As the season approaches, more and more record predictions are coming out across the internet. Every analyst, media personality, and blogger are releasing their projections on each team's final record. A few days ago, Matt Pearce over at fanspeak.com released his record projections for the AFC North, using the site's For the Record Simulator in order to get a better look at each team's schedule and possible results.
The "For the Record" simulator allows fans to mark each game on their favorite team's schedule as a win, loss, or tie, based on how they think the games will play out. Obviously the simulator will be misused (fans thinking their team will go undefeated, placing their rival teams as winless, etc.) but the projections average out to get a good idea of where fans think each team will finish.
The "For the Record" simulator gave the Baltimore Ravens an average final record of 11-5. Pearce seemed to agree with the simulator, projecting the Ravens to go 11-5, finishing second to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 12-4, but still clinching a wild-card berth.
Pearce has the Ravens' five losses being as follows:
Week 1 at Denver
Week 4 at Pittsburgh
Week 7 at Arizona
Week 14 vs Seattle
Week 17 at Cincinnati
Here are his comments regarding the Ravens:
In the first seven weeks of the season, Baltimore will have only two home games compared to five road games--four of which are trips to the West Coast. Once the Ravens get past this part of their schedule, they should find their groove at M&T Bank Stadium, where they hold one of the best home field advantages in the league. As always, the defense will be a formidable unit that is led by the linebackers. On offense, quarterback Joe Flacco has a strong offensive line, but there are a lot of unknowns at receiver and tight end. John Harbaugh and company should return to the postseason for the seventh time in eight seasons.
It's really hard to disagree with Pearce's projections. As a fan, I'd like to think that the Ravens will come out and win every game in the regular season, but that is just very unlikely to happen. Week 1 at Denver will be a tough game, but I think the Ravens stand a good shot against a Broncos team that is still getting used to a new offensive scheme. This will be the secondary's first test, as they will go up against Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and a high power Denver offense. Though many think the Broncos will employ a much stronger rushing attack, it will still be Manning's offense and the key to victory will be limiting damage through the air.
Week 4 at Pittsburgh will also be tough. The Steelers will have Le'Veon Bell back from suspension and Bell's versatility out of the backfield brings many challenges. At Heinz field, this will be a tough win for the Ravens, but we all know how close the Ravens-Steelers matchups are.
Week 7 at Arizona will be another tough game where the Ravens may walk out with a defeat. Back-to-back weeks of trips to the West Coast can have its effect on a team. This will be one of two Monday night showdowns for the Ravens, so that will provide some extra fuel for the team, but Arizona is strong on both sides of the ball, and could present problems for the Ravens.
Week 14 vs Seattle is the only home game Pearce projects the Ravens to lose. This will be another prime-time showdown for the Ravens, as this will be the Sunday Night Football game. The defending NFC Champions will come into Baltimore for the first time since November of 2003, a game in which current Ravens wide receiver coach Bobby Engram caught two touchdown passes. The Seahawks are one of the best teams in the league and are one of the Super Bowl favorites after just falling short last year. With the game being in Baltimore, the Ravens have a decent chance to pull out the win, but the Seahawks will be the favorite.
The final game Pearce projects the Ravens to lose is in week 17 at Cincinnati. The Ravens have not beat the Bengals in Cincinnati since 2011. The teams have mostly split the series, with each team winning on their home field. In Week 17, this game could have major playoff implications, either directly (or indirectly) affecting each team's chances to make the playoffs or it could determine the division if Pittsburgh struggles this season. Nonetheless, given the Ravens' recent history with playing in Cincinnati, it's hard to see this as a win.
I believe Pearce done a fine job projecting the Ravens' season. These five games are probably the toughest games on the schedule, and will be difficult to win. I think 11-5 is a good projection of the Ravens' final record, and by finishing 11-5, Baltimore should be in the playoffs and have a shot at the AFC North Championship.