What to expect:
Although the Ravens finished 8-8 last season, they were a “Christmas Day Antonio Brown goal line extension” away from potentially winning the AFC North and contending in the playoffs. No matter how they match up against teams outside the division, the Ravens have proven to be able to compete with the Steelers and Bengals (sorry Browns) in the fight for division supremacy.
Key losses in offensive lineman Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk will hurt in the running game, but the recent addition of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin might help offset these loses by giving a boost to Joe Flacco and the aerial attack. The secondary was also given several upgrades by signing Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson, as well as drafting Marlon Humphrey in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. This will come in handy when facing A.J. Green and Antonio Brown twice a year.
Schedule walk through:
* Joe Flacco is out potentially 3 to 6 weeks with a back injury, but he should be available for week 1 if all things go well in recovery.
Week 1: At Bengals
It will take a few weeks for the new secondary group to get comfortable as a unit. They will be thrown into the fire on day 1 as the speedy combine star John Ross makes his NFL debut running deep routes along the sideline. A.J. Green will be thrilled as the attention on Ross will give him more cushion to work with on his 3 step slant patterns.
Loss 27-20 Record: 0-1
Week 2: Vs. Browns
The home opener will act as a bounce back week as the Ravens love to thrash the Browns in Baltimore. The defense will create turnovers and pressure whomever the Brown decide to start at quarterback. It’s also very hard to see them losing two division games back to back to open the season.
Win 24-10 Record: 1-1
Week 3: At Jaguars
This same matchup and venue occurred last season with the Ravens getting a bizarre 19-17 victory. Both teams will play sloppy and undisciplined, and Baltimore loves those kinds of games. Field goals will reign supreme and Joe Flacco might throw for less than 100 yards in a nail bitter.
Win 18-15 Record: 2-1
Week 4: Vs. Steelers
J.J. Watt might get a bloody nose from watching this game on TV. One of the NFL’s greatest rivalries will keep its reputation by demonstrating physical team football. Someone is leaving this game with an injury, and I’m not just talking about the players. All jokes aside, these teams will mostly likely split the division matches per usual, so the home team gets the nod.
Win 17-10 Record: 3-1
Week 5: At Raiders
A great start to the schedule gets a reality check with a road trip to Oakland. The Raiders are a scary team with Derek Carr healthy, and should expect to be Super Bowl Contenders once Tom Brady partners with his wife’s modeling agency. Expect a lot of scoring in this one.
Loss 38-13 Record: 3-2
Week 6: Vs. Bears
The Ravens won’t be too happy after being stepped on the week prior. Unfortunately for the Bears, they will face a mad team with a chip on their shoulder. Once again, the Baltimore defense terrorizes a lucky new starter at quarterback.
Win 21-14 Record: 4-2
Week 7: At Vikings
On the road against a top 5 defense will be unfamiliar territory for the Ravens. The aging receiving core, the unproven running backs, and the rearranging offensive line will be exposed leaving Joe Flacco with a bruised behind. Won’t see much scoring in this one.
Loss 13-3 Record: 4-3
Week 8: Vs. Dolphins
A great matchup following a disappointing loss is just what the doctor ordered. A 38-6 blowout defined this showdown a year ago, and not much has changed to expect anything different. I do see this one being closer, however, as Miami is starting to build chemistry with those offensive weapons.
Win 28-24 Record: 5-3
Week 9: At Titans
This will be the game that defines the Ravens’ season. The Titans are one of the most improved teams in the NFL, but their home turf won’t scare Baltimore. Ask any of your Star Wars buddies about this matchup and they’ll tell you, “It’s a Trap!” Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau used to coach the Steelers, so he knows all too well what it takes to ruffle the Raven’s feathers.
Loss 23-17 Record: 5-4
Week 10: BYE
Only the Browns can lose to this opponent. The Ravens should be safe.
Week 11: At Packers
Wondering why the Titans’ game was so important? Well, entering the BYE week on a loss is never ideal, especially when you’re traveling to Green Bay soon after. The Ravens’ secondary better be clicking on all cylinders this late into the season, or they won’t stand a chance against Aaron Rodgers. Who am I kidding? Even if they are, the Packers probably win this game with an unknown fullback or something.
Loss 31-21 Record: 5-5
Week 12: Vs. Texans
This is what happens when you underestimate the Titans. Now Baltimore faces a growing losing streak, and with Houston boasting a top defense like the Vikings, it doesn’t get any easier. Despite the home field advantage, the Ravens lack any momentum to score enough points.
Loss 17-14 Record: 5-6
Week 13: Vs. Lions
With the season on the line, the Ravens must snap out of their funk against Matthew Stafford and company. The Lions don’t provide much in the ground game, allowing Baltimore to focus its efforts on reinforcing the DB’s. A lot of interceptions are in store for this meeting. If Danny Woodhead is still healthy, this will be a dink and dunk game of chess for Joe Flacco to orchestrate.
Win 22-20 Record: 6-6
Week 14: At Steelers
A win here might give the Ravens a shot at the division. Sweeping the Steelers wouldn’t be a big surprise, as they did so during the 2015 season. However, it’s on the road, and the Steelers will want to even up the series before their own playoff push. If all the big pieces are healthy in Pittsburgh, things don’t look good for the black and purple.
Loss 28-21 Record: 6-7
Week 15: At Browns
Most people will assume this game to be an easy win without a second thought. They will most likely be right, but I smell an upset here. The playoffs are essentially out of reach for both teams, and the Ravens will be more shocked out of the two. By now the Browns should have one of their young quarterbacks entrenched as the full-time starter. I know that’s a big “should”, so lets take this one to OT.
Loss 26-20 OT Record: 6-8
Week 16: Vs. Colts
Only one team will be competing for a wild card spot here, and it will be the Colts with a healthy (wishful thinking) Andrew Luck at the helm. The Ravens will want to play upset here and spoil Indy’s run, but Frank Gore is going to run his bionic legs into the playoffs before retiring as a 49er.
Loss 25-18 Record: 6-9
Week 17: Vs. Bengals
In what will turn out to be a meaningless game, the Ravens will end the season on a high note against a division rival. These teams faced off in week 17 last year, with the Bengals coming out on top 24-16. While the victor may change, the score might as well stay constant.
Win 24-16 Record 7-9
Final Record: 7-9
Player Predictions: *Projected healthy for a 16 game season
QB Joe Flacco: 4100 passing yards, 20 TD’s, 17 INT’s
WR Mike Wallace: 90 receptions, 1100 yards, 6 TD’s
C.J. Mosley: 120 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 INT’s
Eric Weddle: 85 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INT’s
Danny Woodhead: 500 rushing yards, 750 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns
The 2017 Ravens on paper could improve from last season. The only problem is that 31 other teams could say the same thing as well. Participating in the AFC North results more often than not in division records averaging 3-3. If they want to surpass the projected 7-9 record, the Ravens must shorten losing streaks and defeat strong opponents on the road. Otherwise I foresee another middle of the pack campaign unworthy of a playoff seat.
San Francisco Giants
name a better trio I'll wait...