Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 6. This week: No. 1.
Where they stand: The Ravens are tied for the NFL's best record at 6-2 and looked strong coming off the bye in Sunday's 26-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins. A major factor this year is Baltimore has remained relatively healthy. Star safety Ed Reed (hip) and veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth (foot) recently came off the physically unable to perform list to put the Ravens at full strength. Many picked Baltimore to win the Super Bowl this year, and this team didn't disappoint in the first half.
Falling: Cornerback Fabian Washington, who had major knee surgery last year, has been inconsistent. He has allowed too many big plays, including three touchdowns in a Week 7 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills. Josh Wilson, acquired in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, has played more at cornerback recently. Baltimore's pass rush (14 sacks) also could improve.
Rising: For years, defensive lineman Haloti Ngata was one of the NFL's best-kept secrets. No longer. Ngata, coming off his first Pro Bowl, is having a dominant year, recording 43 tackles and a team-high five sacks. Quarterback Joe Flacco also is having a solid third season, throwing for 1,917 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has a passer rating of 88.9. Reed has three interceptions in two games back from major hip surgery, continuing his knack for creating turnovers and making big plays.
Midseason MVP: Ngata has been impossible to block some weeks. It's not his primary job to rush the passer, but Ngata has been so difficult to contain that he's also getting to the quarterback more than any Ravens defender. Flacco is a close second.
Outlook: The second half looks bright for Baltimore. With big offseason acquisitions such as receiver Anquan Boldin (40 catches, 546 yards, five touchdowns), it's clear Baltimore is aiming for nothing less than a championship. The Ravens have as good a chance as anyone if they remain healthy. They are one of the NFL's most balanced teams offensively and defensively and have a roster full of Pro Bowl-caliber players. Baltimore will make the playoffs, but can the Ravens hold off the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC North and play at home in the postseason? Home-field advantage will be key for Baltimore's title hopes.