When you arrive at M&T Bank Stadium for today's regular-season opener between the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs, you're going to be hard-pressed to find anyone who doubts that Joe Flacco and friends are going to fight deep into the playoffs this season.
Really, there's going to be so much purple passion bubbling up around Camden Yards that it might even leave a ring around Oriole Park.
And why not? The Ravens shocked the NFL world last year when their rookie quarterback and rookie coach took them all the way to the AFC championship game, and now they are a year older and a year wiser and, you would think, a year better than the team that fell a couple of big plays short of the Super Bowl.
The optimism is oozing out everywhere. Baltimore Sun football expert Ken Murray was splashed across the top of the Web site the other day with his blog prediction that the Ravens would win the Super Bowl. And it's not like Ken is some cockeyed homer. He makes a pretty fair case that the Ravens are better on both sides of the ball, though you can't discount the possibility that he's just trolling for a free trip to Miami.
This is all well and good, of course. Baltimore sports fans have suffered through another dismal Orioles season, so it's understandable that they would rush to hitch their emotional wagons to the Ravens. But it's only fair to point out that there is a slight disconnect between expectations around here and those in the outside world.
The oddsmakers aren't quite so sold on the Ravens. The last time I looked, the guys who set the lines in Vegas will give you 22-1 odds if you want to bet on them to win the Lombardi Trophy. There are 12 teams the people who study the highly sophisticated competitive models think have a better chance of winning it all.
To take that skepticism a step further, the sports books have set the over-under line on Ravens victories at 8 1/2 , which means that the people who put their money ahead of their team loyalty think the Ravens are no lock to be better than a .500 team.
If you're a true-blue Ravens fan, you're probably thinking of places they can stick those computer models. You're thinking that the Ravens proved everybody wrong last year and they can do it again. There isn't a Hewlett-Packard in the world that can tell you how big Ray Rice's heart is, or how much gas is really left in Ray Lewis' tank.
The oddsmakers are dealing with probability. Ravens fans would rather make a deal with destiny. Reality will probably end up somewhere in between, but it will be a while before anybody knows for sure.
What we know right now is that the Kansas City Chiefs have limped into town as a double-digit underdog, which would seem to make them the perfect guest for a grand opening. The Ravens are taking nothing for granted - coach John Harbaugh would bristle at the notion - but they have an excellent opportunity to get the NFL season off to a very uplifting start.
There are questions. There will always be questions.
Can Flacco take the next developmental step after his surprising rookie season?
Do the Ravens have enough playmakers to produce a Super Bowl-caliber offensive attack?
Can defensive coordinator Greg Mattison pick up where Rex Ryan left off and continue the tradition of great Ravens defense?
There are legitimate areas of concern. The search for a big-play receiver continues, and the impact of several offseason personnel losses remains unknown. The Ravens also are banking on the good health of some key players whose durability could be an issue all year.
Sounds like a lot of teams.
There is going to be plenty of time to analyze all that, but that time is not now. The new football season is about to begin, and no city is more ready for that to happen than Baltimore.
It's time to dance.
Take it away, Ray.
Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM).