Are you ready for some slightly better than mediocre football?

e-mail Pete

I find it tough getting all that excited about the Ravens this season. The AFC North owns too much talent. The schedule makers apparently misread the standings from 2005 and thought they were 10-6 instead of 6-10 (at Tampa, at Denver again, at Kansas City is just brutal when combined with AFC North road trips). And getting excited in 2004 and 2005 led to heady disappointment.

That said, they have to be better than last year. No way the injury bug assaults like that again. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Todd Heap, Kyle Boller, Anthony Weaver, all missed large chunks of the season. And the addition of Steve McNair, even a dilapidated version, greatly improves the quarterback position. Having watched all his preseason action I only found three bad throws in 76 tries. Oddly enough all were to Derrick Mason. The first from game one where he drastically underthrew MAson on a fly pattern. Mason, in spectacular fashion broke up an interception erasing any harm. The 2nd and 3rd came in Minnesota. A little five yard out that came up three yards short and the pick six for Fred Smoot. Three for 76 means the offense stays on the field longer, leaves the opposition with lousy field position, and the Ravens defense rested.

The other additions though seem more like subtractions. Trevor Pryce for Anthony Weaver is not an even exchange. Weaver (a great chemistry guy in the locker room) is on the rise in his career while Pryce slides the other way. We kept waiting to here Trevor Pryce’s name for something other than a penalty during the preseason. It didn’t happen. Pryce and I had the same number of tackles during the four game exhibition schedule.

Mike Anderson for Chester Taylor on paper seems decent, but again they add a player on the wrong side of career curve. Anderson turns 33 two weeks from today, and even though he rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, like Roger Maris he needs an asterisk. Everyone rushes for 1,000 yards in Denver. Mike Shanahan is so confident of that, that he jettisoned Anderson for a trio of ‘who are theys?’. Two of his top three backs this year (Mike Bell and Cedric Cobbs) have a combined total of zero NFL starts. Any bets the Broncos fail to produce in the running game this year? Your action is welcome. Taylor meanwhile, six years and one day younger, figures on a monster year behind a talented offensive line with the Vikings.

We also have the Brian Billick factor. A season without the playoffs and he’s most likely done. The fans know it, the players know it, even Paris Hilton knows it. That kind of transition hovering over the season can’t help anyone.

Predicting the NFL though, year after year, proves a largely futile effort. Too much parity and too many injuries make leave too much up in the air. Remember last year at this time. Any of you have Chicago hosting a divisional playoff game? Anyone have Philly going 6-10? Me neither.

The good news for the Ravens is if they catch some breaks the talent exists to succeed. They also seem in much greater harmony than the past two years. In a league with so much mediocrity, something like chemistry can make the difference between 6-10 and 10-6.

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