Big Question: Ravens hype

Coming off a 9-7 season, will the Baltimore Ravens live up to the immense preseason hype in 2010?

The frown on Chad Ochocinco's face told the story last week. The Cincinnati Bengals' receiver couldn't understand all the preseason hoopla surrounding Baltimore.

"The Ravens?" Ochocinco said. "I mean, what have they done?"

To Ochocinco's point, it was the Bengals who dominated the AFC North last season. Cincinnati swept Baltimore in two games on its way to a division title. The Ravens underachieved in the regular season but won a road playoff game against the New England Patriots to advance to the divisional round.

Suddenly expectations are sky high for the Ravens, who seem to have the right ingredients to be successful. Quarterback Joe Flacco is improving in his third season, Baltimore traded for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, and a strong draft added depth to key areas.

Some power rankings now have the Ravens rated among the top three teams in the NFL, and nearly all project Baltimore to win the AFC North.

Is the Ravens' hype premature? Or as Ochocinco recently implied, is it undeserved?

“We got better than them," Ochocinco said in defense of the Bengals. "They're not better than us.”

Overexposure could be a cause for concern. Traditionally, Baltimore plays better as the underdog, not as the favorite.

Most recently, the Ravens had modest expectations in 2008 with a rookie quarterback and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Last season, some experts picked Baltimore as a possible Super Bowl contender, and the team finished 9-7 and lost in the divisional round.

How the Ravens handle preseason expectations will be important this year. Ochocinco isn't on Baltimore's bandwagon, but a lot of people are.