After an absolutely brutal travel schedule in 2015, the Ravens only play one game outside of the Eastern time zone all season. Two road games in New Jersey should make the players' families happy. Thirteen one o'clock kickoffs should make the fans happy.
Overall, the schedule is well balanced with zero three game swings on the road or at home. The divisional contests are backloaded which bodes well for a roster that has multiple key players returning from season ending injury. The bye week is set near middle of the schedule in Week 8, directly before a potentially pivotal matchup with the archival Steelers.
The third place schedule does not appear to be beneficial, both Jacksonville and Oakland have improving rosters. The Week 10 Thursday night game on short rest is at home against the depleted Browns. Digging deeper, the only opponent who has a bye week before facing the Ravens are the Steelers in Week 8, which is not an advantage since the Ravens also share the bye in Week 8.
After facing the NFC West in 2015, which is considered the best division in the NFL, the Ravens face the NFC East in 2016, which is considered one of the worst divisions in the league. The AFC North division crown will be determined in November and September with all four of the Ravens contests against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in this time frame. This bodes well for the Ravens who have traditionally played very well under John Harbaugh late in the season.
First Quarter: vs Bills, at Browns, at Jaguars, vs Raiders
The Ravens usually play well in home openers and against Cleveland. Jacksonville and Oakland will test the Ravens realigned secondary. Target record: 3-1
Second Quarter: vs Redskins, at Giants, at Jets, vs Steelers
Expect some close games in this stretch. The Giants and Steelers pose the toughest tests, but Harbaugh has had Tomlin's number lately. Target record: 3-1
Third Quarter: vs Browns, at Cowboys, vs Bengals, vs Dolphins
For whatever reason, the Ravens franchise has had great success against Dallas and Miami over the years. The opposite is true of Cincinnati, the Ravens will be looking to end a streak of fluky home losses to the Bengals. Target record: 3-1
Fourth Quarter: at Patriots, vs Eagles, at Steelers, at Bengals
This is undoubtedly the toughest part of the schedule. Primetime in Foxboro is always tough along with back to back road games against the divisional contenders. Target record: 2-2
If the Ravens can accomplish these quarterly targets, they will earn a regular season record of 11-5. Every 11 win AFC team has made the playoffs since 2009. And once the Ravens make the playoffs, Joe Flacco transforms into a truly elite quarterback. The 2016 season should be exciting.