As NFL prediction season gets under way, at least four national football publications are picking the Ravens as early favorites to repeat as AFC North champions.
In their annual preseason previews, Lindy's, Athlon Sports, Street & Smith's and Pro Football Weekly say they expect the Ravens to continue using a dominating defense and a more potent offense to defend their division title and return to the playoffs in 2007.
Ravens training camp is scheduled to begin July 29.
Predicts that the Ravens will win the Super Bowl, saying that the defense remains formidable despite the loss of linebacker Adalius Thomas, who signed with the New England Patriots as a free agent. It also points to the acquisition of former Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee as one reason that the Ravens should take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy this year. The magazine says it expects the Ravens to score more with McGahee running behind a proven line.
Also points to the addition of McGahee to a team that was already considered the class of the division as a big reason that the Ravens should repeat in the North. McGahee is expected to bring more versatility to the Ravens' offense, as opposed to the one-dimensional power running game the team used with Jamal Lewis at tailback. Lewis signed with the Cleveland Browns in the offseason.
Street & Smith's
Also likes the McGahee trade and the fact that quarterback Steve McNair has a year under his belt in Baltimore. McNair joined the Ravens in June 2006 and participated in the team's offseason workout program for the first time this year.
Pro Football Weekly
Notes the balance the Ravens showed on both sides of the ball last year and expects a similar outcome this year, particularly with head coach Brian Billick continuing to call the plays. Billick took over play-calling duties in midseason last year.