Rating the 17 video games from hardest (Buccaneers) to best (Panthers) – Baltimore Sun

The Ravens satisfaction themselves on their successful tradition and on-field success, however generally dropping has its advantages, too.

After an 8-9 season that ended in need of the playoffs, the Ravens entered final month’s NFL draft with the No. 14 total decide. (Hello, Kyle Hamilton.) And after ending final within the AFC North for the primary time beneath coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens additionally obtained a comparatively manageable schedule Thursday, with simply 5 opponents who made the playoffs final season and 5 last-place finishers. (Hello, Jacksonville Jaguars.)

There are nonetheless hurdles to clear inside and outdoors the division, nonetheless, together with a handful of Super Bowl contenders. Four months from the Ravens’ season opener, right here’s how their schedule measures up, with opponents ordered from most to least troublesome.

1. Week 8 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Remember when quarterback Tom Brady was retired and Bruce Arians was nonetheless head coach? Every opponent on the Buccaneers’ schedule would’ve most well-liked that association in 2022. Despite a string of accidents final season, Tampa Bay misplaced only one sport at residence and entered the playoffs with a share of the NFL’s greatest report. Tight finish Rob Gronkowski’s future in soccer remains to be unsure, however the ageless Brady led the league in passing yards final season and can have seven Pro Bowl teammates returning. It’s a super setup for defensive coordinator turned coach Todd Bowles, and the Ravens have a brief week to organize for his or her “Thursday Night Football” highway journey.

2. Week 18 at Cincinnati Bengals

It can’t find yourself any worse than the crew’s final journey to Paul Brown Stadium, proper? With the Ravens’ roster ravaged by accidents and the coronavirus — most notably at quarterback, the place Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley have been unavailable — the crew was outgained 575-334 in a day-after-Christmas loss to the Bengals, 41-21. The Ravens’ rebuilt secondary has appreciable room for enchancment after final yr’s two blowout defeats, through which quarterback Joe Burrow set an NFL report for essentially the most passing yards in opposition to one crew in a single season (941). With this sport falling within the closing week of the common season, the stakes for this matchup may very well be vital — a playoff berth, maybe? Given the early expectations for each groups, it’ll most likely imply one thing.

3. Week 4 vs. Buffalo Bills

The Bills is perhaps the NFL’s most gifted crew. They’re ranked third right here solely as a result of the Ravens get them in Baltimore for the primary time since 2018. That Buffalo offense began Nathan Peterman over Josh Allen at quarterback and leaned on Zay Jones at large receiver. This crew has Allen, ascendant after a blistering postseason, together with large receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis and rookie working again James Cook. The Bills are spoiled with offensive expertise, and their protection nonetheless is perhaps the higher unit. Buffalo had the NFL’s prime cross protection final season, in line with Football Outsiders, and now it could possibly pair star Tre’Davious White with first-round decide Kaiir Elam at cornerback.

4. Week 5 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Ravens will get their first crack on the Bengals this season in Baltimore, and line play may very well be decisive. Cincinnati left M&T Bank Stadium final October with a decisive 41-17 win and a transparent victory within the trenches. Bengals working backs rushed for 111 yards (4.6 per carry) and two touchdowns, dominating late, and Burrow was sacked simply as soon as. Ravens working backs, in the meantime, mixed for simply 29 yards on 11 carries, and Jackson was sacked 5 occasions. Both groups upgraded their offensive strains this season, however who’ll win out on the sector?

5. Week 13 vs. Denver Broncos

The Ravens held Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater to a mixed 148 passing yards in a 23-7 win in Denver final season. After the Broncos’ commerce for quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason, it’s onerous to think about one other defensive throttling in Baltimore. Denver is a possible Super Bowl contender, and it has the expertise to return Wilson to NFL Most Valuable Player rivalry, with 5 gifted receivers (wideouts Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy and Ok.J. Hamler and tight finish Albert Okwuegbunam) and an elite working again duo (Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III). If new coach Nathaniel Hackett might help flip across the protection, the Broncos gained’t stay an AFC West pushover.

6. Week 3 at New England Patriots

The Ravens’ second journey to Gillette Stadium in three years will mark their first sport in opposition to homegrown exterior linebacker Matthew Judon — and Pro Bowl quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots have beefed up their talent place expertise since their rain-soaked 2020 victory over the Ravens, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and large receivers Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker. But their normally buttoned-up protection can be with out prime cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore. Coach Bill Belichick is 7-4 all time in opposition to John Harbaugh as New England’s coach.

7. Week 15 at Cleveland Browns

This gained’t be the Ravens’ first sport in opposition to the Browns this season, however contemplating it’s in Cleveland, in addition to the relative probability that quarterback Deshaun Watson can be obtainable to play, it initiatives because the more durable matchup. The Browns’ protection needs to be adequate to maintain them in video games, with defensive finish Myles Garrett getting after quarterbacks, weak-side linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah chasing down ball carriers and cornerback Denzel Ward shadowing prime receivers. But if Watson’s authorized scenario — he nonetheless faces 22 lively lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and sexual harassment — retains him off the sector, Cleveland’s offense can be fairly one-dimensional.

8. Week 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Ravens gained’t face the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers till December, by which level Pittsburgh can have most likely discovered its quarterback scenario. Will coach Mike Tomlin go together with Mitchell Trubisky, the previous No. 2 total decide who threw simply eight passes for the Bills final season? Or Kenny Pickett, the first-round decide from Pittsburgh? Or even Mason Rudolph, who’s began 10 video games over 4 seasons in Pittsburgh? Whomever the Ravens face, they’ll want extra from Jackson. He’s 2-3 in opposition to the Steelers in his profession, with a 67.4 passer ranking and simply 4.6 yards per carry.

9. Week 9 at New Orleans Saints

The Saints’ win-now strategy has dramatic penalties: traded-away draft picks, wage cap nightmares, many thousands and thousands of {dollars} spent on quarterback Taysom Hill. New Orleans’ loss turned the Ravens’ achieve this offseason, once they signed security Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million deal. In a “Monday Night Football” matchup, he’s set to tackle former teammate Jameis Winston, who was one of many NFL’s higher quarterbacks final season earlier than struggling a season-ending knee damage on Halloween. The Saints ought to once more have one of many NFL’s more durable defenses, however how a lot do large receiver Michael Thomas and working again Alvin Kamara have left to offer?

10. Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins blitzed Jackson and the Ravens into oblivion of their Week 10 upset final season, successful by double digits even with a banged-up Tua Tagovailoa coming off the bench in emergency quarterback obligation. The Ravens will face a much more gifted Miami crew in September, beefed up with the additions of All-Pro large receiver Tyreek Hill, Pro Bowl offensive deal with Terron Armstead and standout defensive finish Emmanuel Ogbah. New coach Mike McDaniel’s creativity ought to enliven the offense, however Tagovailoa’s vary as a passer can’t be Roethlisberger-esque.

11. Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns

Yahoo Sports reported in March that some NFL groups believed Watson was prone to face a six-game suspension beneath the league’s personal-conduct coverage. If that’s the case, he most likely couldn’t discover a much less welcoming surroundings for his Browns debut. The final time the rivals met, Ravens followers watched Jackson carted off the sector in Cleveland with what turned a season-ending ankle damage. If the Ravens lose to the Bengals in Week 5, they’ll’t afford to drop one other residence sport within the AFC North right here.

12. Week 17 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ unlikely postseason look final yr helped cowl up some actual shortcomings on each side of the ball. On offense, Pittsburgh has spectacular younger expertise at working again (Najee Harris), large receiver (Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens) and tight finish (Pat Freiermuth), however the crew’s offensive line was among the many NFL’s worst teams. And defensive finish Cameron Heyward, exterior linebacker T.J. Watt and security Minkah Fitzpatrick can’t be counted on to repair each gap in an inconsistent protection. This late-season matchup, as soon as once more, might show pivotal within the playoff race.

13. Week 1 at New York Jets

Former Ravens scout Joe Douglas has constructed a gifted, younger nucleus because the Jets’ normal supervisor, particularly on offense. Recent first- and second-round picks are projected to begin at large receiver (Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson), working again (Breece Hall), offensive deal with (Mekhi Becton), guard (Alijah Vera-Tucker), defensive deal with (Quinnen Williams) and cornerback (Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner). But the Jets gained’t stage up if final yr’s No. 2 total decide, Zach Wilson, doesn’t grow to be even a median quarterback. He went 3-10 as a starter final season, and breaking out within the season opener appears unlikely.

14. Week 6 at New York Giants

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It’s by no means a superb signal when a crew with nearly no playoff hopes has to launch one in every of its extra gifted gamers (cornerback James Bradberry) in May due to wage cap constraints. Or when that very same crew places a first-round decide (large receiver Kadarius Toney) on the buying and selling block after solely a yr on the town. There’s plenty of troublesome work forward for brand new coach Brian Daboll. Maybe most vital: discovering out whether or not quarterback Daniel Jones and working again Saquon Barkley have a future with the crew. Former Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has good expertise up entrance, however not the general depth he’s used to.

15. Week 16 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons completed final season with the NFL’s fifth-worst offense and third-worst protection, in line with Football Outsiders. That in some way was sufficient for seven wins. With Matt Ryan shipped off to Indianapolis this offseason and a youth motion underway, Atlanta and new coach Arthur Smith want a can’t-miss quarterback prospect greater than they want one other season of treading water. A promising draft introduced extra gifted items (large receiver Drake London and outdoors linebacker Arnold Ebiketie) to the crew’s basis, however Marcus Mariota’s nonetheless QB1.

16. Week 12 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Even if quarterback Trevor Lawrence makes the Peyton Manning-esque Year 2 leap that the Jaguars want, there are nonetheless plenty of holes right here. Wide receiver Christian Kirk is sweet, however not $18 million-a-year good. Defensive lineman Travon Walker is gifted, however gifted sufficient to take No. 1 total? New coach Doug Pederson will want not less than a yr to air out the stench of the Urban Meyer period. He may want not less than two to get the crew moved out of the AFC’s basement.

17. Week 11 vs. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have playmakers at each stage of their protection (defensive finish Brian Burns, weak-side linebacker Shaq Thompson and security Jeremy Chinn); a bona fide No. 1 large receiver (D.J. Moore); and, when wholesome, perhaps the NFL’s greatest working again (Christian McCaffrey). They even have one of many NFL’s worst beginning quarterbacks and offensive strains. Sam Darnold completed twenty ninth within the league in QBR final yr, and prime decide Ikem Ekwonu can present solely a lot cowl up entrance.

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