It was an uphill battle for the Baltimore Ravens all season long, but they were at the top of the NFL pile when it mattered most. Now, 32 NFL teams are in the process of hitting the reset button as they collectively move forward towards the 2013 draft.
For the Ravens, the coming weeks are about celebration, but there's also work to be done in the front office. As it stands right now, the Ravens have an uphill battle if they hope to repeat their title run next year.
The most obvious hurdle the Ravens will face moving forward is the loss of a future Hall of Fame linebacker. It's possible that Ray Lewis will get an itch to come back into the NFL at some point through the long offseason, but as it stands, the Ravens will be without his services, and even injured, he made an impact on the game as a motivating force and field general for the defense.
Yet another overt hurdle comes in the form of quarterback Joe Flacco's coming contract negotiations. Flacco's camp will be looking for big money, probably somewhere in line with Peyton Manning's current contract who is set to make about $20 million in 2013. That's big money for a guy that has a career passer rating of 86.3 and a career completion percentage of 60.5%. For comparison's sake, Peyton Manning has a career passer rating of 95.7 and a career completion percentage 65.2%. In short, Joe Flacco's salary offer is likely miles apart from the Ravens' offer, and it could be a very long, drug out process to re-sign him.
Finally, the Ravens have an aging defense that will only show more and more signs of that age. In 2012, the unit held its own, but we often see big drop offs from year to year on aging teams. That's something the Ravens will be looking to address in the offseason, and we'll be able to tell early in the 2013 season whether they can continue their high level of play on that side of the ball.
All 32 teams in the NFL are already looking forward to 2013. Even thought the Ravens pulled out Super Bowl XLVII, I don't see any reason they should be favored to repeat in early 2014.