The NFL season kicks off tonight as the Green Bay Packers take on the New Orleans Saints. It promises to be a pretty awesome matchup between the last two Super Bowl Champions.
For Baltimore, the season begins Sunday afternoon in a rival matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers at The Bank. The Ravens haven’t had much luck against the Steelers in recent years, going 2-6 over the past three seasons and being eliminated in the postseason by Pittsburgh two of the last three years. On Sunday, I believe the Ravens will finally get the monkey off their back and beat the Steelers in week one. Here’s five reasons why:
- Joe Flacco steps up – When people talk about the Ravens failures against the Steelers they mention quarterback Joe Flacco in the same breath. He’s the team’s leader and for better or worse, he has to be the guy to beat Ben Roethlisberger and propel the Ravens forward. I like what I have seen from Joe Flacco the past couple months. He’s got a new attitude, he’s looks more confident in the pocket and I think he has the weapons on offense to beat the Steelers. I’m betting on him Sunday to put it all together and get it done.
- Offensive line will gel – I’ve said all preseason that the Ravens will go as far as the offensive line will take them. With a banged up center and the shuffling of a couple other guys up front, many Ravens fans are concerned with how the battle in the trenches will go against a tough Pittsburgh defense. I like the acquisition of Bryant McKinnie and having either Matt Birk or Andre Gurode at center will make a huge difference. This line will get better as the weeks go on, but they’ll be good enough to let Flacco perform at a high level on Sunday.
- A stronger offense – The Ravens have always been a play or two away from beating the Steelers in their losses over the past couple seasons. While their offense has improved each year, I don’t think the Steelers are aware just how much it has improved this season. Ray Rice is always a threat, but with Vonta Leach up front I expect him to have a big game in Baltimore’s ground attack. Anquan Boldin is a physical receiver that was a favorite target or Joe Flacco’s, but with Lee Evans burning the Steelers secondary (specifically safety Troy Polamalu who looks slower every time I see him) the Ravens have a more dynamic receiving corps. You mix that with Joe Flacco’s improvements and I think the Ravens offense takes a step forward against Pittsburgh this year.
- A similar defense – The Ravens have always been a strong team on defense and this year will be no different. They lost Kelly Gregg, but put Sergio Kindle on the field to provide more pressure up front. They also added Bernard Pollard at safety who helps a struggling secondary with Domonique Foxworth still recovering from injury. The veteran presence of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and even Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata will help keep the defense in this physical game allow the Ravens offense to do their work.
- The ol’ law of averages – Fate, destiny, faith or beliefs. Whatever word you choose to use, the law of averages says that eventually John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco will beat Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. This is their time.