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Ravens 2021 Schedule: Ranking every game by level of difficulty

NFL: SEP 28 Chiefs at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL schedule was officially released yesterday, which is always an exciting time of the offseason. In reality it’s way too early to make any conclusions or predictions. A lot will change between now and September, October, November and so on. However, it’s no fun to just wait and talk about the schedule later.

In terms of strength of schedule (SOS), the Ravens have the second-hardest schedule in the league next season behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. Looking at some of their matchups in 2021, it’s not hard to see why. The Ravens play eight teams that made the playoffs in 2020, plus the Miami Dolphins won won 10 teams and missed the postseason by virtue of tiebreaker.

With this in mind, let’s take a preliminary look at every game on the Ravens’ schedule and rank them from easiest to hardest. They will be listed in ascending order below. Be sure to offer your own thoughts in the comments and join in the conversation!

Week 3 — @ Detroit Lions (Sunday, Sept. 26, 1:00 pm EST)

The Lions are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. The Ravens will enter this matchup off a high-stakes tout with the Chiefs, but the talent and coaching gap between them and the Lions is significant. Thus, this appears to be the easiest game on the schedule.

Week 7 — vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Oct. 24, 1:00 pm EST)

The Ravens have had the Bengals’ number in recent years. When they squared off in Baltimore last season, the Ravens won by 24 points. Cincinnati could and should be better equipped for a more competitive matchup this time around, but the advantage still goes to the Ravens in a big way.

Week 16 — @ Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 26, 1:00 pm EST)

See above. What makes the second matchup against the Bengals more difficult than the first is that it’s on the road versus at home.

Week 9 — vs. Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, Nov. 7, 1:00 pm EST)

The last time the Ravens hosted the Vikings in 2013, we were gifted an instant classic in the snow. This game figures to be less anti-climatic but the Ravens will still be favored to come out on top. Minnesota has talented offensive skill players that will test the Ravens’ defense but John Harbaugh’s track record off a bye week is second-to-none.

Week 1 — @ Las Vegas Raiders (Monday, Sept. 13, 8:15 pm EST)

The Ravens will be the first away opponent to play in Allegiant Stadium with fans in attendance. There could very well be a decent amount of Ravens faithful in attendance. The Raiders will be eager to pick up an upset victory in this primetime spot to begin the season. It won’t be a cakewalk, but the Ravens haven’t lost in Week 1 since 2015.

Week 4 — @ Denver Broncos (Sunday, Oct. 3, 4:25 pm EST)

The Broncos are a bit of a wildcard. It’s currently unclear who will be their starting quarterback next season, which will ultimately alter the difficulty of this matchup for the Ravens. This will be the first time the Ravens have played at Mile High Stadium in the Lamar Jackson era. Denver has a re-tooled defense and talented secondary, which should give the Ravens’ offense a good test around the quarter mark of the season.

Week 11 — @ Chicago Bears (Sunday, Nov. 21, 1:00 pm EST)

The first team on this list who made the playoffs in 2020 is the Bears. So why isn’t it more of a difficult matchup? The Ravens will enter this game on extra days of rest after playing on TNF the week prior. That’s a good recipe for success. Chicago’s defense is a tough order, but it’s hard to see them scoring a lot on offense in this game. Who knows if Andy Dalton or Justin Fields will be starting at quarterback. For entertainment value, hopefully Fields.

Week 6 — vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, Oct. 17, 1:00 pm EST)

The Ravens will get their first taste of Justin Herbert in Week 6. The prospects of the Chargers traveling cross country and upsetting the Ravens with a first-year head coach aren’t great. However, they’re equipped to give the Ravens a strong effort. In addition to Herbert, the Chargers have an improved offensive line and talented playmakers. Their defense is also formidable if Derwin James and Joey Bosa are healthy. Fun matchup.

Week 13 — vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Dec. 5, 4:25 pm EST)

There is somewhat of a general consensus that the Steelers will take a step back in 2021 after spiraling towards the finish line last season. That remains to be seen. Either way, these matchups are always competitive and hard-nosed. The Steelers’ defense has had Lamar Jackson’s number a bit over the past two seasons. Jackson will be motivated to change that and the Ravens will be motivated to avenge last year’s sweep at the hands of Pittsburgh.

Week 5 — vs. Indianapolis Colts (Monday, Oct. 11, 8:15 pm EST)

Come Week 5, the Ravens will be traveling back to Baltimore from Denver for just their second home game of the season. This matchup versus the Colts also represents the third primetime game in the first five weeks. The Ravens have traditionally been successful in these spots under John Harbaugh. However, the Colts present a challenging matchup. They have a strong defense and are well-coached. They’re considered a sleeper in the AFC by many — for good reason.

Week 10 — @ Miami Dolphins (Thursday, Nov. 11, 8:20 pm EST)

Speaking of strong defenses, good coaching and sleeper teams in the AFC; the Miami Dolphins. This is the Ravens only TNF matchup of the season and it comes in Week 10, two weeks after the Ravens’ bye. The last time the Ravens traveled to Miami, they dispatched the Dolphins in the 2019 season opener. Expect this game to be far more competitive.

Week 17 — vs. Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, Jan. 2, 4:25 pm EST)

This game wasn’t originally on the schedule until the NFL added an extra game to every team’s docket. For the Ravens, they were gifted a matchup with the Rams at home in early January. At this point in the season, both teams will likely be have serious playoff implications on the line. The Ravens will get their first taste of Matthew Stafford in several years and the Rams remain talented on both sides of the ball with strong coaching. Another 45-6 blowout reminiscent of 2019 seems unlikely.

Week 12 — vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Nov. 28, 8:20 pm EST)

Both of the Ravens-Browns matchups will be much anticipated. The first of the two comes in Week 12 in Baltimore on Sunday night. Both teams will be amped up. This one should in theory be the easier of the two for the Ravens again because they’re at home and have a strong track record in primetime games. However, at this juncture, it figures to be a toss-up.

Week 18 — vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Jan. 9, 1:00 pm EST)

To conclude an extended regular season, the Ravens will host the Steelers — a familiar position for both teams. It’s likely there will be playoff implications on the line. The best rivalry in the NFL could be due for another chapter in the story with this game. January football and Ravens vs. Steelers go well together. Of course, it goes without saying that this should be no walk in the park for the Ravens.

Week 14 — @ Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Dec. 12, 1:00 pm EST)

It feels weird to have an ordinary Sunday afternoon game against the Browns as the third-most difficult matchup of the season. However, the Browns are one of the best teams the Ravens will play this year, and they’ll be just two weeks removed from playing each other when Week 14 rolls around. This game also comes after the Ravens’ Week 13 matchup against the Steelers and concludes a three-game divisional stretch. So, the difficulty level figures to be high.

Week 15 — vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, Dec. 19, 1:00 pm EST)

This game is placed here under the assumption that Aaron Rodgers will be the Packers’ starting quarterback. If he’s not, it’s of course an entirely different story. If he is, the Ravens will be facing off against the reigning MVP and a Packers team that’s won 13 games in each of the past two seasons. This matchup also comes after the aforementioned three-game stand against the Browns (x2) and Steelers, so the Ravens could be battered and bruised at the wrong time.

Week 2 — vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Sept. 19, 8:20 pm EST)

You knew it was coming. Another early-season tilt against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will give the Ravens an opportunity to slay their demons. Unfortunately, they’ll be traveling from Las Vegas to Baltimore in preparation for this matchup, which is less than ideal. The AFC goes through Kansas City until the Ravens or another team can change that.