The NFL released the upcoming schedules for all 32 teams this evening. Somehow through all the leaks dropping throughout the day, the Ravens’ schedule was kept under wraps until about an hour before the two hour schedule release show. Here are my first thoughts on the recently released schedule and how I think the Ravens will preform.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 20, 2018
The Ravens as of right now have the seventh easiest schedule, with opposing teams having a combined record of 125-131 last season, which adds up to a win percentage of .488.
No home prime-time games. This may be a personal bias of mine, considering now I do not have to leave work early, make the two plus hour drive there and back, and miss sleep before work the following morning. In actuality, no home prime-time game is also beneficial with the consistent drop in attendance the past few seasons. Fans and media across the country now will not be able to comment on the excess empty seats scattered around M&T Bank Stadium.
No extended west coast trips. The farthest west the Ravens have to travel to is Los Angeles to face off against the Chargers. (Still weird to say Los Angeles Chargers in my opinion.) The NFL has until Week 8 to decide whether the game will happen Saturday December 22nd or Sunday December 23rd. If Saturday, the game will kickoff at 8:20 and if Sunday, the kickoff will be 4:25.
The Ravens play eight games against playoff opponents this season, with only three of them being at home. (Week 1 vs Buffalo Bills, Week 7 vs New Orleans Saints, and Week 9 vs Pittsburgh Steelers.) Playing half of your games against seven playoff opponents is no easy task, especially with four of those games coming in consecutive weeks.
The NFL continues to favor the Steelers in the hard-nosed rivalry. For the third year in a row they have given the game in Baltimore a 1 pm start time, while giving Pittsburgh the prime-time slot. I know this goes against what I just said about home prime-time games, but this is just blasphemous. The worst part, entertainment wise, is that both games happen by Week 9. The best games in this rivalry are always the freezing cold, December match-ups that decide the division and ultimately, the playoffs.
The divisions the Ravens play against this season have recently been among the toughest in the league the past few seasons. The NFC South has had three different division winners in as many seasons, and also had three playoff teams last season. (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints.) The AFC West has one of the more dominant offenses in the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the better defenses in the Denver Broncos, a young, rebounding team in the Oakland Raiders, and a team that was as close as possible to making the playoffs in the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 2018 season is already an anomaly; all 32 teams will play four games against a division winner, four against a second place team, four against a third place team, and four against a team that placed last in their division.
The Ravens are one of only three teams to have a three game road trip this season, compared to seven last season.
The NFL decided to schedule the Ravens to play the Bills Week 1 after the locker room video of the Bills celebrating a playoff birth, due to the Ravens Week 17 collapse against the Cincinnati Bengals, went viral. Although it’s an indirect revenge game, both Ravens players and fans will remember that viral video and will come out guns blazing.
Overall, this is going to be a make or break season for the Ravens, it is now playoffs or bust. The schedule definitely looks tough, but I think the Ravens can handle it.
My first look predictions: The Ravens end the season 11-5, going at least 5-1 within the division, and will end up with the fifth seed in the AFC Playoffs.