The 2021 NFL schedule was officially released on Wednesday night and the Baltimore Ravens were dealt quite the brutal slate. Fans and media pundits (myself included) like to project and predict records as soon as the time and dates are announced.
However, while penciling in wins against less heralded opponents are a common practice, so too are the proverbial trap game where a top contender stumbles and falls to a team in a contest where they were heavily favored.
Here are three possible trap game candidates that could catch the Ravens slipping this fall.
Los Angeles Chargers: 7-9 record in 2020
In Week 6, the Ravens will be playing their fourth and final AFC West opponent in the first quarter and a half of the season when they host the Chargers. While they finished with a losing record last season, Los Angeles was a very competitive team in 2020. Many expect them to take a step forward in 2021 behind the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert under center.
The Chargers have a bye the following week and will be motivated to go into it on a high note. By notching a win against an elite team like the Ravens, who will likely only have one or no losses when they face off, will give them legitimacy as a contender in their own right.
Chicago Bears: 8-8 record in 2020
In Week 11, the Ravens will travel to Chicago after a 10-day rest period following a Thursday night matchup with the Dolphins the week before. They might be facing a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields in this game. While both of those reasons should bode well in the Ravens’ favor, those are also ideal circumstances for a slip-up.
It’s going to be their second straight road game. Also, the last time they faced a Chicago first-year quarterback, it was Mitchell Trubisky in 2017. That game went into overtime and resulted in a 24-27 loss at home. The Ravens have been able to take care of business against teams that they should beat with Jackson under center but anomalies occasionally occur.
Cincinnati Bengals: 4-11-1 record in 2020
I fully expect the Ravens to win their first matchup with their AFC North foes in Week 7 handedly but the second meeting has the potential to be a trap game. It will take place in Week 16, at which point the Baltimore will be on the road again after having just finished the toughest stretch of their season. The Ravens will enter this game on the heels of playing the Browns twice, the Steelers, and the Green Bay Packers.
The Ravens could be a bit bruised and battered after going through such a gauntlet. The Bengals will be at home, where they will have played three of their previous four games heading into this contest. Even the worst teams in the league get better as the season goes on and Cincinnati has the talent on both sides of the ball to give the battle-tested Ravens more of a fight than they might be expecting. If their offensive line can keep Joe Burrow upright, he has the weapons at his disposal to challenge the Ravens’ top-notch secondary.