Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Here at the quarter mark, it appears the Ravens season is breaking nicely into discernible segments. We had the first segment where we played four games in a ridiculous 17 days and came out 3–1 –not too shabby. And we get a bit of a mini-bye which is always nice.
This next stretch the Baltimore Ravens have to play two out of three on the road –never an easy thing to do in the NFL no matter who the opponent is. Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs "should" be a win; but so were the Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans last year… The Texans in Houston will be challenge. Yes, we can win, but let us be realistic: the Texans are a very good football team and anything can happen. I will not be surprised by the outcome no matter what because we are talking about two AFC playoff teams, potentially a preview of the AFC Championship (just wrong location of course), or at least two of the four divisional playoff round teams. Would love to go into our bye at 5–2. 6–1 would be "taking the cheerleader to the prom" awesome…
The next three weeks consist of our bye week, at the Cleveland Browns and hosting the Oakland Raiders. This is arguably the softest part of our schedule. Cleveland is a divisional opponent and they always have a little more juice for us given the history so it won’t be easy even though on paper we should win going away. And there is a chance we may have Terrell Suggs back by then which will make a huge difference in our defense. The Raiders are, well, the Raiders. And they have to travel 3,000 miles and three time zones, not us. 7–2 at this point is very do-able. 7–2 with (in theory) only one AFC loss probably puts us in the top three of the AFC at that point.
The next segment I would argue is our toughest three game stretch. At the Pittsburgh Steelers, at the San Diego Charger and then hosting the Steelers. No matter what the records, injury situation, Pittsburgh is going to be a 'Battle Royale' in Pittsburgh. And we don’t travel well to San Diego. And then we turn right around and face Pittsburgh again –twice in fourteen days-! We could come out this segment a little battled and bruised; hopefully no worse than 8–4 with maybe only a game separating us from Pittsburgh and still in the hunt for the #1 AFC playoff slot.
Which brings us to the home stretch. The final four games are going to be monsters, but all win-able. The first is at the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III is the real deal, but we will have Suggs back, the defense should be clicking on all cylinders by this point, and I think we will over-match them in Ral-jon. We then host the Denver Broncos. Yes that means Peyton Manning and he has been our kryptonite. But it is in Baltimore and Denver is no Indy. I think we can take this version of Peyton in our backyard. Then we host the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants,, but at our place. Home field this late in the season is huge. Everything on the line, we have a good chance of winning this as we typically play our best football in December/January, especially at home. Then we finish at the Cincinnati Bengals. Seems like we finish every season at Cincy… The Bengals may be desperately fighting for their playoff lives at this game, at home, but we have been to this movie before with this team, and it was a happy ending.
It is important that we finish the season on a roll, and given our past December history, I like our chances at running the table to finish at 12–4. Having a (hopefully) five game winning streak going into the playoffs could be a huge momentum wave for us to ride. 12–4 may win the division; not sure if it gets us a #1 seed or even a bye (assuming it does win the division for us). But I like our chances a lot going to The Dance at 12–4. The key will be, can the Ravens eke out an additional win to get to 13–3 and therefore have a legitimate shot at a #1 seed? I think the Ravens are nearly unstoppable at home in January; and last year proved we can win on the road late in the playoffs as the AFCCG could have very easily broke our way.