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What-if scenario: Baltimore to the AFC East?

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What if the Ravens played against the Patriots twice a year?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

As the successor to the original Cleveland Browns organization, the Baltimore Ravens stayed within the AFC Central in 1996. Eventually, the Browns returned to Cleveland as a “new” franchise in 1998, playing alongside the Ravens in the AFC Central, with both teams eventually joining what is now known as the AFC North.

What if the Ravens departed the AFC North and joined the AFC East? It may sound a bit peculiar to some, especially with the Ravens being entrenched in a strong rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as a lesser one with the Cincinnati Bengals. However, a move to the AFC East could make sense for the franchise.

Geography

To make the move as seamless as possible, the Buffalo Bills would become part of the AFC North, swapping with the Ravens. This move makes perfect sense given the proximity of the Bills to the Steelers and Browns.

Buffalo is about a three hour drive from both Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Buffalo is just slightly under a seven hour drive to Cincinnati. Baltimore, on the other hand, is nearly a six hour trip to Cleveland, a four hour drive to Pittsburgh and just over a seven and a half hour journey to Cincinnati.

Baltimore is actually closer to the Meadowlands in New Jersey, with the trip clocking in at just above three hours and Buffalo’s nearly double the time. However, the Bills are closer to Foxborough by around an hour. A flight to Miami from Baltimore is two hours and 40 minutes, whereas a flight to Miami from Buffalo is two hours longer.

Buffalo is part of the historic “Rust Belt” in the Great Lakes region. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Buffalo are more culturally similar when compared to Baltimore. These cities were built on manufacturing, with a focus on steel mills and the auto industry. Baltimore is a bit different, given its status as a port city close to the ocean.

The Ravens inclusion in the AFC North is almost similar to the Maryland Terrapins alignment with the Big Ten in college. It makes less sense than the ACC, but is justifiable given relative proximity. However, the ACC appears more logical as a conference since the teams have the historical value and geographic proximity to one another.

When it comes to location for the Ravens and Bills, it’s a win-win situation for both teams. This scenario would allow both teams to play divisional opponents while accumulating less travel miles.

Rivalries

This could be the area where it stings the most for some Ravens fans. Unfortunately, the Ravens-Steelers divisional rivalry would be lost. However, the teams could still face each other in the playoffs or the regular season on a semi-regular basis. It just would not be two to three games per season like in the past.

Baltimore natives are extremely familiar with Boston and New York teams if they are fans of the Baltimore Orioles. Since 1954, the Orioles have had a standing rivalry with both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, though both have been lopsided over the years. When it comes to football, the Ravens already have an existing rivalry with the Patriots.

The Patriots hold a 10-3 regular season advantage in the series. However, it is tied where it really counts, in the playoffs. Baltimore has won two games against New England in the playoffs and the Patriots also have two victories. The only blowout result in the playoffs by either side is Baltimore’s 33-14 defeat of the Patriots in 2010.

All other contests have been fairly close, with the Patriots defeating the Ravens in 2012 23-20, the Ravens winning in 2013 28-13 and the Patriots winning in 2015 35-31. Most match ups have been strong and physical. Adding two regular season games into the rivalry would be a game changer.

As for the Jets and the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore holds an 8-2-0 all-time record against the Jets and a 9-6-0 all-time record against the Dolphins. Baltimore has also met Miami in the playoffs twice, defeating them on both occasions. It is worth noting the Ravens have never faced the Browns or the Bengals in the post season.

Between building an even stronger rivalry with the Patriots and the closer geographic proximity to their division rivals, this hypothetical change could be a positive one for the organization. It would also give younger generations of Baltimore fans a taste of the past Baltimore Colts rivalries with the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins.