Sure, Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis dug deep to lead what was considered one of the weaker teams entering the playoffs in 2012, but rode emotion and inspired play to surprise and upset their way to Super Bowl glory.
But 2013 is a far different animal than last year, and the magic just won't be there for the defending champion Ravens this time around; and it has to do with more than just emotion and the absence of Lewis.
Here are my simple reasons why the Ravens will fall short of the postseason at the close of the 2013 season.
1. Joe Flacco's production.
Flacco's yards per game are up, but his touchdown percentage is down while his interception percentage and sacks have gone up. He has already been sacked six more times so far this year than all of last year and he has engineered three fewer fourth quarter comebacks... part of the reason they are losing close games.
2. The Ravens are two games behind division leader Cincinnati, with only three games remaining.
The season is rapidly coming to a close, and despite beating the Bengals earlier this year, the final game of the season pits the Ravens against the division leading Bengals IN Cincinnati with playoff hopes on the line. Baltimore will be hard pressed to create a win in that situation.
3. The Ravens face Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati to round out a less than stellar 2013 campaign.
It's hard to tell which Detroit team will show on gameday, but they are leading their division and can be tough to stop with Megatron catching footballs. The Ravens simply don't have an answer for a receiver of his caliber. They won't fare much better against Tom Brady, even without the services of Rob Gronkowski.
4. Personnel issues.
Flacco will be without Brandon Stokely for the foreseeable future, while his defense has to deal with the possibility of playing minus Elvis Dumervil, as well as, Chris Canty and Jimmy Smith. Flacco also lacks the beast-mode of Anquan Bolden.
5. Ray Lewis.
I said it... I threw him in there anyways... He may not have won it all for them, per se, but his presence made a huge difference down the stretch and it won't be there this time. You can't put a price tag on emotion, and the energy that one passionate football player brings to the field. The Ravens lack that element in 2013 and it will be one of the differences with postseason aspirations on the mind.
Baltimore just won't have what it takes to stay in contention for the wild-card spot that is up for grabs. If the season ended today, they would be in by virtue of the tie-breaker and their win over wild-card rival Miami. In three weeks, their fortunes will change, leaving them on the outside looking in.