The Baltimore Ravens will open their season on the road against the Denver Broncos.
The Baltimore Ravens and fans alike have now gotten a chance to take a look at what 2013 has in store for them. The defending champions will have an unconventional road opener, after failing to convince the Baltimore Orioles to change their home game in September.
Aside from the typical divisional opponents, the Ravens will also face teams from the AFC South, AFC North and NFC North. The matchups outside of their division could make for another difficult path to the playoffs.
Despite a difficult schedule, the Ravens should find themselves playoff contenders again in 2013. Here are some predictions of how the Ravens could fare in their 2013 matchups.
Last year, in the playoffs, the Ravens defeated the Broncos, 38-35.
Prediction: Broncos 31, Ravens 17 (0-1)
The Baltimore Ravens shocked the league when they pulled off an upset of the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC divisional-playoff round last season. With under a minute to go, Joe Flacco stepped up and slung a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones to force overtime with the Broncos.
In overtime, the Ravens would put their faith in rookie Justin Tucker to kick a game-winning field goal, and from 47 yards, Tucker delivered.
While the Ravens were better than the Broncos in the postseason, the Ravens may struggle in the season opener.
Peyton Manning should find great joy in opening the season at home against the Ravens. On September 5, Manning will have a chance to go full speed with recently acquired wide receiver Wes Welker. In addition to Welker's debut, Manning also has an 8-2 career record against the Ravens.
Manning is a surgical passer and still remains one of the top quarterbacks in the league. His expertise in the passing game could prove very difficult for a recently revamped Ravens' defense.
Teams who undergo as many changes as the Ravens have this offseason have tendencies to struggle early on. This could very well be the case for the Ravens' defense against the Broncos.
It's tough to predict just how good or bad the Ravens' defense could be early on, as they have potential to surprise people. If the Ravens don't find themselves in the right position to defend the Broncos' passing attack, Manning could take advantage and create problems for Baltimore.
The Browns travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens on September 15.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Browns 13 (1-1)
The Baltimore Ravens will have their home opener against a familiar foe, the Cleveland Browns. Last season, the Ravens went 2-0 against the Browns, beating them by a combined score of 48-31. Expect Baltimore to see similar success this season.
Beating Cleveland may not prove to be an easy task. With young talent like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and Joe Haden, Cleveland has weapons to play with. Cleveland will also be starting the season with a new head coach, after signing Rob Chudzinski this offseason.
Second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden will need to improve last season's performances against Baltimore to give the Browns a chance in Week 2. Last season, Weeden failed to throw a touchdown against Baltimore. In last year's matchup in Baltimore, Weeden completed 20 of 37 passes for 176 yards and threw two interceptions.
Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have never lost to the Browns. Given their success, thus far, there is no reason to think that Cleveland will come into Charm City and steal a win from the Ravens.
On September 22, the Ravens will welcome J.J. Watt and the Texans to Baltimore.
Prediction: Texans 28, Baltimore 20 (1-2)
Last season, the Houston Texans put a beatdown on the Baltimore Ravens in Houston. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 256 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Arian Foster ran for 98 yards and added two scores of his own.
On offense, Joe Flacco and the Ravens had no luck, totaling 176 yards in the game. Flacco completed 21 of 43 passes for 147 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Ray Rice was also limited for Baltimore, carrying just nine times for 47 yards without posting a touchdown.
With a defense that no longer features Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens will have big shoes to fill against a physical Houston offense. Foster has not been kind to opposing defenses since being named Houston's starter in 2010. Since then, he has rushed for 4,264 yards on 956 carries and posted 41 touchdowns on the ground.
Recently signed linebackers Rolando McClain and Elvis Dumervil, along with the rest of the front seven will have a tall task in stopping Foster. Should the Ravens be able to limit Foster and force Houston to go to the air, they might have a chance. As it currently stands, the only real threat Houston has in the receiving game is veteran Andre Johnson.
While the Texans will likely acquire another receiver in the draft, Houston could cause problems for Baltimore's secondary as well. With Lardarius Webb coming back from a torn ACL, hopefully, Baltimore can find a way to limit Jonhson's production. In last year's contest, Johnson hauled in nine passes for 86 yards, leading both teams in those categories.
While I would like to be more optimistic about this matchup, the Texans are a great football team. After last season's slaughter, predicting an eight-point differential seems reasonable at this point.
On September 29, the Ravens will travel to Buffalo for a date with the Bills.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Bills 13 (2-2)
The Baltimore Ravens will look to get back in the win column when they travel to Buffalo for their last September game. The Buffalo Bills look to be in a bit of disarray right now, with questions at quarterback, wide receiver and defense. Baltimore should capitalize on what should be one of their easier road games.
The Bills recently signed quarterback Kevin Kolb, but could still be front-runners to draft a top quarterback. Buffalo seems to have a quality player in C.J. Spiller who had a breakout season in 2012 for the Bills. Stevie Johnson solidifies the Bills' wide receiver corps which looks relatively weak outside of him.
On offense, the Ravens should look to exploit Buffalo's secondary. Led by free safety Jairus Byrd, the Bills may struggle with the pass this season. While it will help to have a healthy Mario Williams on defense, the Bills will need to get in Flacco's face to have a shot at disrupting the passing game.
If the season goes as currently predicted, the Ravens will need a win to prevent themselves from falling to 1-3. Regardless, expect Flacco and the Ravens to go into Buffalo and come out with a victory in a potential must-win game.
On October 6, the Ravens face the Dolphins on the road in Miami.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Dolphins 17 (3-2)
The Miami Dolphins are not a team that should be taken lightly in 2013. The Dolphins have attempted to bolster their team this season through free agency. Adding players like Dannell Ellerbe, Mike Wallace and Brent Grimes to the fold, Miami appears poised for a potential playoff push.
The Baltimore Ravens could find themselves up against a tough defense when they travel to Miami. Last season, the Dolphins ranked seventh in points allowed (19.8) and 13th in average rushing yards allowed (108.4). The Dolphins' struggles came in the passing game, as they allowed 248.4 yards per game through the air.
Baltimore's offensive line will have to protect Joe Flacco from linebacker Cameron Wake, who recorded 15 sacks in 2012. While there are currently a few question marks with Flacco's offensive line, he should see plenty of opportunities to make plays downfield.
Baltimore's secondary will need to play on high alert. Wallace is a familar foe, having spent his first four seasons in the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition to Wallace, receiver Brian Hartline and tight end Dustin Keller are both viable targets in the passing game.
It's difficult to predict how the Dolphins' rushing attack could fare against Baltimore. Last season, Miami averaged 112.6 rushing yards per game—good for 17th in the league. The problem is, most of those rushing yards came from Reggie Bush, who has since departed for Detroit.
As it stands, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller and Marcus Thigpen are all options to carry the load for the Dolphins. Of the trio, Thomas struggled last season, averaging only 3.9 yards per carry, and Thigpen saw only one rush out of the backfield.
Despite their improvements through free agency, and the further development of Ryan Tannehill, expect the Ravens to come out on top in Miami.
On October 13, the Ravens will take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Baltimore.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Packers 21 (4-2)
For this matchup, I decided to get a little bold, picking the Baltimore Ravens to come out victorious against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Every season, teams seem to pull off one or two wins where the odds are stacked against them, and this could be one of those matchups.
The Ravens have the fortune of being the home team in what will be a very tough matchup. The Ravens and Packers last met in Green Bay in 2009, a game the Packers won, 27-14. Joe Flacco struggled in the game, completing 15 of 36 passes for one touchdown and three interceptions.
For the Packers, Rodgers threw two interceptions himself, but his three touchdown passes and 263 passing yards were enough to top the Ravens. The Packers' defense also managed to keep Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket, sacking him three times in the game.
The Ravens' defense has potential to cause a lot of problems for the Packers' passing game. Linebacker Terrell Suggs looks to come back healthy from an injury-plagued 2012 season. In addition to Suggs' return, linebacker Elvis Dumervil could also help in the pass rush against an offensive line that gave up 51 sacks last season.
By this point in the season, the Ravens will have played in five games, giving their defense time to play together. If Baltimore's defense can prove to be a threat in 2013, they could find themselves winners against the Packers.
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh in Week 7 to face the Steelers.
Prediction: Steelers 14, Ravens 13 (4-3)
Baltimore has a bye for Week 8, which will likely be needed following a Week 7 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh is always a physical matchup, and usually features a low-scoring game. I expect this game to be no different.
Last season, the Ravens went into Pittsburgh and defeated the Steelers, 13-10. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will look to change that in 2013. Like their matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore could again try to exploit Pittsburgh's weak offensive line.
Last season, Pittsburgh allowed 37 sacks to their quarterbacks, good for 15th most in the league. This will also be the first time the Ravens play against Roethlisberger in almost two years. In last season's matchups, the Ravens faced Byron Leftwich in the first game and Charlie Batch in the second game.
Baltimore will have a tough matchup in the secondary, as the Steelers ranked first last season in passing yards allowed per game (185.2). On the ground, Baltimore may also struggle to get Ray Rice going. Pittsburgh allowed only 90.6 yards per game against the run in 2012, good for second best in the league.
Like any other Ravens fan, I would love to see Baltimore go undefeated against the Steelers every season. While the game should be close enough for the Ravens to have a chance to win, no win comes easy in hostile Pittsburgh.
The Ravens have a rematch with the Browns on November 3.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Browns 13 (5-3)
The Baltimore Ravens have their second matchup against the Cleveland Browns when they travel to Cleveland after their bye week. The Ravens have yet to lose a game under John Harbaugh, following their bye week. Last season, the Ravens faced the Browns after their bye week last season, beating them 25-15, also in Week 9.
With the extra time to prepare for what should be an inferior opponent, the Ravens could find themselves performing better in the rematch. Ray Rice can certainly run on Cleveland's defense and Baltimore should have no problem shutting down Brandon Weeden and the Browns.
Expect Baltimore to earn yet another season sweep of their division rival in Week 9.
On November 10, the Ravens take on the Bengals in Baltimore.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Bengals 17 (6-3)
The Baltimore Ravens may not find a tougher opponent in their division than the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals went 10-6 last season and made the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Ravens split their games with Cincinnati last season and will need to play at their best to see similar results or better.
Baltimore crushed the Bengals in their first home matchup, beating them 44-13 behind Joe Flacco's 21-of-26 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Cincinnati has signed free-agent linebacker James Harrison and retained Michael Johnson and Rey Maualuga, keeping their defense mostly intact.
The Ravens will still have to contain quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, both entering their third year in the league. In addition, tight end Jermaine Gresham and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis solidify a strong offensive core for the Bengals.
Cincinnati won't be an easy game for Baltimore in either matchup. Winning this game could go a long way in the Ravens' attempt to secure another division crown.
The Ravens travel to Chicago on November 17 to take on the Bears.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Bears 17 (7-3)
The Baltimore Ravens will have another tough NFC North matchup when they take on the Chicago Bears in Chicago. The Bears went 10-6 last season, just missing the playoffs, despite having strong-armed quarterback Jay Cutler behind center.
Even with Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the Bears struggled to find success, ranking 29th in the league through the air.
Cutler's numbers, last season, were mediocre at best, although some of this blame can fall on his offensive line. The Bears' offensive line allowed 44 sacks last season and 87 quarterback hits, ranking among the top 10 in both of those categories last season.
Chicago still has Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman on defense, providing a good anchor for the unit. Any offensive ball-carrier for the Ravens will have to keep an eye out for Tillman on defense. Tillman forced 10 fumbles last year for the Bears—the most by any player in the league.
This game won't be an easy one for the Ravens, as Chicago seems to always turn in a solid defense. Their offense will have work to do this season to improve on last year's performance. Given Cutler's past struggles in big games and Flacco's past success in them, I see the Ravens taking this game.
Rex Ryan will travel to Baltimore for the second time in two years on November 24.
Prediction: Ravens 30 Jets 10 (8-3)
Baltimore currently holds a seven-game win streak against the Jets. In addition to their win streak, the Ravens also have yet to lose to their former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. With the Jets currently facing several questions heading into 2013, this prediction seems too easy.
The Jets' quarterback situation is currently a complete mess. They still have Mark Sanchez who struggled mightily last season, and Tim Tebow remains on the roster—for now. They also recently signed quarterback David Garrard, but it's hard to believe he can make an impact, having not played since 2010.
On defense, the Jets recently traded All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They also released Mike DeVito, Bart Scott, LaRon Landry and Calvin Pace. Even running back Shonn Greene left the team, signing with the Tennessee Titans.
The Ravens defeated the Jets, 34-17, last season in Baltimore. The Jets' 2012 roster appears to be much better than what they will have heading into 2013. Given that fact, it's tough to think the Ravens won't extend their winning streak against the Jets to eight games this November.
The Ravens welcome the Steelers to Baltimore for a Thanksgiving Day matchup.
Prediction: Ravens 17 Steelers 14 (9-3)
The Baltimore Ravens close out a day of Thanksgiving games when they play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just as the Ravens defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh last season, the Steelers did the same to the Ravens in Baltimore in 2012.
While this is more of a fun fact than something for fans to hang their hat on, the Ravens certainly made a nice showing on the national stage in their last Thanksgiving game.
Look for Baltimore to avenge a possible 2013 road loss to Pittsburgh and last season's home loss with a win on Thanksgiving night.
2012 MVP Adrian Peterson and the Vikings will face the Ravens on December 8.
Prediction: Vikings 17, Ravens 14 (9-4)
For the past two seasons, the Baltimore Ravens have had a game or two where they walk into a trap. If you're unsure of what I mean, check out last year's game against the Kansas City Chiefs or the 2011 losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks. This year's matchup against the Minnesota Vikings could be another trap game for the Ravens.
Last year's MVP, Adrian Peterson, could potentially tear into Baltimore's defense this game. Then again, what defense can't he tear into? The Vikings struggle with their aerial game, so if Peterson gets going early, he may be unstoppable.
It's also worth noting that during this point in the season, talks could arise about Peterson possibly breaking the single-season rushing record.
Peterson almost broke Eric Dickerson's rushing record in 2012, falling just nine yards shy of breaking the 28-year old record. Peterson already seems motivated to break it this year, and if he's close, come Week 14, it could spell problems for the Ravens.
If the Vikings do defeat the Ravens, they may have to ride Peterson's shoulders all the way to victory. While this game could still go in Baltimore's favor, it has the potential makings to end poorly for the Ravens.
The Ravens face the Lions in Detroit on December 16.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Lions 28 (10-4)
The Detroit Lions bolstered their offense this offseason with the signing of running back Reggie Bush. Bush will team up with quarterback Matt Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, hoping to rebound from a tough 2012 season.
Despite respectable team numbers on defense in yards allowed per game (341.1), the Lions struggled with giving up points. Detroit gave up 27.3 points per game last season, ranking 27th in the league. On top of that, Stafford came down in 2012 after a stellar 2011 season.
Stafford will look to once again prove that he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league. If he is successful in his attempt to be mentioned among the best, the Ravens could be in for a shootout.
This game certainly has the makings to be a high-scoring affair. While the Ravens' defense could still be very good in 2013, stopping Johnson and Bush will prove difficult. If this game comes down to the final possession, look for Justin Tucker to seal it for the Ravens with a game-winning field goal.
The Ravens will take on the Patriots in Baltimore on December 22. It will be a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game.
Prediction: Patriots 23, Ravens 20 (10-5)
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will look for revenge after a loss against the Baltimore Ravens in last year's AFC Championship Game. Not only did the Ravens beat the New Patriots in the championship game, they also defeated them in Week 3 last year.
Baltimore has more wins against the Patriots in the postseason (two) than they do in the regular season (one). After losing to the Ravens twice last season, expect the Patriots to come out angry and ready to play in Week 16.
This game looks to have serious playoff implications for both teams this late in the season. The Patriots could be looking to secure a top seed in the playoffs, while the Ravens could still be battling for a division crown.
Even with the matchup being a home game for the Ravens, reaching a three-game win streak against the Patriots will be a difficult task. Expect a close game with the Patriots having a chance to earn a win late in the final quarter.
The Ravens close out the regular season on December 29 on the road in Cincinnati.
Prediction: Bengals 20 Ravens 14 (10-6)
In a game that could have major playoff implications on the line, the Baltimore Ravens may have to clinch the division against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. Baltimore finished last season in Cincinnati, losing the game, 23-17. Part of the reason was because they had already clinched the division and opted to sit some of their starters.
Baltimore may not be able to afford to sit key players in this game. With Cincinnati's dangerous roster, it would not be surprising to see them deadlocked with Baltimore in the standings in the final week.
Regardless of what the playoff picture may be, Cincinnati won't go down easily in the last game of the season. As much as I would like to pick the Ravens to win this game, the Bengals are no slouch. A tough Bengals' defense could be good enough to hold Joe Flacco and the Ravens at bay, while Andy Dalton leads the Bengals to a much-needed win.