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Hopes and fears for the 2008 Ravens

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On every barstool and at every dinner table in Baltimore, the question comes: “How do you think the Ravens are going to do this year?”

People ask me dozens of times a day everywhere I go around town. I’m not Kreskin, but the Las Vegas “over/under” line on wins is six.

As in 6-10.

Honestly, if you give me a dollar and make me bet on the Ravens at this point I’d take the under because I think they will need a myriad of positive developments to see 7-9.

So, in the spirit of debate and with the ability to have your feedback in the comments, I will make this column a simple “point/counterpoint” in hopes and fears format.

Hope: Ray Lewis can play at the same level he did last year for one more year in purple.

Fear: This team might be bad enough early enough that Lewis will go back to being a complainer and a divider instead of one who unites the team. We’ll see how the “walk” year goes.

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Hope: Joe Flacco shows that he belongs in the NFL as a quality starting quarterback and shows the early signs you want to see from a rookie signal caller.

Fear: The offensive line and the skill position talent he is surrounded with won’t give him the opportunity or the protection to look like that skilled leader.

Hope: That Steve Bisciotti knew what he was doing when he fired Brian Billick on Dec 31st.

Fear: John Harbaugh’s new policies and strategies have offended some of the players waaaay more than anything Billick did.

Hope: Ed Reed and Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle will all perform up to the cap numbers that their salaries dictate.

Fear: All three of these guys never really make it to the field and make he kind of positive impact this season due to injury, indifference and a debilitating disease.

Hope: The Ravens home crowd will give the team the leeway a new coach, rookie quarterback and a bunch of second-string starters should have to attempt to improve.

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Fear: (And almost a certainty), the M&T Bank faithfull will lustily boo Flacco (or any other quarterback) at every mistake, fumble, interception or any failure to convert a third down.

Hope: The Ravens will go back to becoming more honest and transparent with their information to the fans and media, like they were for 12 years under the Modell/Billick regime.

Fear: Under the John Harbaugh/Steve Bisciotti new school of information distribution, we’ll all be guessing and snooping around like we’ve been for six weeks now.

Hope: Kelly Gregg gets healthy soon.

Fear: Kelly Gregg’s knees are a lot worse than we know and he isn’t going to get healthy anytime soon.

Hope: The Ravens will beat the snot out of the Bengals today.

Fear: Carson Palmer will exploit the secondary all afternoon and miscommunication on the backside will cost the team dearly.

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Hope: On Halloween (and maybe even Thanksgiving), the team is close enough to .500 and playing well enough to warrant at least a cursory discussion about 9 or 10 wins.

Fear: An injured, aging team with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach stumbles out of the gate and starts the season 1-4 or 2-5 or something really dreary and hopeless.

Hope: The rookie class will step up and show the signs of life we’ve seen when the franchise has been at its low ebb (think 1997-98). Flacco, Gooden, Nakamura, Zbikowski, Rice – all of those guys need to contribute with the hope that they’ll be legitimate starters or Pro Bowl candidates in the coming seasons.

Fear: These rookies will have to play TOO much this season for the Ravens to be in any good in 2008.

Hope: That we all have fun this year.

Fear: I don’t have a lot of hope.

Have fun with the game today and let’s hope that our gut instincts are all wrong and the Ravens of 2008 take us on a surprise ride into the holiday season.

Wouldn’t that be great?

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