Ravens playoff primer

Posted Jan. 05, 2011 @ 2:58 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

PFW examines the Ravens as they prepare for the playoffs, identifying the keys to the offense and the defense, a player to watch, and what they have to do to win the Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens
12-4 / Second place in AFC North

Keys to offense: The Ravens have the makings of perhaps the most dangerous offense they have ever had in the postseason. However, the offense has lacked consistency at times. The running game sputtered for most of the season, and the passing game has sometimes suffered from poor pass protection. QB Joe Flacco has the best group of pass catchers he has ever had and doesn't need to zero in on any one player. RB Ray Rice and TE Todd Heap are very good complementary targets, and WRs Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin both have had their moments this season. Boldin is capable of taking over a game, as he showed vs. Cleveland earlier in the season.

Keys to defense: This defense will go as far as its blue-chip players — MLB Ray Lewis, DT Haloti Ngata, FS Ed Reed and OLB Terrell Suggs — take it. Reed, who was banged up in the season finale vs. Cincinnati, gives the Ravens a difference maker of the highest order in the secondary. When he plays well, he makes the entire group look better. Suggs is the lone consistent pass-rush threat off the edge, and Ngata's size and athleticism make him a very tough matchup. Lewis, the leader of the defense, remains one of the game's better players at his position. Overall, the Ravens are weaker against the pass than the run, and their ability to hold up vs. strong passing games — especially if Reed were to be limited — is something of a concern.

Player to watch: Flacco has a 3-2 record as a starter in the postseason, but he has completed just 57-of-120 passes for 660 yards with only one TD and six interceptions in those five starts. More will be expected of him in his third trip to the playoffs.

They'll win the Super Bowl if ... Flacco plays much better than he has in his other postseason trips, the offense hits its stride and the stars carry the defense. The Ravens have shown great potential; now, it's time to realize it.