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Ravens must get off to a fast start this season

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Given their schedule, it is important for the Ravens to find ways to win early in the year.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens face the 21st hardest schedule in the league this season, with an overall opponents winning percentage of .488%. However, the numbers do not tell the entire story.

The first six weeks of the season are relatively light in comparison to the rest of the year. Other than a road matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, Baltimore could very well be favored in the remaining five games.

Opening the season against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals is a favorable draw. The Bills figure to take a step back this year after losing Tyrod Taylor. While the Bengals always prove to be a tough out for the Ravens, particularly in Cincinnati, Baltimore should be well positioned to pull out a victory.

In Weeks 3, 5 and 6, the Ravens host the Denver Broncos, and play the Cleveland Brown and Tennessee Titans on the road. The Broncos won just five games last season, and the Browns woes are well-documented.

The Titans won nine games and beat out the Ravens for the final AFC wildcard spot. Other than the Steelers, they figure to be the toughest matchup through the first six weeks. If the Ravens can handle their business, they could enter Week 7 with a 5-1 or 4-2 record.

This will be important, as the next sequence represents the Ravens toughest stretch of the season. Baltimore plays three consecutive playoff-caliber teams; the Saints, Panthers and Steelers. Winning just one of these three games could prove to be a difficult feat.

Immediately following the Week 10 bye, Baltimore plays host to the Bengals and Raiders. In December, another daunting stretch of games awaits. Excluding the Week 15 home tilt against the Buccaneers, which should be a relatively easy victory, the Ravens face the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers.

All three of these matchups come on the road, only adding to the difficulty of securing victories. The Falcons are a surefire playoff team with a significant home-field advantage. Kansas City boasts one of the most explosive offensive units in the league, and the Chargers are well rounded on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore will be tested throughout the back half of the season. Because the schedule becomes more daunting after Week 6, the Ravens could struggle to overcome any hole they dig for themselves in the beginning of the season.

If the Ravens want to compete for the AFC North title and return to postseason play, getting off to a strong start this season will be crucial.