This is the third of a 13-part series breaking down the off-season moves, coaching changes, draft and 2015 outlook for each opponent of the Kansas City Chiefs, counting down to their foe for Week 1.
Today we look at one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens. Love them or hate them, the Ravens are as consistently good as their AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns are consistently mediocre.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
2014 Record: 11-7 (2nd in AFC North, AFC Wild Card)
All-time Series Record: 3-3 regular season, 0-1 in playoffs
Last Regular Season Meeting: Baltimore won 9-6 at Arrowhead (10/7/2012)
Last Postseason Meeting: Baltimore won 30-7 in Wild Card game at Arrowhead (1/9/2011)
2015 Schedule: Week 15 at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
Top 5 players: QB Joe Flacco, WR Steve Smith, LB Elvis Dumervil, LB Terrell Suggs, K Justin Tucker
Notable draft picks: WR Breshad Perriman, TE Maxx Williams, DT Carl Davis, TE Nick Boyle
Notable offseason additions: former Chiefs S Kendrick Lewis, QB Matt Schaub, DE Chris Canty
Notable offseason departures: NT Haloti Ngata, TE Owen Daniels, WR Jacoby Jones, WR Torrey Smith
The Ravens rebounded from a disappointing 2013 season (8-8 record) in 2014 by going 10-6, grabbing a Wild Card berth, beating arch-rival Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round, and nearly knocking off the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England in the Divisional round. 2015 looks like it could be the year Baltimore makes a serious push for another Super Bowl appearance.
Head coach John Harbaugh lost his third consecutive offensive coordinator this off-season when Gary Kubiak took the head coaching job in Denver. The less tempestuous Harbaugh brother is one of the five best coaches in the NFL and replacing valued assistants never seems to be a problem for him.
Harbaugh brought in Marc Trestman to be the new OC. Like Kubiak, Trestman favors a strong zone blocking scheme in the running game, but will install a vertical passing attack that stretches the defense instead of Kubiak’s dink-and-dunk West Coast scheme.
A strong vertical game definitely fits into the talents of quarterback Joe Flacco, who possesses one of the strongest arms in the NFL. Prior to the 2012 playoffs, there was serious discussion about whether Flacco should stay in Baltimore due to his appalling playoff performances. However, one magical Super Bowl championship run later, Flacco got a huge new contract and is now considered one of the top QBs in the league.
Timing is everything, folks!
Flacco will have to be at the top of his game because his receiving corps are virtually brand new. Veteran Steve Smith still has the fire to burn opposing cornerbacks but he’ll be surrounded by a bunch of untested and unproven receivers.
Draft picks Perriman and tight end Williams must be productive from the start or the Ravens could struggle on offense. Justin Forsett will have to repeat his breakout performance of last season (1,266 yds rushing, 44 catches for 263 yds receiving, 8 total touchdowns), but because he is only 5’10” and 190 pounds, there will be durability questions.
Defensively, most teams would be terrified to lose talents like Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee in an off-season, but these are the Ravens and the new blood just keeps the defensive pressure on just fine. There is Pro Bowl talent across the board, led by linebackers Suggs and Dumervil, who make quarterbacks ponder early retirement after every game.
Pro Bowl kicker Justin Turner possesses one of the strongest legs in the league as well as being deadly accurate, so the Ravens don’t have to move the ball much past the 50-yard line to be a scoring threat.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs will be playing in Baltimore during Week 15 and the odds are good that both teams will be vying for a division title. Barring unforeseen injuries, this will be one of Kansas City’s toughest games of the year.
Previous articles in the series:
Oakland Raiders (Weeks 13 & 17)
Cleveland Browns (Week 16)