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A closer look at the Baltimore Ravens 2014 schedule

Breaking down each of Baltimore's 16 games, with a few notes sprinkled in.

Vincent Pugliese

Here's a rundown of Baltimore's upcoming season, game by game:

Week 1, Bengals: The last time these two opened the season against each other, Baltimore throttled Cincinnati in a 44-13 win. The Bengals will likely enter the season as preseason favorites to win the AFC North. It will be a good test for the Ravens early.

Week 2, Steelers: Le'Veon Bell's best games were against the Ravens a year ago. We'll see if Baltimore is better prepared for him and Pittsburgh's running game early on.

Week 3, at Browns: We'll have to wait and find out whether the Browns trot Brian Hoyer or a rookie quarterback out there for this game. Either way, it's an upgrade over what Cleveland was working with a year ago once Hoyer went down.

Week 4, Panthers: This game will likely get some national attention due to Steve Smith facing his former team. Blood, guts, whatever, this should be a good game featuring a stellar Carolina defense trying to stop what should be a much-improved Baltimore offensive attack.

First quarter of the season notes: The schedule-makers gave the Ravens a huge favor by letting them start the year with three home games in the first four weeks. Opening the season with three consecutive AFC North teams isn't rare, by the way. The Ravens did so in 2004 and 2008. Each year, they opened the season 2-1.

Week 5, at Colts: If the Colts' line improves, and if Hakeem Nicks plays like his old self, this team could be a dangerous squad in 2014. Better for the Ravens  to get them early than later.

Week 6, at Buccaneers: Tampa Bay is still rebuilding, though they made a major coaching upgrade by replacing Greg Schiano with Lovie Smith (that might qualify for understatement of the year). There are plenty of weapons, such as Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. But it all hinges on whether Josh McCown can recreate last year's success from Chicago, or if either Mike Glennon or a potential rookie quarterback can improve the offense.

Week 7, Falcons: If there's one team that has a great chance at improving considerably from last year it's the Falcons. The offensive skill position players are talented, and the franchise as addressed both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason. On another note, the Ravens will surely want revenge for that crazy game in 2010.

Week 8, at Bengals: Here's the second meeting against the Bengals, and it's right around the midpoint of the season. Both teams should be rounding into true form and play a close and competitive game.

Second quarter of the season notes: This could be a deceivingly tough stretch for Baltimore. After a favorable start, the Ravens will play three of four on the road, with two of those road games against playoff teams from a year ago. And then the Falcons could easily get back in the conversation this year. This stretch could go a long way as far as the end-of-season record is concerned.

Week 9, at Steelers: Throw the records out, especially once plenty of games are under each team's belt. This game will be a slug-fest, likely decided by three or less points.

Week 10, Titans: This team has a quarterback issue at the moment, so it remains to be seen if Jake Locker or a rookie will be lining up under center by this point. Shonn Greene is first in line to be the primary back, with the jury still out on whether he can be affective as a starter in Tennessee. The defense should field a solid unit, with Bernard Pollard looking to exact revenge for being released last offseason.

Week 11, bye

Week 12, at Saints: The Ravens will want to accrue plenty of wins by this game. It's never easy heading down to the Big Easy and taking on Drew Brees and the Saints. That high-octane offense can score on anyone at any moment. The defense improved under Rob Ryan and should get better. The Saints should be one of the NFL's premier teams in 2014.

Week 13, Chargers: The Ravens seem to always have problems with the Chargers. In 2011, they were blown out on the road. A season later, it looked bleak before Ray Rice's 4th-and-29 miracle. Somehow, Baltimore went on to win, beating an inferior team. This time, San Diego travels east, which is never easy for the West Coast teams.

Third quarter of the season notes: This is another stretch that could be difficult. The Chargers improved leaps and bounds last year under coach Mike McCoy, with Philip Rivers looking like the quarterback that excelled at a high level earlier in his career. Ryan Mathews also had a solid year, with Keenan Allen breaking out as a rookie at receiver. The Titans game is the only one that sticks out where Baltimore has a clear advantage at this time — and of course, we're ridiculously early in this analysis.

Week 14, at Dolphins: The Ravens picked up a three-point road win against Miami a year ago and will look to come away with another victory this time around. Last season, the two teams came down to the wire for a playoff spot, with both failing to get in. With both squads looking to be back in the postseason conversation once again, this game could wind up having a lot of importance.

Week 15, Jaguars: The last time the Ravens played the Jaguars ... never mind. I won't go there. Point is, never doubt an NFL team, even when they look pathetic in previous weeks. That said, the Jaguars are still rebuilding and seem to be a year or two away from competing for an AFC South division title.

Week 16, at Texans: Similar to the Falcons, Houston could have a major turnaround season under coach Bill O'Brien. Barring injuries, the defense has plenty of pieces in place to be successful. There's also the chance they draft Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack with the first overall pick, too. Then again, they could go with a quarterback. And by this point of the season, a rookie quarterback is no longer a rookie.

Week 17, Browns: The Ravens are playing their other two division opponents fairly close together, at least compared to the Browns. After Week 3's game, the Ravens won't see Cleveland again until the end of the season. Unless the Browns become sudden contenders, this is a great game for the Ravens to close out with, especially if a playoff berth hasn't been sealed yet.

Fourth quarter of the season notes: This is by far the easiest stretch of the season and it comes at a great time. Neither of thee teams reached the playoffs a year ago, with the Jaguars, Texans and Browns all picking in the top four of this year's draft. This could be a great opportunity for the Ravens to finish the season strong.