by 7 in the Ravens season opener, which is still two and a half months away. So why are the Ravens not given the respect that the Super Bowl champion usually receives?
Ultimately, the answer lies in the hands of two people: General Manager Ozzie Newsome and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has been under a lot of scrutiny this offseason by football fans all over. But in Baltimore, all the fans have to say is “in Ozzie we trust”. After losing an unprecedented total of nine starters on the Ravens roster, trusting in Newsome is all that Ravens fans can do. This number, of course, leads many to believe that the Ravens will not be at their highest stature.
But somehow, Newsome has turned the losses into a competition. With many of the vacant starting positions up for grabs, the players are having to compete for the open slots, making all of the athletes work harder in the long run. The Ravens currently have five returning players, two rookies, and one free agency acquisition vying for the starting safety position.
Newsome’s approach to this offseason has been looking for the opportunities instead of the downfalls, whereas many other football fans see it as the Ravens’ demise. But with the projected starters on the Ravens roster, other teams should not be counting the Ravens out this season. Despite Matt Birk’s retirement, the entire offensive line will be back on the field protecting Joe Flacco and helping to pave a lane for running back Ray Rice. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson will also be getting more looks from Flacco this season. With the departure of Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith will likely be the go-to receiver, while Jacoby Jones currently holds the number two position.
In September, Ravens fans are going to have to switch from “in Ozzie we trust” to “Keep calm and trust Flacco”. Newsome obviously trusts in Flacco, considering the six year, $120.6 million dollar contract offered to the quarterback. At first, the Super Bowl MVP’s unprecedented contract was thought to be the reason that that team lost so many players; but when all was said and done, it ended up saving the Ravens organization a great deal of money. As of June 19, 2013, the Ravens have just over $6 million in cap space.
After leading his injury-plagued team to the playoffs, winning every postseason game, claiming a Super Bowl championship, and being awarded Super Bowl MVP, Ravens fans would think Flacco would have helped his team relinquish the underdog title, or at least finally have himself recognized as an elite quarterback in the NFL. But sadly for Ravens fans, they are outnumbered on this outlook. Running back Ray Rice sympathizes with Ravens fans on the topic, but he does not mind being looked at as the underdog. “Being the underdog just feels like you have something to prove. If you always put yourself at the top, the only way you can go is down,” Rice said. As for his quarterback, Rice agrees with the fans as well. “If you had to put it in perspective right now Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in football right now. I’m not saying that because it’s my guy, but look who he’s beaten. He’s beaten Tom Brady, beat Peyton Manning, and who else is out there?”
While the Ravens organization and their fans are in agreement, the rest of the football world has some doubts. To the Ravens, the underdog title does not seem to matter. The team is taking their new opportunity and running with it. Despite all of the offseason madness in Baltimore, one thing is for sure: defeating the defending champion Baltimore Ravens will not be as easy as it may seem.
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