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Ravens News 5/13: Schedule Analysis and more

Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens 2021 schedule: Daunting December will decide division - Jamison Hensley

The schedule makers didn’t do the Ravens any favors against the Chiefs and Browns. Lamar Jackson has yet to beat the Chiefs in three meetings, and it’ll be a stiffer challenge to do so this year against the team that has won the AFC the past two years. Baltimore plays host to Kansas City after opening the season at Las Vegas. This means playing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on a short week after taking a cross-country, red-eye flight.

The lack of rest could also come into play in Week 14, when Baltimore travels to Cleveland. The week before (Week 13), the Browns are on a bye while the Ravens play at the Steelers in one of the most physical rivalries in the NFL. This game could give Baltimore or Cleveland the inside track to the AFC North title.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Ravens’ win total at 11. This looks like a push, as long as the Ravens take care of business at M&T Bank Stadium. This is one of the toughest home schedules in team history: six of the nine teams playing in Baltimore made the postseason last year. But the Ravens have the NFL’s third-best home record (77-27) since Harbaugh became coach in 2008.

Baltimore Ravens 2021 schedule: Prime-time start, tough finish and a ton of late division games - Jeff Zrebiec

Game that has gotten tougher

The Ravens have typically had their way with the Dolphins, but Miami is an ascending team under Brian Flores. The Dolphins will be a challenge, and then you factor in playing on the road on a Thursday night following a short week, like the Ravens will be doing Nov. 11. That’s not been a good recipe for visitors.

Predicted season record

11-6. This is an extremely tough schedule, and the AFC North should be better than it was last year. However, the Ravens have improved offensive personnel and their defense has been reliable. A key will be getting to the bye week at no worse than 5-2 because the team’s last 10 games will be a major test.

Predicted division finish

1. Browns

2. Ravens

3. Steelers

4. Bengals

2021 AFC win total projections: Ravens, Browns neck and neck - Cynthia Frelund

Baltimore Ravens

Wins 10.8

AFC North champions

Excluding divisional games, which kind of follow a different cadence from regular-season contests, the Ravens have pretty optimal spacing between the two most difficult dates on their schedule, with the Chiefs coming in Week 2 (Sept. 19) and Packers coming in Week 15 (Dec. 19). The stretch of Weeks 12-14, which includes the Browns twice and one trip to Pittsburgh, could go a long way toward determining which AFC North team wins the division and which ends up as a wild-card squad; this division is the most likely in all of football to send at least two teams to the playoffs.

Five Primetime Games Highlight Ravens Schedule - Clifton Brown

For the first time, the Ravens will open the season with back-to-back weeks in primetime. They begin Week 1 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football when they visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 13, followed by the Sept. 19 home opener on NBC’s Sunday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It is possible that more Ravens games will be flexed into primetime down the stretch. Baltimore doesn’t play rival Pittsburgh in primetime, but the teams are scheduled to square off in Week 18 to close out the regular season. The league’s latest TV deal allows teams to play a maximum of seven primetime games.

In addition to the five primetime games, the Ravens also have three 4:25 p.m. kickoffs, which are games broadcasted to a wider audience. They’ll be against in Week 4 in Denver, Week 13 in Pittsburgh and Week 17 versus the Los Angeles Rams.

Ravens schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction - Bill Bender

Ravens strength of schedule

Baltimore’s opponents had a .563 winning percentage last season, which gives the Ravens the second-most difficult schedule by record. Divisions rival Pittsburgh is the only team with a tougher schedule by that metric in 2021.

The NFC North presents a unique challenge for Harbaugh, too. Baltimore is 6-6 against that division under Harbaugh, and that includes a 1-2 record against the Packers, Vikings and Bears. WIth the AFC North stakes raised, those games could be a turning point in the division race.

Bottom line: Baltimore remains one of the elite teams in the AFC, but the divisional battles will be even more important this season.

Jackson is 8-1 as a starter against Cleveland and Cincinnati, and the quarterback battles with Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow are only going to increase in intensity with each season.

The Ravens are 12-1 in December the last three seasons, and that included a run to the playoffs last season after Jackson returned from COVID-19. Expect another playoff run, but the division could come down to a tie-breaker.

Record prediction: 11-6