Analyzing the Baltimore Ravens' 2009 Schedule with Expectations
Week 1 - Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00, CBS)
The Baltimore Ravens open their season at home against a Kansas City Chiefs team that certainly improved this offseason, adding Matt Cassel, Monty Beisel, Bobby Engram, and Tyson Jackson.
The Ravens also improved this offseason, adding some good players like Domonique Foxworth, Matt Birk, Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, and Lardarius Webb.
The Ravens shouldn't have much of a problem with the Chiefs. Matt Cassel is obviously a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, as he proved throughout the 2008 season.
However, the Ravens held some good quarterbacks to nothing in 2008, including Tony Romo, Chad Pennington, and Jason Campbell.
The Chiefs will be forced to go to the air early, as the Chiefs don't have a legitimate No. 1 back and the Ravens have an incredible run defense. That shouldn't work for them.
The Ravens added three cornerbacks in the offseason, all 25 or younger, in Chris Carr, Domonique Foxworth, and Lardarius Webb.
In addition to that, the Ravens already had Fabian Washington lining up at corner, and Ed Reed and Dawan Landry at safety, certainly a dangerous safety duo.
I fully expect the Ravens to walk away with an easy win on Opening Day.
Week 2 - Baltimore Ravens vs. San Diego Chargers (4:15 PM, CBS)
The San Diego Chargers have a tendency to start slowly, but I don't expect that to resume next season. The Chargers added a solid defensive end in Larry English, have one of the best young quarterbacks in Philip Rivers, and have a good 1-2 punch of LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles in the backfield.
The Ravens can certainly handle the Chargers offense, but I don't see the Ravens winning this game purely because they are on the road against the Chargers, who play very well at home.
The Ravens are capable of winning this, because Joe Flacco showed he could win on the road throughout the 2008 season, but San Diego, with a healthy Shawne Merriman, along with Larry English and a resurgent Antonio Cromartie, could cause some problems for the Ravens.
The key for the Ravens to win is stopping Rivers, plain and simple. If they can limit him, they can easily win this.
While the Chargers have a good 1-2 punch, it's not a great one, as L.T. has clearly lost a step and there are still questions on whether Darren Sproles can handle a big workload.
Week 3 - Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, CBS)
It'll be interesting to see who wins the quarterback battle for the Cleveland Browns. It could be Brady Quinn, but it could also be Derek Anderson. I don't think the Ravens care, because they can give both quarterbacks headaches.
The Browns traded multiple times in the 2009 NFL Draft and ultimately decided to add California center Alex Mack with the 21st overall pick. I'm not sure the Ravens care about that, either.
I fully expect the Baltimore Ravens to win this game. Flacco didn't have a good game the first time against the Browns last year, but was 13-for-19, and in his second game against Cleveland, he won AFC North Offensive Player of the Week.
The Browns lost some weapons over the offseason, losing Donte Stallworth, Kellen Winslow, and being at odds with receiver Braylon Edwards. If the Ravens can handle Edwards and Winslow healthy, they can certainly handle a disgruntled Edwards, and an unknown No. 2 wide receiver.
The Ravens not only are a much improved team, but the Cleveland Browns are a team with even fewer offensive weapons than they had last season.
Week 4 - Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots (1:00 PM, CBS)
The New England Patriots are obviously a Super Bowl contender. With Tom Brady returning healthy, Patriots Nation fully expects a Super Bowl run. The Ravens are also a team who could go all the way, but stopping the New England Patriots is no easy task.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Ravens came out victorious in this game, as the Ravens did almost beat the hated New Englanders in 2007, but some tough penalties and breaks led to a loss.
However, I'm not expecting a Ravens win in Week 4. Especially not if Baltimore plays at Gillette Stadium, where the Pats are practically unbeatable.
The Ravens will need to be able to limit Randy Moss, not an easy task. Despite being up there in age (turned 32 in February), Moss appears to be at the top of his game.
He adjusted to a new quarterback in 2008, and still managed to catch 69 passes, gain over 1,000 yards, and score 11 touchdowns. It wasn't comparable to his record-breaking 2007 campaign, but it was definitely a solid year.
On top of that, the Ravens will need to watch for Wes Welker. I see this game being a close one, but the Pats coming out on top.
Week 5 - Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, CBS)
Earlier in the week, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer made a likely unrealistic prediction, saying his team would be 6-0 after six games and 10-2 after 12 games. I'll be honest, I laughed.
The Bengals return linebacker Keith Rivers 100 percent healthy and also have Rey Maualuga, which will be big. Adding Andre Smith with the No. 6 overall pick was a wise decision, as the reason for Palmer's injury troubles was his lack of protection.
However, the Bengals don't have a top ten caliber defense, and despite adding Smith, don't yet have a good offensive line. On top of that, they lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson continues to express his discomfort.
I expect the Ravens to take this game in a cakewalk. The Bengals did improve as the year progressed, but not to a point that they were a playoff team. The Ravens are a Super Bowl caliber team, and the Ravens embarrassed Cincinnati in a Week 13 matchup, 34-3.
The Bengals have no run game whatsoever. Cedric Benson is a capable back, but mustered just 19 yards on 10 carries in the second Ravens/Bengals contest.
The Ravens will have to commit a huge gaffe to let this one slip away, especially if the guy who has owned them for so long, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, is long gone.
Week 6 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Minnesota Vikings (1:00 PM, CBS)
The Ravens stole a great Viking offensive lineman when they acquired free agent center Matt Birk, agreeing to terms with the six-time Pro Bowler on a three-year, $12M deal. The Vikings hope to get their vengeance on the Ravens by beating Birk's new squad.
The Ravens will visit the Vikes in the Metrodome for a Week 6 matchup that will feature two great defenses, two young quarterbacks, and two powerful running games. I think the Ravens have the advantage in all three.
The Ravens did lose Bart Scott, but it doesn't appear as if the loss will be as devastating as some pictured, and the Ravens consistently have a better defensive unit than Minnesota.
There is almost no argument for Tarvaris Jackson when you compare Flacco and Tarvaris, and while Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, he fumbled nine times, most for any running back.
The Vikes also don't have the depth the Ravens have in the backfield. The Ravens can look to four guys to pick up the slack. Le'Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice proved last year they can play well at the NFL level.
The Ravens also added Cedric Peerman in the draft, a guy who looked sharp in minicamp, and the Ravens rushing offense will only be stronger with Michael Oher, a solid offensive lineman, lining up on the right side.
Week 8 - Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, CBS)
Last year, the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens were polar opposites. The Broncos relied on a strong aerial attack, featuring now departed quarterback Jay Cutler, wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and tight end Tony Scheffler.
However, the Broncos had no stability in the backfield, had a poor defense, and lived and died by the pass.
The Ravens, on the other hand, used their solid defense and run game to their advantage and looked to rookie quarterback Joe Flacco on occasion for a big play.
However, that has changed. While the Broncos defense isn't yet great, it definitely has improved, adding Brian Dawkins, Andra Davis, and Andre Goodman.
They also added to their backfield by drafting Knowshon Moreno and signing Correll Buckhalter. Moreno appears to be a great Rookie of the Year candidate, as he has a good offensive line, led by Ryan Clady, and will start.
Nonetheless, the Ravens are at home, and due to the fact that the Ravens defense and run game is plainly better than Denver's and are also at home in this contest.
Week 9 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 PM, CBS)
The Ravens again meet up with the Bengals, who, in Carson Palmer's book, will at this point be 7-1. I don't see it.
The Ravens played a good, solid game on Opening Day in 2008 against Cincinnati in 2008, coming out victorious at home, 17-10.
However, they looked considerably better in a Week 13 matchup again against Cincy (this time on the road) in a 34-3 shellacking.
The Bengals, I think, will be hit hard by the loss of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is one of the most reliable targets for a quarterback. Even with an unstable quarterback position last year, he managed to catch 92 passes and gain 904 yards.
Along with that, people can say what they want about Carson Palmer's productive career thus far, but he has carried the Bengals to ONE playoff appearance despite having wide receivers to throw to that some would drool over.
I expect the Ravens to come away with this one in a cakewalk. The Bengals don't have a bright outlook for the 2009 season, and the Ravens do, and I would be very surprised if the Ravens walked out of Cincy defeated.
Week 10 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns (8:30 PM, ESPN)
For the first time, the Ravens will appear in prime time, facing the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night at Browns Stadium. Like I said, the Browns aren't anything to scare the Baltimore Ravens defense.
They have two quarterbacks who were very below average last season, have no consistency running the ball, and lost one of their main targets in Kellen Winslow.
This is a game the Ravens should be licking their chops for, especially Joe Flacco, who succeeded in his second game against Cleveland in 2008, winning AFC North Offensive Player of the Week.
The Browns will have to establish a flashy aerial attack, because, let's face it, Jamal Lewis is far past his prime. I don't see a scenario in which the Browns have considerable success throwing the football, especially considering the speed the Ravens corners have.
After all, the Ravens have Ed Reed back at safety, and Dawan Landry returning, who was a playmaker in 2006 and 2007 before getting hurt in the second game of the 2008 campaign. I expect the Ravens to win this game...without breaking a sweat.
Week 11 - Indianpolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, CBS)
We Baltimore Ravens fans all remember the tragedy that was the Week 6 matchup between the Colts and Ravens in 2008. We all know the story: Colts win 31-3, Peyton Manning carves up the Ravens secondary.
However, this time, the Ravens have corner play that is considerably better, have an improved Joe Flacco, and an offensive line that can match up with just about anybody in the NFL.
The Colts lost Tom Moore, their genius offensive coordinator, and Tony Dungy, who is the mastermind behind the Indianapolis Colts.
However, I don't see the Ravens winning this game purely because the Ravens have always had troubles against the Colts, and that includes a 15-6 loss in the 2006 playoffs, that coming after the Ravens magical 13-3 season.
While losing both Moore, Dungy, and wide receiver Marvin Harrison will hurt Indianapolis, they still have the best quarterback in the game in Peyton Manning, a star receiver in Reggie Wayne, and a good tight end in Dallas Clark.
Week 12 - Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens (8:20 PM, NBC)
This is the game Ravens fans want the most, I'm sure. Right now, it's pretty obvious the Ravens and Steelers are going to finish atop the AFC North. In what order has yet to be determined.
This matchup features two teams with incredible defenses, well coaches squads, and clubs with a history. Both teams respective fanbases are bitter. For now, the Steelers have bragging rights.
They beat the Ravens three times last year, if you include the AFC Championship. However, much of that is due to the constant duress Joe Flacco was under during those games.
While you wouldn't think a rookie drafted 23rd overall would make such an immense impact, offensive tackle Michael Oher would change that.
We know he's not going to completely limit James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, both extremely good pass rushers, but we can expect Oher will stop the bleeding, and give Flacco some time to find the open receiver.
That was such a huge problem last year, as Flacco often had to automatically lob the ball to Derrick Mason by default when under pressure. That should change, and I expect a win in Week 12.
Week 13 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers (8:30 PM, ESPN)
This is a game I'm intrigued by. While the Green Bay Packers are a team who finished just 5-11 last season, I see them as a team who can turn it around.
They have a good back in Ryan Grant, a bright young quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, two solid receivers, and while the Packer defense was miserable last year, they did add Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji into the mix.
While I'm expecting the Ravens to leave Lambeau Field victorious, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens, in such an environment, fall short.
While Packers fans can use the excuse that Flacco, a young quarterback, will get rattled, that point is invalid. As you may or may not remember, this is a guy who went into Heinz Field (on Monday Night Football, in his third career start) and threw for nearly 200 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions.
However, I see Green Bay as a surprise team and if the Ravens and Packers have identical records going into this game, I would not be very surprised, as the Pack definitely have potential.
Week 14 - Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, FOX)
Unless you lived under a rock during the 2008 NFL season, which if you're a Lions fan, you probably considered, you'd know the Ravens have a clear advantage going into this game.
The Martin Mayhew/Jim Schwartz era in Detroit appears to be a better one than that of Matt Millen/(insert name). While it's unclear whether Matthew Stafford will emerge as the franchise quarterback, he certainly has the potential, and the Lions finally have some direction.
However, that direction in this game will be straight into the ground. The Lions have a dismal pass AND run defense. While they improved that during the draft by adding Louis Delmas, adding one second round safety can only do so much.
Unless the Ravens are 12-0 going into the game and prepared to tank the season, I'd be shocked if the Ravens fell in this game.
While teams like the Falcons, Ravens, and Dolphins turned it around last season, they had solid offensive lines and legitimate defenses, and in the Ravens case, great defenses.
However, I don't see the Lions as a team to have such a dramatic turnaround, as they don't have a legitimate defense or a good offensive line, and I don't see them coming out victorious...especially not in Baltimore.
Week 15 - Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM, CBS)
The diva of this offseason was Jay Cutler. He went through a rift with the management of the Denver Broncos, and ended up getting traded to the Chicago Bears.
The Bears haven't had a true franchise quarterback in quite some time, and at 25, Cutler is that guy. He'll need more targets, but finally has the running game so that Jay doesn't have to carry the team on his shoulders.
However, passing the ball on Baltimore is no easy task, not even to Jay Cutler. The 25-year old has a rifle arm, but he is not Peyton Manning, who was the only quarterback who had flashy numbers against the Ravens in 2008.
I expect the Ravens to come away with a victory. The Bears have no deep threats that the Ravens need worry about, and Matt Forte is a good halfback, but so are Ronnie Brown, Joseph Addai, Marion Barber, Brian Westbrook, Steve Slaton, Maurice Jones-Drew, Willie Parker, and Chris Johnson, all guys the Ravens completely halted during the 2008 regular season, and the Ravens defense, if anything, has improved. I don't expect the Bears to pose much of a threat, and the Ravens should win this game.
Week 16 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1:00 PM, CBS)
The Ravens finally play a game in Pittsburgh not in prime-time. The Ravens have been surprisingly equal with the Steelers the last three seasons, as the total score in 2006, 2007, and 2008 games between the two is 117-90 Ravens.
However, when you weigh in that the Ravens outscored the Steelers by a score of 58-7 in 2006, the Steelers do have the advantage.
The Ravens almost never seem to win at Heinz Field, but who does? I expect the Steelers and the Ravens to be in a dog fight for the AFC North in this contest, as they always are.
Again, I think the Steelers will win the game. The Steelers have an incredibly easy schedule going into the season. In fact, the Ravens have the 28th hardest, while Pittsburgh's S.O.S. (strength of schedule) stands at 29th.
The Steelers and Ravens, I believe, will both make the playoffs, but the Steelers will again crawl out of the season as AFC North Division champions.
It'll be close, but the Steelers always seemed to come out with last minute victories, whether it be in the Super Bowl or against the Ravens.
Week 17 - Baltimore Ravens vs. Oakland Raiders (4:15 PM, CBS)
The Baltimore Ravens have beaten the Oakland Raiders the last two meetings by a combined score of an embarrassing 56-10.
However, both those games were in Baltimore at M & T Bank Stadium. Playing in Oakland is certainly a frightening experience. The fans will, as NFL Films put it: "Raiders fans will eat your baby."
That may be a bit of a stretch, but Oakland Raiders fans take their football seriously, and come Sunday, they come to the game with intent to intimidate their opponent.
However, I doubt Joe Flacco is frightened of Oakland Raiders fans after he has faced the Steelers multiple times.
Al Davis again proved he should seriously consider retiring when he drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey, the fastest receiver available, instead of Michael Crabtree, the BEST receiver available. It was downright shocking.
The Raiders have some offensive support for JaMarcus Russell, and he is on the brink of a breakout. But against the Ravens? The Raiders never have success against the Ravens, and I don't see a change.
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