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Joe Flacco faces pressure on multiple levels

Around the League will examine one key player under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Up next: the Baltimore Ravens.

Under Pressure: Joe Flacco

Sometimes pressure is created by factors around you. Sometimes you put it on yourself.

Enter Joe Flacco: the perfect storm of pressure.

Flacco is entering his fifth season as starter for the Baltimore Ravens, a run that has included personal success (44-20 career record, five playoff wins), but no Super Bowl appearances.

This Lombardi-free reality casts his career in a disappointing light when you factor in the talent that's populated Baltimore's defense in the last half decade. With a core of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens are built for championship runs. That they haven't been able to get out of the AFC playoffs makes you wonder what's missing on the other side of the ball.

The potentially season-wrecking Achilles injury suffered by Terrell Suggs earlier this month amped up the pressure on Flacco and Co. After years of being "carried" by the defense, can the offense now do some of the heavy lifting?

"We shouldn't feel any more pressure because we don't have (Suggs)," Flacco said last week. "We still have a great defense and we still have a great team.

"But having said that, if it does put more pressure on us, if we do feel like we have more pressure on us and we need to score more, I don't think that's a bad thing."

Those are the outside pressures that face Flacco. The next level is created by internal factors.

Nobody believes in Joe Flacco more than Joe Flacco. Last season, he made headlines when he said he didn't get enough respect from the media. He took it to another level -- and left himself wide-open for easy satire -- when he told a radio station in April he believes he's the best quarterback in the NFL.

Flacco will never be the best quarterback in football. He doesn't have to be, either. But the Ravens have reached a point where 12-4 and division crowns isn't good enough anymore. With Lewis and Reed firmly in the twilight of their careers, this could be this group's last shot at Super Bowl glory. Flacco has been good. Now the Ravens need him to be better.

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