The Baltimore Ravens were seconds away from the playoffs last season, and now the pressure is on in 2018.
Last-minute heroics from Andy Dalton in Week 17 ended the Ravens' season, keeping them out of the postseason for the third straight season. All of a sudden, one of the most consistent franchises in the AFC now has serious question marks about its future.
Joe Flacco remains the starter at quarterback, but his job is far from secure. Adding in a more difficult schedule and the 2018 regular season could represent a serious challenge.
Here is a look at the complete schedule for the Ravens in the 2018 regular season, per the team's official site.
Ravens' 2018 Schedule
Week 1: vs. Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 2: at Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 13 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network
Week 3: vs. Denver Broncos on Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 4: at Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
Week 5: at Cleveland Browns on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 6: at Tennessee Titans on Oct. 14 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 7: vs. New Orleans Saints on Oct. 21 at 4:05 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 9: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: vs. Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 12: vs. Oakland Raiders on Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 14: at Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 15: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 16: at Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 23 at 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 17: vs. Cleveland Browns on Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
The 2017 schedule was very kind to the Ravens, with opponents having just a .441 win percentage, per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. It was even easier at times with the Raiders, Dolphins, Packers and Texans utilizing backups after injuries to their starters.
Things project to be slightly tougher in 2018, with opponents having a combined .488 win percentage to rank 21st in the NFL, per ESPN. With the difficult NFC South on the schedule along with returning playoff teams like Bills and Titans, there will be quite a few challenging matchups.
With that said, the Ravens are well suited for divisional battles, especially the Browns and possible revenge games against the Bengals.
Baltimore finished last season ranked sixth in the league in points allowed with a talented defense that should only be better if key players remain on the field. Terrell Suggs could use some help in the pass rush but he is still coming off one of his best seasons in years. A healthy Jimmy Smith would also greatly improve the secondary.
On offense, a full season of Alex Collins at running back combined with the addition of Michael Crabtree provides Flacco with some legitimate weapons around him.
There are enough reasons to expect Baltimore to be back in playoff contention in 2018.
As soon as the schedule comes out, the Ravens players, coaches and fans all circle the matchups with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2018, those will take place in Week 4 on the road and Week 9 at home.
The AFC North rivals have created some of the most exciting battles in the NFL over the past decade, although the Steelers have had the upper-hand lately with two straight division titles, plus three victories in a row against Baltimore.
Pittsburgh still has Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but the defense can be inconsistent, especially against the run. If the Ravens are going to be competitive in 2018, they will need to step up against their biggest rival.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have also been a thorn in Baltimore's side in recent years even when they aren't successful overall. Including the Week 17 upset last season, Cincinnati has won seven of the last nine games in this matchup.
The Bengals aren't expected to have a good season, with OddsShark giving them just 100-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, but the Ravens need to take care of business against the inferior opponent in order to achieve their goals in 2018.