For the Ravens, it's the Super Bowl or bust

Given the issues with other AFC North teams and Ravens additions, fans are right to have high expectations

September 09, 2010|Kevin Cowherd

Well, at least there won't be any pressure on the Ravens this season.

Seriously, is there a national sports publication, website, blog or TV talking head who doesn't expect the Ravens to go far? Even the Pennysaver is picking the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl.

I read that in an article next to an ad from someone trying to sell a boat trailer and fishing gear. Which I bought, by the way. Because I don't want to be anywhere around here if the Ravens get off to a bad start. The gloom-and-doom wailing from fans will be off the charts.

That's when I'll want to be holed up at a nice, remote lake with a beer in one meaty paw and a fishing rod in the other.

And I don't even like to fish.

This just in: The Ravens have their eyes on Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Because why stop with this week's signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh when you're stacking them deep at wide receiver?

And what about DeMarcus Ware? Why hasn't Ozzie Newsome pried this guy away from the Dallas Cowboys yet? Heck, it's been nearly 48 hours since the Ravens made a deal. What is this, siesta time for the Ravens' general manager?

OK, we kid about Fitzgerald and Ware. But no wonder there's no reining in the sky-high expectations of Ravens fans and a good chunk of the media this season.

Not after last season's 9-7 finish and second straight playoff appearance. And not after Newsome went on his Noah's Ark replenishment program in the offseason, stocking at least two quality players at just about every position.

I thought the expectations were off the charts at the beginning of last season, when the Ravens were coming off an 11-5 season and an appearance in the AFC championship game.

But that was nothing compared with this season.

Did you get a load of the final attendance figures for the Ravens' training camp at McDaniel College? Every day it was like Justin Bieber was giving a free concert.

And I don't even know who Justin Bieber is.

The good thing about all this Super Bowl-or-bust hype is that the Ravens don't shy away from it. In fact, they seem to embrace it.

Even during OTAs in the spring, players like wide receiver Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis were saying anything less than a Super Bowl appearance would be a major disappointment.

And it would, especially when you consider the problems facing the other teams in the AFC North.

The Pittsburgh Steelers? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sits out the first four games for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy and for exhibiting generally creepy behavior. And backup Byron Leftwich is out indefinitely with a sprained medial collateral ligament.

If the Steelers get off to a bad start with Dennis Dixon at quarterback, it could be tough — if not impossible — to get back into the race.

The Cincinnati Bengals? Sure, their defense is outstanding — fourth in the NFL last season. But the head-case count is high.

New cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, new wide receiver Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and wild-man linebacker Rey Maualuga — that's a Murderer's Row of prima donnas. How long before coach Marvin Lewis' head explodes?

The Cleveland Browns? Not ready for prime time — at least not in this division. Not enough quality players up and down the roster.

And Jake Delhomme takes over at quarterback — a huge question mark. What is he now, about 48 years old? OK, he's 35. And he had such a great 2009 that the Carolina Panthers released him.

Unfortunately for Carolina fans, they didn't release him before he threw 18 interceptions. And only eight touchdown passes.

So the Ravens, with all their depth, are looking good to win the division.

Sure, they have their own issues. Will Jared Gaither return to stabilize the offensive line? How will Ed Reed, the Pro Bowl safety, play when he comes back after sitting out six games? Will Lardarius Webb be ready to go full blast at cornerback after rehabilitating his knee? And how will the new cornerback, Josh Wilson, fit in?

If it all works out, maybe the Ravens will make all the experts who picked them look like geniuses.

I leave you with what Peter King, the Sports Illustrated football expert, wrote about this season's team:

"If they're even a C-plus secondary, they have as good a shot as any team in the AFC to get to the Super Bowl."

So there you go, Ravens. No pressure.

Just win, baby, win.

Oh, and win it all, too.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370AM Sports.

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