Don't expect the Ravens to stay down for long.
At least that's the view of several pundits at NFL.com, who view the Ravens' 8-8, non-playoff season of 2013 as an aberration and see the Ravens right back in the Super Bowl hunt next season.
Several NFL.com experts were asked to name a team that missed the playoffs last season and has the best chance to reach the Super Bowl next season.
Former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said that the Ravens, along with the Cardinals and Redskins, all are legitimate contenders. "If forced to choose one, I think Baltimore has the best shot," Casserly wrote. "The Ravens have a good QB -- and the best balance between offense and defense of the three teams listed."
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, who spent a couple of years as a Ravens scout, said that the Ravens "immediately come to mind" as a bounce-back team. "Last year was an adjustment period after the departures of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, among others," Jeremiah wrote. "I see the defense enjoying a bounce-back season, especially if the Ravens can address the second safety spot. ...
"I expect Joe Flacco to play much better under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Between free-agent acquisition Steve Smith, a healthy Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith, Baltimore has viable weapons in the passing game. And Kubiak's offense almost always features a strong running game, which would take a lot of pressure off Flacco."
Dave Dameshek agrees, but first, he points out, the Ravens have to get through the toughest division in football.
"The Ravens' biggest obstacle to getting back to the postseason? A rugged AFC North that presents three viable foes: the Bengals arguably boast the conference's most talented roster (aside from at the QB position), the Steelers' defense almost certainly will cut down on the big plays that killed 'em last year and the Browns have emerged from their early-February apocalypse to cobble together an intriguing mix of dynamic players. Matter of fact," Dameshek writes, "it wouldn't be that shocking to see any of the four win the division in 2014."