The Ravens pride themselves on their culture of winning and success on the field, but sometimes losing has its benefits.
After an 8–9 season that ended short of the playoffs, the Ravens entered last month’s NFL Draft with the number 14 overall pick. (Hello, Kyle Hamilton.) And after finishing last in AFC North for the first time under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens also got a relatively manageable schedule on Thursday, with just five opponents making the playoffs last season and five finals. stay in place. , (Hello, Jacksonville Jaguars.)
However, there are still hurdles to clear in and out of the division, including some Super Bowl contenders. Four months from the Ravens’ season opener, here’s how their schedule measures up, with opponents ordered from most to least difficult.
1. Week 8 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Remember when quarterback Tom Brady retired and Bruce Arian was still head coach? Every rival on the Buccaneers’ schedule would have preferred that arrangement in 2022. Despite injuries last season, Tampa Bay lost just one game at home and entered the playoffs with part of the NFL’s best record. Rob Gronkowski’s future in football is still uncertain, but a distraught Brady led the league in the passing yard last season and seven Pro Bowl teammates will return. It’s a perfect setup for defensive coordinator-turned-coach Todd Bowles, and the Ravens have a short week to prepare for their “Thursday Night Football” road trip.
2. Week 18 Cincinnati in Bengal
It couldn’t be worse than the team’s last trip to Paul Brown Stadium, right? With the Ravens’ roster devastated by injuries and the coronavirus—particularly at quarterbacks where Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley were unavailable—the team lost 575–334 to the Bengals 41–21 in a post-Christmas defeat. was given. The Ravens’ rebuilt secondary has plenty of room for improvement after last year’s two blistering losses, in which quarterback Joe Burrow set the NFL record for most passing yards against a team in a season (941). With the game falling into the final week of the regular season, the stakes could be crucial for this matchup — a playoff berth, perhaps? Considering the initial expectations for both teams, it will probably mean something.
3. Week 4 vs. Buffalo Bills
The Bills may be the most talented team in the NFL. They are only third here as the Ravens receive them in Baltimore for the first time since 2018. That Buffalo offense started Nathan Peterman at quarterback Josh Allen and leaned on Zay Jones at wide receiver. In this team, Allen, after a blistering postseason, is running behind wide receivers Stephen Diggs and Gabriel Davies and rookie James Cook. The Bills are spoiled with offensive talent, and their defense may still be the better unit. According to Football Outsiders, Buffalo had the NFL’s top pass defense last season, and now it can pair star Tre’Davius White with first-round pick Kayer alum at cornerback.
4. Week 5 vs. Cincinnati Bengal
The Ravens will get their first crack at the Bengals in Baltimore this season, and line play could be the deciding factor. Cincinnati left M&T Bank Stadium last October with a decisive 41-17 victory and a clear victory in the trenches. The Bengals running back ran for 111 yards (4.6 per carry) and two touchdowns, dominated late, and Burrow was dismissed just once. Meanwhile, the Ravens were trailing, combined for just 29 yards on 11 carries, and Jackson was sacked five times. Both teams upgraded their offensive lines this season, but who will win on the field?
5. Week 13 vs. Denver Broncos
The Ravens put out Broncos quarterbacks Drew Locke and Teddy Bridgewater in a combined 148 passing yards in a 23-7 win over Denver last season. After the Broncos were traded for quarterback Russell Wilson this off-season, it’s hard to imagine another defensive throttling in Baltimore. Denver is a potential Super Bowl contender, and it has the talent to return Wilson to the NFL Most Valuable Player contention, with five talented receivers (wideouts Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Judy and KJ Hamler and tight end Albert Okwegbunam) and one elite. Its going on. Back Duo (Javont Williams and Melvin Gordon III). If new coach Nathaniel Hackett can help turn the defense around, the Broncos will no longer be an AFC West pushover.
6. Week 3 at the New England Patriots
The Ravens’ second visit to Gillette Stadium in three years will mark their first game against home linebacker Matthew Judon — and Pro Bowl quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots have increased their skill status talent since their rain-soaked 2020 win over the Ravens, adding Hunter Henry and Joanu Smith and wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and DeVente Parker. But his typically buttoned-up defense would be without top cornerbacks Jesse Jackson and Stephen Gilmore. Coach Bill Belichick is 7-4 all-time against John Harbaugh as New England coach.
7. Week 15 at the Cleveland Browns
It won’t be the Ravens’ first game against the Browns this season, but given the relative likelihood of quarterback Deshaun Watson being available to play, as well as being in Cleveland, it projects as a tough matchup. The Browns’ defense should be enough to keep them in games, with defensive end Miles Garrett going after quarterback, weak-side linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoa chasing ball carriers and cornerback Denzel Ward shadowing the top receivers. But if Watson’s legal status—he still faces 22 active lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and sexual assault—keeps him off the field, Cleveland’s guilt will be very one-dimensional.
8. Week 14 at the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens would not face the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers until December, when Pittsburgh may have figured out his quarterback position. Will coach Mike Tomlin go with Mitchell Trubisky, the former No. 2 overall pick who threw just eight passes for the Bills last season? Or Kenny Pickett, the first-round pick from Pittsburgh? Or even Mason Rudolph, who has started 10 games in four seasons at Pittsburgh? Face anyone with the Ravens, they’ll need more than Jackson. He is 2-3 against the Steelers in his career, with a 67.4 passer rating and only 4.6 yards per carry.
9. Week 9 at the New Orleans Saints
10. Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins drove Jackson and the Ravens into oblivion in their Week 10 last season, winning by double digits, even as a blistering Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in emergency quarterback duty. The Ravens will face a more talented Miami team in September, beefed up with the addition of All-Pro wide receiver Tyrek Hill, Pro Bowl offensive Taron Armstead and standout defensive end Emmanuel Ogba. The creativity of new coach Mike McDaniel should bring the offense to life, but Tagovailoa’s range as a passer can’t be Roethlisberger-esque.
11. Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns
Yahoo Sports reported in March that some NFL teams believe Watson could face a six-game suspension as part of the league’s individual-conduct policy. If that’s the case, they might not have found a less welcoming environment for Brown’s debut. The last time the rivals met, Ravens fans watched Jackson walk off the field in Cleveland with an ankle injury at the end of the season. If the Ravens lose to the Bengals in Week 5, they can’t afford to miss another home game here at AFC North.
12. Week 17 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers’ unexpected postseason appearance last year helped cover up some real shortcomings on both sides of the ball. On offense, Pittsburgh has impressive young talent in running backs (Nazi Harris), wide receivers (Chase Claypool, Dionte Johnson and George Pickens) and tight ends (Pat Freermuth), but the team’s offensive line ranks among the NFL’s worst groups. was one of And defensive end Cameron Hayward, outside linebacker TJ Watt and safety Minka Fitzpatrick can’t be counted on to fix every hole in the inconsistent defense. This late-season matchup could, once again, prove crucial in the race for the playoffs.
13. Week 1 at the New York Jets
Former Ravens scout Joe Douglas has built up a talented, youthful nucleus as the Jets’ general manager, particularly on offense. Recent first and second round picks wide receiver (Eliza Moore, Garrett Wilson), running back (Breeze Hall), offensive tackle (Mekhi Becton), starting guard (Aliza Vera-Tucker), defensive tackle (Quinn Williams) is estimated. ) and cornerback (Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner). But if last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Zach Wilson, doesn’t develop into an average quarterback as well, the Jets won’t level up. He went 3-10 as a starter last season, and is unlikely to pull out as the season opener.
14. Week 6 at the New York Giants
It’s never a good sign when a team with almost no playoff hopes has to release another of its talented players (cornerback James Bradberry) in May for lack of a salary cap. Or when the same team puts a first-round pick (wide receiver Kadarius Toni) on the trading block after only one year in town. New coach Brian Dabol has a tough job ahead. Perhaps most important: finding out whether quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saxon Barkley have a future with the team. Former Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has good talent, but not the overall depth he’s used to.
15. Week 16 vs. Atlanta Falcons
According to Football Outsiders, the Falcons finished last season with the NFL’s fifth-worst offense and third-worst defense. That was enough for seven victories anyhow. With Matt Ryan sent to Indianapolis this off-season and a youth movement underway, Atlanta and new coach Arthur Smith need a quarterback prospect no more than he needs another season of water running. A promising draft brought more talented pieces (wide receiver Drake London and outside linebacker Arnold Ebicetti) into the team’s foundation, but Marcus Mariota is still QB1.
16. Week 12 at the Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though quarterback Trevor Lawrence makes the Peyton Manning-esque Year 2 jump that the Jaguars need, there are still plenty of holes here. Wide receiver Christian Kirk is nice, but not a good $18 million a year. Defensive lineman Travan Walker is talented, but talented enough to take No. 1 overall? New coach Doug Pedersen will need at least a year to dispel the stench of the Urban Mayor era. He may need at least two to get the team out of the AFC’s dungeon.
17. Week 11 vs. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have playmakers at every level of their defense (defensive end Brian Burns, vulnerable side linebacker Shaq Thompson and safety Jeremy Chin); an authentic No. 1 wide receiver (DJ Moore); And, while healthy, probably the NFL’s best running back (Christian McCaffrey). He also has the worst starting quarterback and offensive lines in the NFL. Sam Darnold finished 29th in the league in QBR last year, and top pick Ikem Ekwonu can only provide so much cover up front.