The Baltimore Ravens' cheerleaders preform during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against Washington Redskins in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
NFL Training camp season is always a time for irrational exuberance. Every team thinks it can win the Super Bowl, even though 31 of those teams will end being horribly wrong. And so, to preview the upcoming NFL season, which could be the most unpredictable ever, we now give you five reasons why your favorite team could win the Super Bowl. Today, it's the Baltimore Ravens.
1. Because they love themselves some big fat out-of- shape linemen. Former Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie was rumored to have been cut by Minnesota because he showed up to camp weighing nearly 400 pounds, and that was after a season in which he proved he wasn't very good anymore anyway. McKinnie, along with Cowboys cap casualty Andre Gurode, represents a last-ditch ploy by the Ravens to improve a pass protection unit that got QB Joe Flacco sacked a whopping 40 times last season. That was good for second in the NFL for a dude who wasn't in the Top 10 in pass attempts. So yeah, not very good. Flacco also lost two of his favorite targets in the offseason in TE Todd Heap and WR Derrick Mason. There's no more learning curve for Flacco. He needs to become the kind of QB who makes players around him much better, and he needs to do it now. He might have some help from...
2. The world's most annoying fantasy player is here for your pleasure: Lee Evans, acquired by the Ravens to run down the field and drop balls just like Mark Clayton used to. Evans, who toiled away in Buffalo without a decent QB to ever throw him the ball, could flourish with Flacco as his triggerman (though that perhaps is giving Flacco too much credit). More likely, he'll serve to clear out space underneath for Anquan Boldin, who was average in his first season with the team last year despite being one of the most physically imposing wideouts in the NFL.
3. Ray Lewis will not stop dancing until he has a second Super Bowl win. Lewis has already pledged that he will retire if the Ravens win it all again this season, and he has his usual supporting cast around to help him do it: Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed (not getting any younger), and Haloti Ngata. And the defense got a fresh infusion of talent from drafting CB Jimmy Smith and noted QB-murderer Bernard Pollard at safety. Also, DT Terrence Cody, he of the notorious combine boobie photos, played well as a rookie and could become the kind of inside line presence that boosts the entire defense, as Tony Siragusa did in the olden days before he ruined your TV set every weekend.
4. Ray Rice cannot be stopped. Especially this season, with FB Vonta Leach arriving from Houston after plowing the way for Arian Foster to win the 2010 NFL rushing title. Also, RB Ricky Williams, who still has a bit of pep left in him, joins the team to give Rice the occasional breather, as Willis McGahee did last season. Rice will get a lot of work this year, both up the gut and catching passes out of the flat. Don't be surprised if he ends up leading the NFL in all-purpose yards.
5. Come on, you know the Ravens are always good to contend. They perennially play in a division that has only one other good team. They always have good defensive talent. They're well coached and well managed. They're gonna have a winning season. And now the question is: Can Joe Flacco give them more than that?