Late For Work 7/7: Bold Prediction For Ravens Season Opener

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Bold Prediction For Ravens Season Opener

Fifty-nine painstaking days until the 2014 NFL season kicks off.

It's far enough away that people can be bold.

And they're doing just that at the NFL Network, where bold predictions were made for the Ravens' Sept. 7 season opener against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I say the Ravens are going to shock the world," NFL Media's Dave Dameshek said.

It's the perfect matchup to start the season – especially if the Ravens pull off a win like Dameshek predicts.

The Bengals are not only the reigning AFC North champions, but they were the ones to seal the Ravens' fate in 2013. The 34-17 Bengals victory in Week 17 ended Baltimore's NFL-best five-year postseason run. The season-opening division showdown provides the Ravens with a chance to officially put the bitter 8-8 season in the rear view mirror while knocking the division champs off their perch.

And quarterback Joe Flacco will get some personal redemption, predicts Dameshek.

He sees Flacco producing a whopping four touchdowns, with one score each to newly signed weapons Steve Smith Sr. and Owen Daniels.

Not only would such an outing for Flacco erase the three-pick performance he had in last year's season-ending loss to Cincy, but it would be only the second time in his career to throw four touchdowns (the first was in December 2009). It would also be a ringing endorsement of General Manager Ozzie Newsome's offseason moves and the new offensive led by Gary Kubiak.

"They are going to be a pass-first team all season long," Dameshek boldy said of Kubiak's traditionally run-first offense. "Joe Flacco leads the way, throwing the ball first. The running game will be an afterthought in Baltimore in 2014."

And while we're dreaming in July of a storybook opening, it gets even better when analyst Willie McGinest gives his bold predictions.

He says Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel will win the starting job, go into Heinz Field and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens start the season with a win AND the Bengals and Steelers lose? Not too shabby.

What are your bold predictions for Week 1?

Most Underrated Raven 'Gonna Blow Up'

He tied a rookie franchise record for touchdowns, but still flies under the radar.

With big names like Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta, Jacoby Jones and even Daniels coming to many minds as the top targets for Flacco, second-year receiver Marlon Brown often is forgotten about.

That is why former Ravens receiver turned broadcaster Qadry Ismail believes that Brown is the Ravens' most underrated player.

"As much as we talk about these other guys, I think it's going to be Marlon Brown that's going to have a great impact for this new offense that's going to be installed for Joe Flacco," Ismail told CSN. "Marlon Brown – very, very underrated."

Ismail specifically pointed to Brown's versatility as what sets him apart.

He can produce in the slot, but can also get separation from corners on the outside. With seven touchdowns as a rookie, he obviously also has keen awareness in the red zone. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Brown also has the size and catching radius that makes him a big target quarterbacks like.

What's in store for Brown next season after 49 receptions for 524 yards in Year 1?

"GONNA BLOW UP," Ismail wrote on Twitter.

Two Ravens Among Top 20 Players Of 2000s

NFL.com compiled a list of the top 20 players of the 2000s, and two Ravens future Hall of Famers, not surprisingly, made the cut.

Linebacker Ray Lewis is No. 4 – the first defensive player – behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson. Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV's most valuable player and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors twice during the decade.

Safety Ed Reed followed Lewis five spots later at No. 9, but writer Elliot Harrison said the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year would have been higher had he played in 2000-01. He wasn't drafted until '02.

One obvious Raven missing from the list, and already inducted into the Hall of Fame, is left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Harrison admitted it was difficult to omit Ogden, but ultimately felt too much of the big man's prime was in the 1990's.

"If Jonathan Ogden isn't a fan of being left off this list, he could certainly display that disappointment by squashing me like a bug," Harrison wrote.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Whose stock soared, and whose dropped during the offseason?

Here are three for each category, per CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka, with training camp still to come before the Ravens make final roster decisions:

Stock Rising
Darian Stewart: "Rookie safety Terrence Brooks might be the long-term answer, but Stewart looks like the Week 1 starter alongside Matt Elam."

Kyle Juszczyk:"Whether lined up wide, or in the slot, or in the backfield, the second-year fullback always seems to be involved."

Ryan Jensen:  "This spring, Jensen worked at tackle and guard and can also play center. Showing that versatility this spring has been a huge plus."

Stock falling:
Terrence Cody: "Cody missed the spring workouts while recovering from hip surgery, and the Ravens defensive front has gotten younger and stronger with the addition of second-round draft pick Timmy Jernigan."

Gino Gradkowski: "When the Ravens offense trotted out their No. 1 unit this spring, Jeremy Zuttah was consistently lined up at center."

Jah Reid: "Reid can play both tackle and guard, but like Cody, Reid (calf) was sidelined this spring while young linemen Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen impressed."

Quick Hits

  • Will the Ravens ever face Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon again? The Pro Bowler, who posted a ridiculous 1,646 yards despite missing two games last year, was already awaiting word on a potentially lengthy suspension for a positive drug test when he was arrested Saturday and charged with DWI. If Gordon gets a one-year suspension, people close to him believe that kind of ban could end his career. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
  • @DQ52 [Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson]: If you're close to Josh Gordon please help this kid, it's not about football anymore it's about picking up the pieces of his life. [Twitter]
  • The Fourth of July marked the five-year anniversary of former Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair's death … @deemason85: RT pbrstreetgang: Belated...Remembering Steve McNair...shown here w/ @deemason85
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  • @CSNRavens: #RavensTalk: Ex-Raven [James] Ihedigbo says Lions have look of champs [Twitter]
  • DeAngelo Tyson is pushing for an increased role in the Ravens' defensive line rotation. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Torrey Smith quietly enters his contract year. "This year, Smith will be sharing the stage with a healthy Pitta, a newly-arrived Steve Smith, a currently-underrated Owen Daniels, and a frequently-overlooked Jacoby Jones, who contributed 455 yards after missing time with a Week One knee injury," wrote Mike Florio. "To get a big-money, long-term deal, Smith needs to emerge once again as the top option — and to find an even higher ceiling of production." [ProFootballTalk.com]
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