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Ravens

Mark Zinno: Ravens Reactive – The Road Ahead

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BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 13: Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens stands in the tunnel before being introduced in an NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at M&T Bank Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens

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It’s an odd feeling for the Baltimore Ravens. They aren’t playing football in January. They have done so every year since John Harbaugh took over as head coach. This year, they won’t be. Less than 11 months from winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens are an 8-8 team that left many disappointed, and a lot of questions about the direction going forward. I’ve been wracking my brains since the middle of October trying to figure out the identity of this team. Even in their wins, they didn’t look like a team that was dominant. In their losses they looked like a team that was one step away. In reality, the description of the Ravens team this season has been in front of us all year, and it’s simpler that I’ve tried to make it. They are average.

Try as they might, they couldn’t escape being average. To their credit most teams would have suffered a much worse season given the turnover, the poor offensive line play, an awful running game and more. These Ravens were only average because they couldn’t be any better. They weren’t worse because they are that good. In a mediocre NFL, the 2013 Ravens are a prime example of what keeps so many fans coming back year after year – very few great teams and very few bad teams. Everyone else in the middle beats the great teams once or twice and loses to the bad teams equally as much.

What’s left for the Ravens? Well, first the adjustment to a longer off-season. They’ve won at least one playoff game every year for the last five years. Their clock starts now. There are more questions now than at any time during the John Harbaugh era. They’ve never faced this situation before. They need several holes filled at offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver and more. The Ravens cap situation is unfriendly at best. There will be huge cap numbers from aging veterans and Joe Flacco. Their draft this year needs to produce more starters than last year’s. It won’t be easy for a team that has made success look easy for most of their existence.

The Ravens are one of the best organizations in football at handling this type of adversity. They have all the right pieces in place. Now it’s a matter of doing the work and getting a little lucky. The Ravens will need some young cheap talent to continue to round out their roster with high-paid veteran stars. An average season is in the rearview mirror. A stellar off-season better be in this team’s future.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkZinno

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