CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 4: Strong safety Usama Young #28 of the Cleveland Browns watches Running back Ray Rice #27 celebrate with teammate tight end Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens after Rice scored during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
The Ravens will rely heavily on Ray Rice to lead them through a season without Terrell Suggs. Will he lead your fantasy team to the title?
Omar Little, the popular gangster on The Wire, often talks about "the game" and changing the game. The Baltimore Ravens have always been known for one thing, and that is defense. With the loss of a defensive coordinator, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and your two stars getting closer to 40, the Ravens might need to change the game.
It could be time that the defense rests on the offense for help. The star of the Ravens is now a running back. Their fastest rising star might be a wide receiver. Baltimore has consistently finished in the top 10 in defense and the bottom half of offense, but those things could change this year.
For better or for worse. What could the 2012 Baltimore Ravens look like?
2011 Record: 12-4
Fifth-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would probably like to open the offense up even a bit more this season and Flacco had a good preseason, completing 71.7 percent of his psses for 433 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. However, expectations for Flacco grow every year and he has seemingly regressed each year. He has remained stagnant at 3,600 yards in each of the last three years and completed a career low 57.6 percent of his passes last year for only 20 touchdowns and 6.7 yards per attempt.
The team is going to have to rely more on the offense now that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are closer to 40 than 30, Terrell Suggs is hurt, and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is gone. It's not that Flacco is without weapons, it's that I doubt he knows what to do with them.
2012 Projection: 61 percent completions, 3,700 yards, 23 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Tyrod Taylor ran for 157 yards on 17 carries but is a long ways away from being an NFL passer. Flacco has yet to miss a game in his career.
Take your pick between Rice, Arian Foster, and LeSean McCoy. All three are viable options as the top pick in a fantasy draft. Any one of them could get hurt, anyone of them could total 2,500 total yards. Rice had 2,068 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns last year with 76 catches, making him a good candidate for the top player in a PPR league. This year if you have a top three pick, you're definitely set to get one of the three best bets in fantasy for a No. 1 ranked player.
2012 Projection: 300 carries, 1.400 yards, 75 catches for 650 yards, 15 touchdowns
The team's third round pick out of Temple, it traded up to get Pierce and you can expect he'll take the 100 or so carries that Ricky Williams retired from. When you spend a top three pick on a back, you should always draft the insurance and that's what Pierce is to Rice. If asked to start, you never know how well he could perform.
2012 Projection: 100 carries, 400 yards, four touchdowns
UDFA Bobby Rainey made the team after proving to be a capable running back, receiver (14 catches for 163 yards) and kick returner in the preseason. Keep an eye on him.
Declining? Boldin has had fewer catches than the year before in four straight seasons, finishing 2011 with 57 of them in 14 games. He did, however, have a career-high 15.6 yards per catch. Boldin still has some games where he looks like his young self, but the reality is still that he's his old self.
2012 Projection: 50 catches, 800 yards, five touchdowns
Smith has worked himself to be the top target in Baltimore and also making a case that he could develop into a real WR1 in fantasy. Despite having no production (one catch for 1 yard total) in three of his first four games (he had 152 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3) he proved to be more capable and consistent over the rest of the schedule.
I think Smith is ready for his first season in the quadruple digits.
2012 Projection: 60 catches, 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns
There aren't many other in Baltimore to worry about, but that could change as Boldin ages and becomes more prone to missing games. Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams round out the group. Doss could have the highest ceiling in that group.
The Ravens don't depend as much on their wide receivers after the top two because they've got Pitta and Dickson. Both should be healthy and ready to go for the season opener against the Bengals. Dickson is the one to own, but Pitta could have value if anything happened to Ed. They finished with similar numbers but if the Ravens throw it more, they could be the main beneficiaries.
Ed Dickson Projection: 65 catches, 650 yards, six touchdowns
Dennis Pitta Projection: 45 catches, 475 yards, two touchdowns