The Ravens' bye week is scheduled at the apex of the 2015 football season. After a grueling, tedious climb, Baltimore will gain a week of rest at the peak post-Week 8, after sending the teary-eyed Chargers back home to San Diego.
Upon surrendering in a staring contest with Baltimore's upcoming schedule, I am, surprisingly, grateful and optimistic about how things will unravel. The purple-and-black's 16-game obstacle course isn't Luigi Raceway (50 CC), but the track isn't Banshee Boardwalk, either. (10 points for those who know what I'm talking about.)
The Ravens, barring injuries and a fortified depth chart, could wrap things up with a winning record in December if they execute well--obviously--and run the ball efficiently.
Highlights: Back-to-back road games on West Coast (Denver, Oakland)
Perhaps this is the year Peyton Manning's name dives into the same backyard swimming pool Matt McGloin, Derek Carr and Christian Ponder go stargazing in. Manning is destructible, folks.
Highlights: Back-to-back-to-back divisional games (Cincinnati-H, Pittsburgh-A, Cleveland-H)
The Gold Mine Stretch: must avoid coming out empty-handed with each dig during this destiny-altering slate of games. The Ravens should handily take on the challenge.
Highlights: We head back to the West Coast (San Francisco, Arizona)
How we fared against the 49ers: 4-1 since 1996, including one Super Bowl victory in 2013
How we fared against the Cardinals: 4-1 since 1997, four of those games were decided by a margin of six or less points
The Ravens host the San Diego Chargers Week 8 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Highlights: The Ravens look at the games remaining on their schedule and notice that they travel THREE more times after the Bye Week. Gleeeee.
To Cleveland (six hour drive from M&T), Miami (warm weather state) in December, and Cincinnati (eight-hour drive to Paul Brown Stadium for season finale).
Highlights: Jacksonville-H, St. Louis-H, Cleveland-A, Miami-A; Remain Level-Headed Stretch
After a week of rest--prayerfully no injuries--the Ravens will host the Jaguars. The key here is to (1) stay injury-free and (2) to not showcase all of the tricks up our sleeves. We were neck-and-neck with the Jaguars in last year's Week 15 match. The Rams will come into M&T with hopes of catching us dozing off. Heading to Cleveland and Miami knocks off two-thirds of our remaining road games. This is an easy stretch as long as we don't self-implode.
Highlights: Seattle-H, Kansas City-H, Pittsburgh-H; depending on where the Seahawks and Chiefs stand, these matchups are favorable.
Home-field advantage improves our chances. Hypothetically speaking, this stretch is a mini-preview of the caliber of the teams--excluding the Steelers--we will face in the 2015 Playoffs.
It's waaay too early to tell how the schedule will untwine. I'll save the dance moves for December.