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Baltimore Ravens: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook for 2012

Mike FastContributor IOctober 8, 2012

Baltimore Ravens: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook for 2012

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    With 11 games to go, the Ravens currently have a record of 4-1, including a 2-0 record within the AFC North.

    The first quarter of the 2012 season has gone about as well as expected for Baltimore: a winning record, the establishment of a powerful offense and minimal injuries.

    Although the Ravens have one home game in the next four weeks, that may be a good thing, as they need to learn to win consistently on the road if they want to be great.

    Terrell Suggs reportedly is shooting for the Week 7 game in Houston to make his return, although nothing has been set in stone. That game is the first game he'd be eligible to play as he's currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP), which doesn't allow a player to be active until after Week 6.

    While the Ravens have been doing well so far, getting Suggs back (healthy) figures to be a huge boost.

    Winning the Week 3 matchup against New England could be big for playoff positioning, but to get to that point, the Ravens must continue to win against some very tough teams.

Week 6 vs. Dallas

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    Date

    Sunday, October 14

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    FOX

    Key Matchup

    DeMarcus Ware versus Michael Oher

    Analysis

    If the Ravens can effectively block and scheme against DeMarcus Ware, it will go a long way in them winning the game next week when they host the Cowboys.

    Ware has five sacks in four games this season and is the best player on the Cowboys. Giving Flacco time to throw has been a key to the Ravens' success, considering he's been sacked eight times in Baltimore's last two games.

    Conversely, if the Ravens can sack Romo or at least make him scramble, he's shown a propensity to throw bad passes and interceptions.

    Ed Reed will be ready.

    Dallas is 0-3 all-time against Baltimore, and the Cowboys are currently a four-point underdog against the Ravens.

Week 7 at Houston

3 of 12

    Date

    Sunday, October 21

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Arian Foster versus Ray Lewis

    Analysis

    Although the Texans are 0-6 all-time against the Ravens (playoffs included), four of those six games have been decided by seven points or less.

    When these two teams met last January in Baltimore, Arian Foster ran 27 times for 132 yards and one touchdown.

    In his career against the Ravens (three games), Foster has rushed 62 times for 282 yards (4.5 average) and one touchdown. He's also hauled in 15 receptions for 99 yards (6.6 average) in those three games.

    If Ray Lewis can't stop him, he will need to put his defenders in the right place so they can make the play.

    Houston's running style is similar to Kansas City's, which is good in the sense that Baltimore will have had recent practice. However, Houston has a much more potent passing attack than Kansas City, which may keep Ravens defenders guessing.

    Besides San Francisco, Houston is playing the best football of any team in the league right now.

    *The Ravens have a BYE in Week 8.

Week 9 at Cleveland

4 of 12

    Date

    Sunday, November 4

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    D'Qwell Jackson versus Ray Rice

    Analysis

    When Baltimore beat Cleveland 23-16 in Week 4, it was its 20th win against the Browns (the most wins against any other team).

    The Ravens have beaten the Browns nine times in a row. Four of those wins have come in Cleveland by an average of 12.5 points per game.

    The only threat to the Ravens figures to be rookie running back Trent Richardson. In Week 4, Richardson rushed 14 times for 47 yards (3.4 average) and one touchdown. He also caught four passes for 57 yards (14.3 average).

    Considering how the Chiefs lit the Ravens up in the running game last week, it would behoove Baltimore to stack the box and force Brandon Weeden to beat them via the pass.

Week 10 vs. Oakland

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    Date

    Sunday, November 11

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Darren McFadden versus Courtney Upshaw

    Analysis

    Courtney Upshaw has played well for a Ravens defense that couldn't afford for him to make much error in his rookie season.

    Upshaw's strength in college was run defense and 'setting the edge.' So far his talent has transferred to the NFL and he's sustaining his progress. Upshaw has made 19 tackles and is also making plays that don't show up on the stat sheet.

    Although linebacker is the weakest Ravens unit thus far, Upshaw is certainly holding his own.

    Even considering Foster, McFadden may be the most talented runner the Ravens will face this season. He's incredibly quick but also very strong. Like Foster, he's an excellent receiving running back.

    If the Ravens can hold McFadden in check, they should have an advantage. If they don't shore up their run defense before November 11, Baltimore could endure their first home loss since Week 13 of the 2010 season.

Week 11 at Pittsburgh

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    Date

    Sunday, November 18

    Time

    8:20 PM ET

    TV Network

    NBC

    Key Matchup

    Maurkice Pouncey versus Haloti Ngata

    Analysis

    The Ravens swept the Steelers last season, winning both games by a combined score of 58-27. It was just the second time the Ravens have swept the Steelers in the 16 seasons the teams have been playing each other (2006, combined score of 58-7).

    This year, the Steelers are still a good team but seem to be missing something. The Ravens are better right now, but records mean nothing when these two teams go at it.

    Baltimore won at Pittsburgh last year, 23-30, when Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with eight seconds left. Look for that combination to again expose a below average Pittsburgh secondary.

    Speaking of wide receivers, the Steelers have probably the fastest group in the league. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are scary fast.

    In order for each team to stifle the opposing receiving corps, it will have to collapse the pocket and own the line of scrimmage.

    When the Steelers are on offense, there will be two All-Pros matched up against each other, as Maurkice Pouncey will face off against Haloti Ngata.

Week 12 at San Diego

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    Date

    Sunday, November 25

    Time

    4:05 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Philip Rivers versus Ed Reed

    Analysis

    Baltimore will travel to San Diego in Week 12 for what will be a rematch of Week 15 last season. Last year, the Chargers drubbed the Ravens in San Deigo, 34-14, in what turned out to be their worst loss of the season by far.

    The Ravens gave up 270 yards passing, 145 yards rushing and it didn't even seem that close. Baltimore was completely out-played and out-coached in that game. It was a game where basically nothing went right.

    In his last 21 games, Philip Rivers has thrown 25 interceptions. That won't stop him from challenging this Baltimore secondary, even with Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb playing excellent football.

    The X-factor could come in the form of Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft.

    Consider this: Johnson played in 143 games for the Ravens, which is fourth-most out of the 274 players who have ever played for Baltimore.

Week 13 vs. Pittsburgh

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    Date

    Sunday, December 2

    Time

    4:25 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Ben Roethlisberger versus Bernard Pollard

    Analysis

    In what may be the closest rivalry in pro football is also the most common rivalry for the Ravens. Pittsburgh is the one team the Ravens have played the most in their history. In 35 games against the Steelers, the Ravens are 14-21 (playoffs included).

    As of late, the Ravens have had the Steelers' number. But whoever is the better team is kind of irrelevant. This game is about hitting. Hard hitting.

    In my opinion, this is the game in which Terrell Suggs will make his return. If that's the case, it would really benefit Baltimore's defense considering he's the one player who has consistently sacked Ben Roethlisberger, as opposed to just hitting him.

    In 16 career games against the Steelers, Suggs has recorded 18.5 sacks. He has made at least a half-sack in 13 of those 16 games.

    One Ravens defender who is in just his second year with the team but embodies the physicality of this rivalry is Bernard Pollard. Look for Pollard to hit anything that moves in a Pittsburgh uniform during this Week 13 clash.

Week 14 at Washington

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    Date

    Sunday, December 9

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Alfred Morris versus Ray Lewis

    Analysis

    The Redskins best chance to win this game is to win it on the ground. Their receivers aren't great, and by the time Week 14 rolls around, the Ravens will have faced much more talented and much more physical offenses.

    The one thing the Redskins do have going for them is the running success of rookie Alfred Morris. He's started each one of Washington's five games this season, and he has rushed 100 times for 491 yards and four touchdowns.

    Those are good numbers for any player, much less a rookie, much less in the NFC East.

    He will surely be tested going up against Ray Lewis, assuming the Kansas City game was an aberration. Otherwise, Morris should be more than able to run for 100 yards or more in this matchup.

Week 15 vs. Denver

10 of 12

    Date

    Sunday, December 16

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    Peyton Manning versus Ray Lewis

    Analysis

    What more needs to be said about this game?

    Playoff seedings are sure to be on the line in what figures to be a frigid mid-December afternoon in Baltimore.

    Between Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis, they have played 439 regular season games in 32 NFL seasons and have won two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVP awards. 

    Don't miss this one.

Week 16 vs. New York Giants

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    Date

    Sunday, December 23

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    FOX

    Key Matchup

    Victor Cruz versus Lardarius Webb

    Analysis

    The Ravens nearly played the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI last February, but it was not to be.

    Two days before Christmas, Baltimore will play the Giants in their home finale.

    While the Ravens haven't played the Giants very often (2-1 all-time against New York), this will still be a key game in terms of maintaining playoff positions and in terms of seeing how each team stacks up against a non-conference power.

    Two of the best young players that are on the rise will be the focal point of this game. Wide receiver Victor Cruz and cornerback Lardarius Webb are tremendous talents and should be matched up against one another quite often in this game.

    The team whose player gets the upper hand is likely the team that will be victorious.

Week 17 at Cincinnati

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    Date

    Sunday, December 30

    Time

    1 PM ET

    TV Network

    CBS

    Key Matchup

    A.J. Green versus Cary Williams

    Analysis

    For the second time in as many years, the Ravens will end their regular season in Cincinnati.

    The key for Baltimore is fairly simple: stop A.J. Green. In his two career games against the Ravens, Green has made seven receptions for 96 yards.

    Sure those aren't legendary numbers, but ask John Harbaugh about Green, who said earlier this season that Green is "maybe the best receiver in football."

    Cary Williams will likely be matched up against Green considering they are both big, long athletes, which on paper bodes well for the Bengals considering Williams' struggles this season.

    Another key for the Ravens will be to give Ray Rice ample opportunity to wear the Bengals defenders down. Last year on the final week of the regular season, Rice ran roughshod over the Bengals, as he rushed 24 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

    In the two games against Cincinnati last season, Rice rushed 44 times for 295 yards (6.7 average) and four touchdowns.

    For the Bengals, the key is simple: stop Rice.

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