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Breaking down the Ravens schedule with an eye towards the playoffs

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After being uncharacteristically active in free agency and revamping their pass defense in the draft, the Baltimore Ravens are aiming to snap a two-year postseason drought in 2017. The AFC is expected to be extremely competitive, with oddsmakers projecting 12 of the 16 conference teams to win 7.5 games or better.

Over the last five seasons, the second wild card in the AFC has averaged 9.6 regular season wins. Baltimore will almost certainly need a minimum of 10 wins to return to the playoffs. Where will these necessary victories come from?

First Quarter:

Week 1 at Cincinnati

- The Bengals have beaten the Ravens in six of the seven most recent meetings.

Week 2 vs Cleveland

- Home divisional game against a perennial cellar dweller is an absolute must win.

Week 3 vs Jacksonville (London)

- The Ravens and Jaguars have split a pair of two-point games over the last two seasons.

Week 4 vs Pittsburgh

- Always a grudge match when these rivals meet, the Ravens have outcoached Tomlin in most recent contests.

Target Wins: Three

Second Quarter:

Week 5 at Oakland

- The Raiders have a well rounded, talented roster and have defeated the Ravens in each of the last two seasons.

Week 6 vs Chicago

- Baltimore rarely loses to an NFC team at home, especially a rebuilding squad.

Week 7 at Minnesota

- The Vikings have a strong defense that could give the Ravens problems on the road.

Week 8 vs Miami

- John Harbaugh is 6-1 against Miami, including a 38-6 blowout last year.

Target Wins: Two

Third Quarter:

Week 9 at Tennessee

- Road contest against a team that won nine games in 2016 and improved in the offseason will not be easy.

Week 11 at Green Bay

- Probably the toughest match on the Ravens schedule, beating Rodgers on the road is always challenging.

Week 12 vs Houston

- Expect a defensive slugfest that could go either way.

Week 13 vs Detroit

- The Ravens match up well against the overachieving Lions.

Target Wins: Two

Fourth Quarter:

Week 14 at Pittsburgh

- A season split is the most likely outcome between these arch rivals.

Week 15 at Cleveland

- The Browns could be aiming for a high draft pick by this point in the season.

Week 16 vs Indianapolis

- Baltimore is the superior team on paper and Luck is dealing with a troublesome shoulder injury.

Week 17 vs Cincinnati

- Could potentially serve as a play-in game before playoff seeding is finalized.

Target Wins: Three