Take a defense that consists of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, two of the best to field their position in history, and give them a legitimate offense, good things are bound to happen for the dirty birds. For the past number of years, the Ravens identity has been built around its defense; its how the were victorious in Super Bowl XXXV. They've sent numerous players to the Pro-Bowl on the defensive side of the ball, and will continue to do so. Good players have come and gone, and defensive coordinators have also (Rex Ryan being the most notable, now head coach of the New York Jets). But no matter who strapped on a helmet for them, they were able to be a run stuffing, quarterback whipping, pass blocking feared presence on defense. However, the offense was no where to be seen.
But this season is different for them; everything changed the day that General Manager Ozzie Newsome decided to wheal and deal with the Arizona Cardinals to give their youthful offense some much needed aid.
The acquisition of All-Pro wide out Anquan Boldin gives the Ravens the most balanced offense in the North, and perhaps the AFC. The emergence of stud half back Ray Rice was step number one on their list to build an offensive threat. Step number two was to develop their young quarterback in Joe Flacco. Though he may still have room for growth, and have not hit the ceiling yet, he led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game in 2008-09 as just a rookie. Step number three was to get him some targets to fire to deep down the field. Boldin spent his entire career aside Larry Fitzgerald, and will now be along side possession receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
The thing that separates Boldin from other guys at his spot, and makes him the perfect fit for the Ravens in the AFC North is that he is as hard nosed a football player as anyone. Period. Remember watching that highlight of him where he got sandwiched between a pair of New York Jets defensive backs? He got hit in the back by Kerry Rhodes and suffered a helmet to helmet shot from Eric Smith, knocking him, and Smith unconscious. Boldin was taken off the field on the stretcher, and after all of that, ended up missing just two games.
He's a tough customer, and just what the Ravens needed to put them over the edge.
Don't get me wrong, Pittsburgh, with no matter who is at the helm of the offense, will always be a solid team. And those Bengals from Cincinnati are not bad either. But with the tools that they are not equipped with in the passing and running game, and with the consistency they have put up on defense season after season, there is reason to believe that they are the front runner for a division title.