It would pay to keep an eye on the Ravens this year, as they might surprise you.The Baltimore Ravens will enter the 2013 season as the defending champions following their unlikely run to a title led by the flawless playoff performance of quarterback Joe Flacco. Expectations aren’t high for the new-look Ravens, as this offseason saw the departure of so many key members of the championship winning team. By many accounts the heralded franchise is doomed for regression. The defense lost crucial pieces across the field and the offense will be without three major contributors. Both offensive and defensive leaders retired in center Matt Birk and linebacker Ray Lewis, heaping even more weight on Flacco’s shoulders. In order for the Ravens to become just the eighth team in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls, cool Joe needs prove he is worth the $120 million contract he was rewarded with and drastically improve his regular season play. The AFC North is rapidly improving with Cincinnati and Cleveland gaining ground and the Steelers desperately looking to bounce back from an underwhelming season, 2013 will see a much more closely contested division than last year. The gruelling schedule will certainly not make the job any easier either, featuring contenders like the Patriots, Packers, Bears, Vikings, Texans and Broncos on top of the divisional rivals twice. A concoction of luck, fate and some more Flacco magic will surely be needed once more to give the Ravens a chance. Replicating a season like the Raven’s 2012 campaign is by no means an easy feat, however it is ludicrous to rule them out. Countered by the plethora of names on the departure list is the fact that the Ravens became a younger, faster and better team in the draft and through some sound free-agency moves, orchestrated by general manager Ozzie Newsome. First-round pick safety Matt Elam will look to make an immediate impact on the defense as a starter, accompanied by fellow rookies linebacker Arthur Brown and defensive lineman Brandon Williams, who will both receive snaps in crowded rotations. ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. stated that "The Ravens had another excellent draft because they needed starters at some key spots and pulled it off. That's not easy to do when you're slotted in at No. 32." The draft supplied some much-needed fresh legs to the defense, however it was the economically friendly free-agency signings that will really make a difference for the next few years. Defensive end Chris Canty is shining in the 4-3 system of defensive coordinator Dean Pees, safety Michael Huff will start opposite Matt Elam and both tight end Dallas Clark and receiver Brandon Stokely were brought in as reliable pass catchers to make up some targets on offence. Seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette has been very impressive throughout training camp, showing off his highly touted hands. Head coach John Harbough praised the rookie. “I think he has done a great job battling through some adversity and responding well to some hard coaching, and that's the mark of a guy that I think has a lot of character, a lot of confidence -- so, he's done really well. [I'm] proud of him, very proud of him." Undrafted rookie free-agent receiver Marlon Brown has also stood out, tallying four receptions, 59 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers in their Week 3 preseason matchup. Brown stands at 6'5", providing a sizable target for Flacco. Brown, Mellette and Brandon Stokely have been added to the roster in an attempt to replace the talented possession receiver Anquan Boldin, and it’s looking good for the moment. There is no denying that the Ravens did everything they could to fill an abundance of needs, however it remains to be seen if they did enough to replace the production and presence of players such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin. With odds stacked against them once again, the Ravens will undoubtedly be looking to shock the world by repeating as Super Bowl champions. Seldom is the feat achieved. Nevertheless the new additions will be hungry for a taste of the glory and the returning veterans will undeniably be looking for seconds. Don’t sleep on this bunch, you may just regret it.