Baltimore Ravens: Can Joe Flacco Really Live Up to Expectations?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The term "elite" gets thrown around way too often, and Joe Flacco is the latest quarterback to earn the moniker from the mainstream media.

The question remains: Can Flacco live up to that moniker this season? And what does that actually mean?

The expectations for Flacco are higher than ever this season now that he has an elite contract. He will be expected to improve in every major stat, especially overall efficiency. Flacco's yardage isn't nearly as important as numbers like completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio, yards per attempt and passer rating, and those are the numbers Flacco should be judged on. Look for minimums of 60 percent in completion percentage, 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, eight yards per attempt and at least a 90 passer rating.

Even more important, of course, is wins. Flacco's defenders always point to his win totals, and he will need to continue to win to live up to expectations this year. At the very least, the Ravens need to get to the playoffs for Flacco to live up to expectations.

In terms of wins, Flacco and the Ravens should live up to expectations. The defense looks likely to rebound after an off-year, and the Ravens' run game has potential to be special. Flacco will only need to be a solid game manager for the Ravens to get back to the playoffs.

Of course, the Ravens are paying Flacco to be much more than a game manager. They want him to make plays consistently, especially in the clutch.

In that regard, don't expect Flacco to change all that much.

Flacco won't magically start throwing for ridiculous stats. His efficiency numbers could increase slightly thanks to his increased confidence, but even in that regard there is room for doubt. The Ravens are lacking for targets, and their offensive line has struggled in camp so far. Flacco will need some help to see his numbers improve, but the Ravens have time to provide him with that help.

Expect Flacco to be streaky, occasionally dominating, occasionally struggling. Hopefully, the increased confidence from his championship will help Flacco snap out of the cold streaks that used to last entire games. If that happens, Flacco very well could make the leap to elite status.

But, really, whether Flacco is elite or not does not matter. The Ravens have already proved they can win a championship with Flacco at quarterback, and that's what really matters. Their running game and defense should be too good for the team to falter that much, so any significant improvement from Flacco is just a bonus.

Shawn Brubaker is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. He has been a Baltimore Ravens featured columnist for Bleacher Report for two years and is currently a co-host of Ravens Central Radio.

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