Last season’s Baltimore Ravens never quite hit their stride. They alternated wins and losses for the first six weeks of the year, and by the time they won four consecutive games after that, they were dealing with a mess of injuries that eventually slowed them down toward the end of the season and resulted in a 10-7 finish.

Baltimore still made the playoffs, but lost in the wild card round to the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Looking ahead into 2023, things should be better for the Ravens. Health alone should lead to improvement, and the change to Todd Monken at offensive coordinator should as well.

But the defense is likely still the best unit on the team, and one of the stars of that unit — linebacker Roquan Smith, acquired at least year’s trade deadline — sees bright things in its future.

“I’m just excited to get out there and fly around with the guys, because I think we’re in for something special,” Smith said, per the team’s official website. “And I think myself, personally, I think it’s going to be probably my best year, at least the way I feel physically and mentally.”

Smith indicated that he and the team want to go right at the Bengals, who have now won the AFC North in back to back seasons. “We want all the smoke, honestly,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of payback that we have out there. We’ll get to it when we get to it, one week at a time.”

The Ravens don’t play the Bengals in Week 1, but they don’t have to wait much longer than that. What should be one of the most anticipated rivalry games of the season is set for Week 2, when the Ravens travel to Cincinnati. The late-season rematch in Baltimore will take place on Thursday Night Football the week before Thanksgiving. Hopefully for the viewing public’s sake, we get healthy teams on both sides of the ball, and two entertaining matchups.