AFC North: Jamal Lewis

Offensive tackle Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Tennessee Titans last week, becoming one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens' first-round picks not to remain with the team beyond their rookie deal.

Oher, the 23rd overall pick of the 2009 draft, will be known as a durable yet not dominant offensive tackle during his five seasons with the Ravens.

Let's take a look at where Oher ranks among the Ravens' first-round picks:

1. Ray Lewis, linebacker (1996): He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Few can match Lewis' resume: Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowl rings, 13 Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP award.

[+] EnlargeOher
AP Photos/David DrapkinMichael Oher has been a durable, if not outstanding, tackle for the Ravens.
2. Jonathan Ogden, offensive tackle (1996): How revered is Ogden? He became the first pure offensive tackle to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater in 2001. Ogden went to the Pro Bowl in each of his final 11 seasons in the NFL.

3. Ed Reed, safety (2002): He was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the first safety in 20 years to win the award. Reed led the league in interceptions for three seasons, and he holds the NFL record for most career interception return yards (1,541) and longest interception return (108 yards).

4. Jamal Lewis, running back (2000): In 2003, Lewis was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for rushing for 2,066 yards, falling just 39 yards short of the NFL's all-time single season rushing record. He carried the Ravens' offense in the 2000 Super Bowl run and still ranks as the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

5. Terrell Suggs, linebacker (2003): He became the third Ravens player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, earning the award in 2011 by leading the AFC with 14 sacks and topping the NFL with seven forced fumbles. Suggs has recorded 94.5 career sacks, which is 24.5 more than any other Ravens player.

6. Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle (2006): A five-time Pro Bowl player, Ngata was considered the NFL's best interior defensive lineman a few years ago.

7. Chris McAlister, cornerback (1999): The Ravens' first shutdown cornerback, McAlister forced quarterbacks to throw away from him for years before a knee injury and off-the-field issues caught up to him.

8. Joe Flacco, quarterback (2008): He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl with a Joe Montana-like run and has produced more wins than any other quarterback since 2008. But Flacco's pedestrian regular-season numbers have stopped him from becoming an elite NFL quarterback.

9. Todd Heap, tight end (2001): Overshadowed by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates in the AFC, Heap remains the Ravens' all-time leader with 41 touchdown catches.

10. Peter Boulware, linebacker (1997): The 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Boulware finished with 70 sacks (second all-time for the Ravens), including a team-record 15 sacks in 2001.

11. Duane Starks, cornerback (1998): He struggled mightily at times, but he had three interceptions in the Ravens' 2000 championship run including a 49-yard return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

12. Ben Grubbs, guard (2007): He started 70 of 74 games for the Ravens and made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his last season with the team.

13. Michael Oher, offensive tackle (2009): He never missed a start in his five-year career, but he fell short of expectations because of false starts and inconsistent pass protection.

15. Mark Clayton, wide receiver (2005): He never led the team in receiving, and he had nine 100-yard receiving games. His best season was 2006, when he caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns.

16. Kyle Boller, quarterback (2003): A flop as a franchise quarterback, Boller had one 300-yard passing game for the Ravens and seven starts where he threw under 100 yards. His five seasons with the Ravens produced a losing record as a starter (20-22) and just one more touchdown (45) than interceptions (44).

17. Travis Taylor, wide receiver (2000): Yes, Taylor is a bigger bust than Boller. The 10th overall pick of the 2000 draft, Taylor eclipsed 60 catches once and produced a grand total of two 100-yard games. If that doesn't convince you, Taylor didn't score a touchdown in his final 22 games with the Ravens.

Note: Safety Matt Elam was left off the rankings because he's only played one season.
Jamal Lewis, the former running back for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, talks about winning the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis being accused of using deer antler spray, and previews Sunday's game.
Jamal Lewis will be honored at halftime Thursday night when the running back's two former teams play each other.

But Lewis will always be remembered as a Raven, and is rightfully becoming the sixth Ravens player to enter the team's Ring of Honor.

His biggest personal achievements were the 2,066 yards rushing in 2003 (second all-time in the NFL) and the then-record 295 yards in September 2003 (which happened to come against the Browns).

Still, Lewis' impact can be best measured by his first two seasons in the NFL. The Ravens won a Super Bowl because of Lewis. They failed to repeat because they didn't have him.

There's no question the Ravens captured their first NFL title in 2000 on the strength of their record-setting defense. The offense, however, was driven by Lewis. During the Ravens' 11-game winning streak, Lewis accounted for 42 percent of the offense and gained 102 yards in the Super Bowl victory against the Giants.

The next season, Lewis went down with a season-ending knee injury in training camp and the Ravens were never the same. Baltimore advanced to the divisional playoffs that season, but it couldn't produce the same consistent ground game with Terry Allen.

Lewis left the Ravens as the team's all-time leading rusher in 2007, when he signed with the Browns as a free agent. But Lewis considers himself a Raven.

"All my memories are pretty much here,” Lewis said. "This is kind of where I grew up. … This was like home for me."

AFC North links: Polamalu comes clean

July, 19, 2012
Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco continue to work toward a contract extension.

Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis likes the direction the team's offense is headed.

Cincinnati Bengals

Adam Jones continues to work on improving his image.

Joe Reedy on the Bengals' ticket situation: "This has been the earliest since 2008 that the Bengals have announced that they are closing in on sellouts. In their last 12 regular-season home games, the Bengals have had only two sellouts."

Cleveland Browns

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora previews the 2012, which includes Pete Prisco's projection of a 1-15 record. Ouch! La Canfora on the offense: "There is no way to sugar coat how pathetic the Browns offense was last season. Inept is not too strong a description."

Pittsburgh Steelers

Has Troy Polamalu ever lied about head injuries to remain in a game? “It may be kind of messed up, but you just kind of push yourself to be out there with your brothers,” Polamalu said. “I wouldn’t say there are any major lies where I totally lied my way out of concussions. In fact, during concussions, if it’s serious enough, you can’t even be conscious enough to lie.”

Alan Faneca describes what it will be like for rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams when camp starts next week.
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

NFL analyst Warren Sapp recently said that the Steelers won’t make the playoffs this year and will be lucky to finish over .500 after the loss of key veterans like Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith.

The Steelers provided their rebuttal on Tuesday. “He has other issues. I don’t even want to talk about his other issues,” cornerback Ike Taylor told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, referring to Sapp recently filing for bankruptcy. “Man, he is worrying about the wrong thing right now. People are coming knocking at his door.”

Inside linebacker Larry Foote recounted the time when a teammate grabbed Sapp by the throat after he crossed Pittsburgh's stretching line before a 2002 game. “He came out there hopping like a little girl,” Foote said, “and they snatched them up. If he disagreed with what I said, have him call in. I am sure we have footage.”

Hensley's slant: The Steelers should take Sapp's remarks in stride. He described the Steelers' defense as "old, slow and over" after Pittsburgh lost its season-opening game in Baltimore. The Steelers' defense eventually finished No. 1 in the NFL.

BENGALS: Rookie third-round pick Mohamed Sanu is emerging as a solid go-to receiver with each catch during voluntary workouts, according to the Bengals' official website. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he doesn't know how much playing time Sanu will eventually receive but he acknowledged Sanu conducts himself much older than his age (he's 22). "He just has a natural instinct to be a big, friendly target; he knows what he has to do to get open," Gruden said. "A lot of guys when faced with a route adjustment round it off and it allows the route to get jumped for an interception. But he's got the ability to stick his foot in the ground, make the right shade or angle and get that 12-yard completion." Hensley's slant: The big question with the Bengals' offense is who'll win the No. 2 receiver job. Sanu has been getting a lot of buzz lately and has been compared to former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If he comes close to that level in his first season, Cincinnati's passing attack will be improved from a year ago.

BROWNS: I will be attending the second day of Browns' minicamp Wednesday. Click here for the posts from Tuesday's practice.

RAVENS: A bankruptcy court hearing in Atlanta for former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has been pushed back to July 10. Lewis filed for bankruptcy in April, listing $14.5 million in assets and $10.6 million in debt. The 32-year-old retired in 2009 after nine seasons with the Ravens and Browns. His off-the-field investments have included trucking, hotels, theme parks and resort projects. Hensley's slant: It's hard to believe Lewis is broke only three years after retiring from football. But, as the Baltimore Sun points out, you get a better understanding why there is no money left when you see he claimed ownership of a 47-foot powerboat worth an estimated $200,000, a 2005 Ford F650 XUV ($150,000), a 2009 Mercedes CL63 ($80,950) and a 2008 Mercedes GL550 ($47,400). The gas alone to fill up these cars would bankrupt most people.

Jamal Lewis talks about concussions

February, 12, 2012
video Jamal Lewis is among the former NFL players who said in a federal lawsuit in December that brain injuries have left them struggling with medical problems years after their playing days ended.

In a recent Outside the Lines segment, Lewis discusses how concussions were dealt with differently when he played. "It's all about being tough because this is a tough sport," said Lewis, before losing his train of thought.

Lewis contends that multiple concussions have left him with memory loss, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and headaches.

"You watch the TV, a guy goes down and they pull him out of the game," Lewis said. "You think about: What if they did that with me?"

Lewis, 32, rushed for 10,607 yards in nine seasons (2000-09) with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. His 2,066 yards rushing in 2003 rank behind only Eric Dickerson's 2,105 in 1984 all-time among single-season rushing totals.

Upon Further Review: Browns

December, 5, 2011
Revisiting the Cleveland Browns' 24-10 loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens:

For most of the season, the Browns' glaring weakness was the lack of a playmaker on offense. But it doesn't matter if Cleveland drafts Trent Richardson, Matt Barkley or Michael Floyd if Cleveland can't stop the other team's playmaker.

Fixing the run defense has to be as big a priority as finding someone to reach the end zone. The disturbing part was the Ravens' Ray Rice gained 204 yards without having to break too many tackles. Baltimore just put one blocker on each of the Browns' defenders in the front seven, which simply couldn't get off blocks.

The Ravens didn't run complicated schemes or use trickery. They rarely pulled their guards on the big runs and didn't run draws. It was physically beating up the Cleveland defense one-on-one.

"They just whipped us up front," Browns middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "They embarrassed us. It was a slap in the face today."

But the Browns have been embarrassed all season by running backs. Cleveland has given up 100 yards to eight running backs this season, three more than any other team (according to ESPN Stats & Information).

In case you're wondering, the most 100-yard rushers allowed by any team in one year over the past 11 seasons is 12, by the 2008 Lions (thanks to Dan Braunstein from ESPN S&I for that). The Browns themselves allowed 11 in 2007, the second-most since 2001.

Some will argue that the struggles on run defense stems from the defense getting worn down because of the three-and-outs on offense. That wasn't the case against Baltimore. The Ravens beat up the Browns from the first snap (and outside the fourth-down stop), and Rice had over 100 yards by halftime.

This wasn't just a slap in the face. This was just another slap in the face for the Browns run defense.

STAT THAT STICKS: 3 -- Total 200-yard rushing performances by Ravens running backs (Rice and Jamal Lewis) against the Browns. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other teams with three 200-yard rushing performances against another franchise are the Bills against the Jets (Cookie Gilchrist, O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas) and the Rams against the Saints (Willie Ellison, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk).

OVERHEARD: "If we do everything right, every play, then we can play with anybody." -- Browns quarterback Colt McCoy

WHAT'S NEXT: The Browns (4-8) go on the road Thursday night to play the Steelers (9-3). Cleveland is 5-16 (.238) on the road over the past three seasons.
In our latest edition of "Poll Friday" in the AFC North, we ask our community who should be the starting fullback next season for the Baltimore Ravens?

Pending free agent Le'Ron McClain wants more carries in the offense and likely has to leave Baltimore to get it. That puts the Ravens in the market for a more traditional fullback, whose primary focus will be creating holes for starting tailback Ray Rice.

Baltimore has been linked this offseason to two of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL: Lawrence Vickers and Vonta Leach. Both are available, but which player is the better fit?

Would Ravens fans prefer Vickers, who is very familiar with the AFC North after spending five seasons with the Cleveland Browns? Vickers punished defenders in the division while paving the way for running backs like Peyton Hillis, Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis to have successful seasons. Can Vickers do the same for Rice in 2011?

Or would Ravens fans rather have Leach? He made his first Pro Bowl last season blocking for tailback Arian Foster, who rushed for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010. Can Leach help Rice reach similar numbers?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on whether Baltimore should go after Vickers or Leach in free agency. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Everyone in our community is excited following the conclusion of the 2011 NFL draft.

On paper, all four teams did well. But we won't know for sure until these rookies hit the field.

With that said, here are some interesting comments from AFC North blog readers following the 2010 NFL draft.


Cleveland Browns
  • "Somebody tell me why I should like this T.J. Ward pick? Don't get it. I know we need a safety, but who is this guy?"
  • "I liked Taylor Mays a lot better. He's much bigger and much faster. Probably the best all-around athlete in the draft. You can't teach size or speed, but you can teach a kid how to cover better and how to tackle better. Mays' ceiling is infinite, while Ward's is not."
  • "Love this pick. Montario Hardesty runs mean and nasty like Jamal Lewis did. Very solid back, better than Jahvid Best."
Pittsburgh Steelers
  • "I knew Kyle Wilson was the real deal. He jumps off the screen the way he attacks and plays downhill all the time. I'm still irked he's not gonna be wearing black and gold. Maurkice Pouncey will be good, I hope. Because if he isn't, I'll be ticked if Wilson is as good as advertised."
  • "I was just doing some research, and Jonathan Dwyer in the sixth round? What an unbelievable steal."
  • "Essentially by trading a fifth-round pick for Bryant McFadden and Arizona's sixth-rounder, which was used for Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes for McFadden and Dwyer. I love it."
Cincinnati Bengals
  • "Jordan Shipley won't contribute immediately. I keep harping on this, but we're gonna see how much we really missed here with Eric Decker."
  • "I'll say this and then I have to go: Brandon Ghee will be a star for the Bengals."
  • "The Cincinnati Bengals now have the deepest receiving corps in the league by far."
  • "I don't know who your team is but they can't beat the Bengals' receiving corps. Maybe when they make cuts in training camp your team can pickup Bengals' scraps."
Baltimore Ravens
  • "Sergio Kindle will start in more Pro Bowls than Tim Tebow will start regular-season games."
  • "The only beef I have with the Browns' draft is passing on Sergio Kindle in favor of T.J. Ward. This one will come back to bite 'em. They could have taken Ward later on. Kindle is going to be a force and Ozzie Newsome will be dubbed a genius the way he has handled the draft over the years."
  • "Kindle and Terrell Suggs rushing from either side while Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody clog up the middle. It's gonna be nice."
  • "I think our division had the best draft of all divisions and the competition in our division will once again be great. The Ravens look like they will win the division and I am going to say the Browns will surprise some people this year. Depending on how long Ben Roethlisberger's suspension turns out to be either 4 or 6 games, Pitt might be third or maybe last in the division this year."

Remember last year?

Morning take: Jeff Reed spurns Bengals

November, 18, 2010
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:

  • After clearing waivers, the Cincinnati Bengals made an offer to former Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed. But he declined.
Morning take: Good idea for Cincinnati. Reed will take time off to recharge, but the Bengals could make another push next week.
Morning take: Vickers remains one of the most underrated players in the AFC North. Everyone he blocks for (Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis) in Cleveland has success.
Morning take: Reed will be more dangerous when he gets healthy. We will have more on Baltimore's pass defense Thursday (hint, hint).
Morning take: Hamstrings can be tricky. The Steelers are without both starting defensive ends. So Keisel will be a welcomed addition if he's ready Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC North:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is getting plenty of national praise, but he remains humble.
Morning take: Polamalu has always deflected attention. But his play on the field warrants the accolades he's getting.
Morning take: It sounds like Benson thinks the team is going too far away from the run. But he got 23 carries last week against the Baltimore Ravens. So it's hard to say if his concerns are valid.
Morning take: Although I often point out the Browns' shortcomings because they're the worst team in the AFC North, I do not believe they're the worst team in the league. The Browns can be more competitive if they play smarter.

  • Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis is rooting for Baltimore, not his other former team in Cleveland.
Morning take: Lewis spent three years with the Browns, but he's first and foremost a Raven. So this makes sense.

Walker's weekend mailbag

September, 4, 2010
Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Brian from Conshohocken, Pa., writes: How much more will RB James Davis be a factor in the Browns' offense with Montario Hardesty's knee injury?

James Walker: Hardesty's season-ending injury took Davis off the bubble. But Hardesty's role in the offense would have been bigger. They are two different running backs. Hardesty had the talent to be an every-down back who eventually could have pushed for a starting job. Davis is more of a change-of-pace back who will get significantly less playing time. The Browns will still run the ball well this year, but Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis will get the majority of the carries.

Eric from Princeton, N.J., wants to know if the Cleveland Browns will be interested in former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Antonio Bryant.

Walker: I don't foresee any interest in Bryant from the Browns or anyone else until he gets healthy. The fact the Bengals completely gave up on him indicates it could be a while before Bryant sees the field again.

Eric from Chicago writes: With the recent release of Bryant, will the Bengals sign another wide receiver or are they set with the group they have?

Walker: The Bengals are set. Even after Bryant's release, they still have tough decisions at the position. The team has to choose between Matt Jones, Jerome Simpson, Maurice Purify and Dezmon Briscoe. Cincinnati can only keep one (maybe two) from this group. But the team doesn't need to look outside for additional help.

Richard from Beijing writes: Is there some particular reason the Ravens are grabbing up former University of Maryland cornerbacks?

Walker: Some of it is coincidence. Domonique Foxworth was a free agent and Josh Wilson were available via trade at the right time for Baltimore. But the Ravens naturally have a good relationship with the University of Maryland, because of the location. It's nearby, easy to scout, and many of their players grew up in Ravens' territory and know about the team.

Lenny from Hollywood, Md., writes: Random question but do you think Jamal Lewis is a Hall of Famer?

Walker: I don't have a vote, so I usually avoid these questions. But an educated guess is Lewis doesn't get in. It still shouldn’t take away from a great career.

Comment and complaint department

We have plenty of comments and complaints from our community this week.

Jay from Dublin, Ohio, writes: James, no way the Steelers go 1-3 without Big Ben. The Steelers defense is loaded and will help grind out a close game with Atlanta. Remember without Troy Polamalu and Big Ben we had the Ravens beat in Baltimore. Worst-case scenario is 2-2, and I wouldn't count us out against Tennessee. I am not convinced Vince Young is the real deal, and we know Chris Johnson isn't going to run on the Steelers’ D.

Will from Nashville, Tenn., writes: I feel like the Steelers as an organization should uphold the six-game suspension. It would be a good message to send players and fans that their standards are higher than what the league imposes. It also says that appropriate punishment for personal mistakes is more important than playing time and a winning season. Current good behavior should not be able to make up for previous appalling actions.

Rhonda Pierce from Illinois writes: I am Pittsburgh born and bred. I love my Steelers, but Ben's suspension should not have been reduced. His success and our franchise's history and image mandated that Ben demonstrate more responsibility and appreciation for the team and city. His behavior has forever tarnished the gold in the Black and Gold dynasty. I believe Leftwich's injury played a role in the Roger Goodell's decision, because not enough time has elapsed for the commissioner to know if Ben has really changed. How will he conduct himself in the offseason is the question? More than one "sexual" incident is more than one too many.

Zack from Middletown, Conn., writes: You know what I like about other fans in the AFC North? The way Ravens fans think Tom Zbikowski will step in for a Hall of Famer and there will be no drop off; the way Steeler fans think that Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon are actually quality QBs; and the way Browns fans think that Jake Delhomme is actually good. Bengals may have their issues. But they aren't replacing Pro Bowl [level] talent with guys who are washed up and were never that good in the first place. All they've done is add young talent and veterans for depth without losing key pieces.

Luke from Cincinnati writes: Why can't my Bengals get any love? I understand the Ravens and Steelers are great, but c'mon! We bring back basically everyone on a top five defense that's only going to get better and have appeared to strike gold with Adam Jones at the nickel. And on offense we add Jordan Shipley and T.O. to surround Carson Palmer with a great receiving core AND a great running game. This is the same team that swept the division last year, and were going to be even better this year!

Jason Myers from Baltimore writes: Hey, JW! How come you never point out the obvious to Bengals fans? They're always commenting about how they swept the division last year and that they're the defending AFC North champs. But it seems that they forget how they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year. Will you please tell them to win a playoff game first and then they can talk a little trash. I mean, seriously, as a Ravens fan I don't care if the Bengals sweep us every year as long as we continue to win in the playoffs and they continue to be...well...the Bengals.

Ben from Pensacola, Fla., writes: What is it about the Ravens' offense that is so stacked? Joe Flacco hasn't been anything better than solid and has been flat-out terrible in the clutch (especially in the playoffs). Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason are a good possession duo, but neither screams downfield threat. Mark Clayton and Donte' Stallworth have never done anything worth noting on the field and, frankly. aren't good players. Todd Heap is still a nice TE but the rest of the group are rookies. There's a very good stable of RBs but you can't give them all the ball or even have them all on the field at one time. Two strong possession WRs and a TE to go with a good running game isn't a stacked offense. Talk about overhyped.

Shaneeka from High Point, N.C., writes: Hey James, you want to know why Ravens fans are not allowing the teams recent record vs. division rivals to rain on the teams Super Bowl hopes? It’s because the Ravens have been to the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years, including back to back trips. So the Ravens poor showing vs. division rivals have not cost them playoff berths and once the playoffs start, as the Cards showed in 2008 and the Jets last season, it’s anyways game. So, no we don’t care about Carson Palmer's winning record vs. the Ravens, nor do we care that the team has only beaten Pittsburgh once in two years. Neither of them kept the team out of the postseason. To think that it would now is pushing it considering the Bengals history and all the drama Pittsburgh has gone through this offseason.

Kovacs from Santa Monica writes: We knew the Browns would have a tandem backfield, it just looks like a different tandem. I do think Peyton Hillis should start. He's endeared himself to the team and is great out of the backfield. He also seems like a guy that you'd love to get going early with his physicality to wear a defense down. Then bring in Jerome Harrison to gash a defense with his speed late in the game.

AFC North Homer of the Week

Darryl from Oakland, Calif., writes: I'd rather have Dennis Dixon than Matt Ryan. I know you disagree, but I'll check back after Week 4.

Best Ravens Team Ever: 2000

June, 23, 2010
Notable players: LB Ray Lewis, OT Jonathan Ogden, S Rod Woodson, TE Shannon Sharpe, RB Jamal Lewis, LB Peter Boulware, CB Chris McAlister, DT Sam Adams

[+] EnlargeRay Lewis
AP Photo/Nick WassRay Lewis and the Ravens' defense helped the young franchise win its first, and so far only, Super Bowl.
Analysis: The 2000 Ravens are the clear choice for a franchise that's only been in existence for 14 years. It was the only team to win a Super Bowl and also had arguably the most dominant defense of all time.

Baltimore was far from a perfect Super Bowl team in 2000. Most notably, the team had issues at quarterback. The Ravens started with Tony Banks under center but finished with Trent Dilfer, who played efficiently enough for Baltimore to make an incredible run to end the season.

At one point, the Ravens were a middle-of-the-pack, 5-4 team. Then Baltimore got hot, winning seven straight to end the regular season and four more postseason games, including a victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

Led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens set several defensive records in 2000, including fewest points (165) and fewest rushing yards (970) allowed in a 16-game season. Baltimore also pitched four shutouts.

There were seemingly no weaknesses on defense. Baltimore's defensive line was stout with Adams and Tony Siragusa, the linebackers were elite, and the secondary had stud playmakers at safety (Woodson) and cornerback (McAlister).

Then-rookie tailback Jamal Lewis anchored the offense with 1,364 rushing yards. Tight end Sharpe was the team's most dependable receiver, recording 67 receptions for 810 yards.

Most impressive win: Although the Super Bowl win over the Giants will go down as the biggest game of the season, the most impressive was Baltimore's dominance in the AFC Championship Game, a 16-3 road win over the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens' defense smothered Oakland's high-powered offense led by quarterback Rich Gannon. Baltimore forced five Oakland turnovers.

Research Room: Longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover made the only Pro Bowl of his 19-year career in 2000. With an inconsistent offense, Stover was clutch in connecting on 35 of 39 field goals. He led the NFL in both field goals made and field-goal attempts that season. Stover also converted all 30 extra-point attempts.

Lone ranger: Ray Lewis remains the only player currently with the Ravens from their Super Bowl team in '00. Now 35, the future Hall of Famer is still playing at a Pro Bowl level. Lewis signed a multi-year deal in '09 to make certain that he retires a Raven.

Several key members from Baltimore's Super Bowl team left the organization in the past several seasons. Jamal Lewis last played for the Ravens in '06, Ogden retired after the '07 season, and McAlister and Stover last played for Baltimore in '08.

Honorable mentions (in order):

2006 (tie): Baltimore finally got solid quarterback play from former NFL MVP Steve McNair, and the Ravens won 13 regular-season games. But in the postseason they ran into nemesis Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who eventually won the Super Bowl.

2008 (tie): The Ravens became the first NFL team to win two road playoff games with a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco). But their run was stifled in fourth quarter of the AFC title game to another eventual Super Bowl champion: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

2001: Baltimore's attempt to defend a Super Bowl title ended with a second-round playoff exit. The Elvis Grbac experiment was a disaster. After signing a big free-agent deal with Baltimore, he had more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15).
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC North:

  • The police investigation involving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's allegation of sexual assault is nearing an end.
Morning take: No charges have been filed against Roethlisberger to date. But it appears that a major decision could be coming soon.
Morning take: After a year away, Stallworth had a lot of time to think about his mistake. Playing well this year could prove to be a good outlet.

  • Former Pro Bowler and free-agent tailback Jamal Lewis visited with the New Orleans Saints.
Morning take: Did Lewis really want to retire or just retire from the Cleveland Browns?

  • Could the Cincinnati Bengals land top receiving prospect Dez Bryant in the NFL draft?
Morning take: Bryant could provide very good value at No. 21. There are some character issues, but that's never scared the Bengals' front office before.