On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl in 12 years.
The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers for their second NFL title in franchise history. They also beat the New York Giants in 2001 in Super Bowl XXV for the first title since the team moved from Cleveland in 1996.
Baltimore seemed like an unlikely champion to start the playoffs. The club lost four of their final five regular season games. As the No.4 seed in the AFC, the Ravens odds of winning the 2013 Super Bowl stood at 22/1 to start the postseason. Eight teams had better-listed odds than the eventual champions.
It wasn’t an easy road for Baltimore. They had to go through the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and only played one home playoff game. As tough as it was for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl, it may be even more difficult for them to defend their title.
In 2014, the Ravens will look to repeat as Super Bowl champions. At the beginning of the Super Bowl era, winners of the big game often returned the following year to win the title. In the past decade, though, winning two championships in a row has proven to be nearly impossible.
The 2004 New England Patriots were the last team to win two straight Super Bowls. Since then, three teams have failed to reach the playoffs in their title defense. In that time, no Super Bowl winner has made the AFC or NFC championship game in the following year.
The Ravens could see some major changes to their roster next season, especially on the defensive end. Ray Lewis will no longer be on the team after his retirement. Safety Ed Reed could sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent. There has even been talk of him playing for the New England Patriots.
While recent teams haven’t been able to defend their titles successfully, the Ravens might have as good a chance as any team in the past decade. Baltimore is consistently one of the best teams in the AFC. They’ve made the postseason every year since 2008, and have picked up at least one playoff win in each of those seasons.
Baltimore’s defense may be getting older, but its offense has become one of the best in football. Joe Flacco has emerged as a top 10 quarterback, throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the postseason. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith give the quarterback two reliable receivers, and Ray Rice has been one of the best running backs since he entered the league.
With the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots expected to be at the top of the conference, it won’t be easy for Baltimore to make another title run next season. However, with Flacco and John Harbaugh at the helm, the Ravens have always been in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and next year shouldn’t be any different.