This is the time of the year when analysts debate about what to expect in 2013 from players like Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith and Terrell Suggs.
Is Flacco going to emerge as one of the game's top statistical passers? Will Rice continue to be one of the most dynamic dual-threat backs in the game? Can Smith take over as the No. 1 wide receiver? Will Suggs return to Defensive Player of the Year form?
Those questions will answer themselves over the course of the season, but here are 10 statistical categories to watch throughout the year.
Joe Flacco Nearing 4,000 Passing Yards
Flacco is clearly the leader of the Ravens going into the season, and he'll have full control of the offense. He's coming off a historic run to the Super Bowl, where he earned MVP honors, and now he is looking for a big encore. Flacco has yet to hit 4,000 passing yards in a season, which would likely put him in the top 10 of the league.
Torrey Smith Topping 1,000 Receiving Yards
Smith's statistics for his first two seasons have been incredibly similar. He caught 49 passes for 855 yards last year and 50 passes for 841 yards as a rookie. Now that he's the No. 1 receiver, Smith could see an increase in his production.
Ray Rice Hitting 1,200 Rushing Yards, 550 Receiving Yards
Rice has always been a team-oriented player, but he does have a personal incentive to put up these stats. If Rice goes over 1,200 rushing yards and 550 receiving yards, then he would trigger a reported $4 million contract escalator, as long as the Ravens rank in the top 10 in total offense. Rice came up just a little short last season, finishing with 1,143 rushing yards and 478 receiving yards.
9,166 All-Purpose Yards
Rice is nearing Jamal Lewis’ franchise record for all purpose yards. Rice needs just 933 yards to catch the Ring of Honor member. Rice has averaged 1,876.5 yards from scrimmage over the last four years, so he should top Lewis' mark around the midseason point if he keeps pace with previous years.
Justin Tucker Staying Perfect
Tucker had a standout season as a rookie, converting 30-of-33 field goal attempts. Now he has his eyes set on loftier goals, as he's hoping to go perfect in his sophomore season. The last kicker in the NFL to have a perfect season was the Colts' Mike Vanderjagt in 2003, and no Raven has ever set a perfect mark.
Terrell Suggs Notching Double Digit Sacks
Suggs notched double digit sack numbers in 2010 and 2011 before battling through significant injuries last season. If he's able to get back to the level he was playing at in 2011,* *that could mean big things for the Ravens defense. Suggs was in great shape at mandatory minicamp last month and said that he's motivated to have a big year. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year has averaged more than eight sacks a year throughout his 10-year career, despite having just two last season. Look for that number to jump in 2013.
60 Team Sacks
As a whole, expectations are high for the Ravens in the sack department. In addition to a healthy Suggs, the Ravens also added former Bronco Elvis Dumervil. With Suggs and Dumervil coming off the edges, the Ravens should have a feared pass-rushing tandem. Dumervil is one of the top pass rushers in the game, and he led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009. Suggs and Dumervil will attract plenty of attention, which could open opportunities for players like Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw. The 60-sack mark is a high bar to hit, but the defensive front should be much improved this year.
Total Offensive Rank
The best the Ravens have finished in this category since 2008 is 13th, averaging 351.2 yards per game. Last year the Ravens averaged 352.5 yards per game, which ranked 16th in the NFL. With a full offseason under Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell, the Ravens have big expectations for their offense. They haven't cracked the top 10 in this category since 1997, when they finished ninth.
75 Receptions For Dennis Pitta
The Ravens will count on the fourth-year tight end to be one of the key pieces of the receiving corps. He was second on the team with 61 receptions last year, but that number is expected to increase this season with Anquan Boldin no longer in the mix. The Ravens' record for most catches by a tight end is 75, which was set by Todd Heap in 2005. A big year by Pitta could make him the new record holder in this category.
100 Carries For Bernard Pierce
Much has been made this offseason about the second-year running back possibly taking carries from Rice, although the Ravens have not had running backs split carries since Rice took over the starting job in 2008. Pierce had 108 carries during his rookie year, which is about the same number as previous backups Ricky Williams and Willis McGahee. If Pierce has a strong start to the year, then it will be interesting to see if his pace starts to creep above the 105- carries mark.