So much has been made of the Ravens' use of the hurry-up offense, the receivers and whether or not the linebackers -- without the injured Terrell Suggs for at least the first six games leading the way -- can get pressure on the quarterback going into Monday night's opener vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ultimately, however, for the Ravens are able to get over the hump and become a true threat to make it to the Super Bowl, it'll come down to their red-zone offense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco lamented that he'd like to have more options when they get inside the 20-yard line of the opponent such as taking more chances passing the ball on first downs.
While the Ravens had the NFL's best defense in the red zone by giving up the fewest touchdowns in the area (16 in 42 possessions), the offense was just 17th when it came to scoring touchdowns there (25 in 49 possessions).
There's been a gradual progression with the Ravens taking red-zone risks. In Flacco's 2008 rookie season, the Ravens threw just 39 times overall in the red zone. Each year the number increased to 46, then 50 and 54 times in 2011, according to the Ravens.
When it comes to passing on first down overall, the Ravens threw 197 times last season compared with 130 during Flacco's rookie year.
While that's shows a significant bump, it still trails the more prolific offenses of the last three Super Bowl winners and how they passed on first down last season: The Saints threw 298 times, the Packers 239 and the Giants 260, according to advanced statistics from the NFL.
In fact, all three passed more on first down more than they ran the ball.
Even more telling, on first down in the red zone with just one yard to go, the Saints passed 75 of the time and the Packers 67.
The Ravens? They ran the ball in that same situation 67 of the time.
More telling than that: When the Ravens have two or three yards to go on first down in the red zone, they ran the ball 100 of the time.
So when Flacco suggests the offense has been too predictable, he is correct. While running back Ray Rice is better than the running backs on those recent Super Bowl winners which explains why the Ravens' play-calling, it's still too predictable.
Scoring more could help offset the potential lapses they might have on defense without Suggs and run-stopping linebacker Jarret Johnson, who left as a free agent.
In his last game of the preseason vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, Flacco threw seven times on 10 first-down plays in the red zone.