I read an article this week on the Sporting News where the writer says : "Make no mistake, the Ravens won't sneak up on anybody in 2009". Here's a thing, and it's my first reason for loving football.
The 16 game schedule has a number of impacts, and one of the interesting ones is the total lack of squad rotation. When you watch the Premiership (Guinness or Barclays) is that some teams have an increased level of performance one season, followed by a drop off. This is because teams take them more seriously following good performance, and stop rotating out as much of the first team squad as they had previously.
Each game is a battle, and on any given Sunday anything could happen. There's reason number one.
When I read the quote, I paused and had a little think about it, and I think that the writer means this:
1 - the Ravens system had changed. Although the offensive patterns had been used by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at his previous stops, the particular strain used by Baltimore was new, and the way in which players fit into it was different.
2 - Joe Flacco was a total mystery to NFL defensive coordinators. The best plan in that situation was to bring some exotic pressure, plug up the run, take away the easy options and force errors. Unfortunately for these opponents the Baltimore run game remained rugged and Flacco showed his arm strength to go down the field, drawing defenders out of the run game. In addition, Flacco had the advantage of playing with the Baltimore D - firstly, they gobbled up the ball, and secondly there are few better groups at showing exotic looks, so he had become accustomed to the strange in training.
I am super excited about the new season. I'd do a poll on whether this year's crop of 1st round QBS will top the bar set last year, but I have no readers!