The NFL released the 2012 regular season schedule last night and the football world has been abuzz with debate on how good or bad the schedule is, as well as how good or bad their favorite team will do this coming season. Of course, fans are also trying to predict how good or bad their favorite team's competition will do in the coming season.
Taking a first glance at the Baltimore Ravens schedule, we'll break it down into three four-game blocks and give the view from the optimistic side of a home-team fan. The Ravens did not lose to a team with a winning record in 2011, but did have a tough time on the road with the weaker teams, finishing 4-4 after sweeping their home schedule for the first time in franchise history.
The Ravens first four games are hosting the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, at the Philadelphia Eagles, hosting the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football and then hosting the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. The optimist in me sees a 3-1 record, although a 4-0 start is not out of the question. The realist part of me says we will beat the Bengals and Browns, but lose to either the Patriots or Eagles and although I like our chances against both, the Ravens usually lay a dud in the first month of the season to settle down those Super Bowl predictions just a bit.
(Click on the 'Jump' to read the optimist's view of the rest of the Baltimore Ravens 2012 schedule)
The second block of four games on the Ravens 2012 schedule includes games at the Kansas City Chiefs, hosting the Dallas Cowboys, at the Houston Texans and at the Cleveland Browns (after a Bye Week). Once again, the optimist in me sees a 3-1 record, with the road game at Houston looking to be among, if not the toughest game not only in this block, but on the entire schedule.
The third four game block has the Ravens hosting the Oakland Raiders, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers twice in a three-game span (what were the schedule-makers thinking?), sandwiched between a game at the San Diego Chargers. Those last three games are real tough, but when you add those three games to the next three in the following paragraph, you will see a stretch of games that will define this Ravens team and let the NFL know how ready they are for a serious Super Bowl run. The optimist in me is nudged aside by the realist who sees the Ravens beating Oakland, splitting with Pittsburgh and falling again in San Diego for a 2-2 record, although after sweeping the Steelers in 2011, there is every reason to be confident we can repeat it again in 2012.
That brings us to the aforementioned last four games of the regular season, where there appears to not be a single game that the Ravens can take for granted, as we saw what that did to the team last year when they went on the road to suffer embarrassing losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Luckily, those same schedule-makers that gave us the Steelers twice in a three-game stretch also gave us the two toughest of the last four at the cozy confines of Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
In order, the Ravens finish out the season at the Washington Redskins, hosting the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, then wrapping up at the Cincinnati Bengals. There is a decent chance that, that while the Ravens will be fighting for playoff positioning, the Redskins will already be thinking about the off-season and Washington's FedEx Field could be filled with a sea of purple.
Despite playing both Manning brothers in consecutive weeks, there is every reason to believe the Ravens can go 2-0 against Peyton and Eli. Combined with wins over Oakland and Cincinnati, this could be a solid finish to the season and set the Ravens up for a first round bye in the playoffs and at least one home playoff game. A 4-0 finish to the regular season would put the Ravens on a roll and would give them, depending on what side of optimistic you want to reside on, anywhere from an 11-5 to a 13-3 record. Most likely that would be enough to repeat as AFC North champs and either a first- or second-seed in the AFC and a first round playoff bye.
Works for me, but what about you?