The Baltimore Ravens sailed to a 9-2 start to the 2012 season, nearly locking up the AFC North with a month left in the campaign. Four losses in five games dampened Baltimore’s momentum and in the middle of that stretch, coach John Harbaugh made the decision to change offensive coordinators.
That gutty move along with the emotion of Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement energized the Ravens heading into the postseason. The rest is history. Joe Flacco had a monstrous run up through the Super Bowl and Lewis and Matt Birk got to go out as champions.
So can Baltimore repeat? There’s been a ton of turnover, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. But some of the new faces represent younger, more athletic and more affordable options to the pieces they replaced. And with 12 draft picks in his arsenal, don’t discount Ozzie Newsome’s chances of putting together another competitive team, says Tony Lombardi, founder of Russell Street Report.
Zoneblitz: The Ravens had some ups and downs during the season but got it done with a championship in the end. How would you describe the 2012 ride? Continue reading
Everyone remembers how Colin Kaepernick took over for the injured Alex Smith midway through the 2012 season and led the San Francisco 49ers and the team’s fans on a magical ride right through the Super Bowl in February.
There have been a few free agency defections from the roster that finished just a few yards away from winning the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. But for the most part the major pieces that contributed to that deep playoff run remain in place.
And for those who left, the team has 13 draft picks to pick and barter with in the draft later this week. So anyone expecting the 49ers to suddenly fall from the top of the heap is going to be surprised, says Al Sacco, a staff writer for 49ersGab.com and 49ersWebZone.com.
Zoneblitz: San Francisco came just a few yards from winning the Super Bowl and the team seems built for a sustained run of good teams. How do you assess the 2012 season and the organization’s overall makeup? Continue reading
The Atlanta Falcons had been criticized heading into 2012 for going out with a whimper two seasons in a row to the tune of blowout losses in the playoffs. The Falcons answered those doubters last season, winning one game before bowing out in a tightly contested NFC Championship game.
So where do the Falcons go from there? Matt Ryan’s continued development is key as is finding some complementary pieces on the defense. If that happens, either through the draft or free agency, this could be another interesting year for football fans in Atlanta, says Kevin, founder and editor of Grits Blitz.
Zoneblitz: The 2012 Falcons lost a close one in the NFC Championship game, but did get further than they had the previous couple seasons. How do you assess 2012 overall? Continue reading
The New England Patriots have been so good for so long that they almost have to be an aging bunch, don’t you think? But in fact just the opposite is true. A recent post on Pats Pulpit revealed this team has just a handful of starters over 30.
Head Coach Bill Belichick is not only a master on the field on game days, but he’s mastered the art of knowing just when to churn through his roster, replacing the aging ones just in time to make sure he gets something for them in return.
There will be challenges in 2013, with a lot of turnover on the wide receiver front, several new additions on defense and reported issues in the recovery from 2012 injuries of tight end Rob Gronkowski. But Belichick’s roster management skills and, of course, the ageless Tom Brady ensure that this team should remain right among the AFC’s top teams during the upcoming season, says Rich Hill, managing editor of Pats Pulpit.
Zoneblitz: New England won another division and went to the AFC Championship, but couldn’t quite make it all the way to the Super Bowl. How would you assess the 2012 season? Continue reading
The Denver Broncos got off to a slow start in 2012 as Peyton Manning shook off the rust associated with a year away from the game. But when he got back on track with his new teammates in the Rocky Mountain region, he took off on one of his all-time best seasons.
Denver went 13-3, securing home field advantage in the playoffs before succumbing in overtime to an emotionally-charged Baltimore Ravens team.
The offseason has included the high profile defection of linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who took off for Baltimore after a confusing contract snafu left him a free agent. But Ian Henson, a writer with the Mile High Report, says the additions of Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ensure that this team will continue being a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
Zoneblitz: The 2012 regular season led to Denver being the top seed overall in the AFC but the season ended early with a comeback loss to Baltimore. How would you assess the season as a whole? Continue reading