The must-watch games on the NFL schedule? We pick one for all 32 teams
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Baltimore Ravens: at 49ers, Week 16
A lot can happen between now and late December, but the 49ers are viewed as one of the top teams in the NFL. It would surprise no one if they are competing for the top seed in the NFC. These two teams pride themselves on playing with physicality on both sides of the ball. They like to run it and get after the quarterback. It should make for an intriguing and hard-hitting game. That it will be played on Christmas night feels like a gift for old-school football fans.
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Week 7: Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens
Oct. 22, 1 p.m.
Lions 9-8; Ravens 10-7
Ravens 19, Lions 17 (Sept. 26, 2021)
The Lions are the darlings of the football world. And with a relatively soft schedule, this will be one of the few true litmus test games.
Week 16: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
Dec. 25, 8:15 p.m.
Ravens 10-7; 49ers 13-4
Ravens 20, 49ers 17 (Dec. 1, 2019)
This Christmas nightcap is a soothing digestif after a day of gorging on turkey, yams, pies, and pigskin.
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Will Brinson, CBS Sports
Caesars Win Total: 9.5 (over -140)
Brinson Projected Record: 12-5
The Ravens’ win total shot up significantly since Lamar Jackson inked his deal, jumping a full game and plenty of juice as well. Baltimore has three divisional road games in its first five games of the year. If the Ravens manage to go 2-1 in those games, they’d be a borderline lock to get double-digit wins. Todd Monken will make this offense fun again.
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After the free-agent departure of Ben Powers to the Denver Broncos in March, the Ravens find themselves in familiar territory as they’ll now have their sixth different Week 1 starter at left guard in the last seven seasons.
In late March, head coach John Harbaugh said the versatile Mekari would “be in the mix for sure” and also mentioned 2022 fourth-round pick Daniel Faalele as a potential option in the left guard competition, but the top candidates entering organized team activities are 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland and former Las Vegas starter John Simpson. That didn’t change through the draft as sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu is more of a developmental talent expected to work on the right side as a rookie and seventh-round guard Andrew Vorhees is expected to miss the 2023 season with a torn ACL.
The pressure is on Cleveland, who has started five games over his first two seasons and has dealt with some nagging injuries that have stunted his development. The 6-foot-6, 370-pound Georgia product was the popular pick to unseat Powers as the starting left guard last summer, but he never even threatened for the job, instead playing just 92 offensive snaps in his second season. If Cleveland can’t lock down the starting job this summer, you wonder if he’ll end up like 2020 third-round pick Tyre Phillips, who was waived at the end of last year’s preseason.
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Baltimore Ravens: Malik Harrison, LB
Over the last three years, Malik Harrison has totaled 100 tackles in 47 games. In all likelihood, he’s safe. But the Ravens drafted Trenton Simpson, and linebackers Kristian Welch and Del’Shawn Phillips—like Harrison—are core special-teamers. If the team needs a roster slot and is comfortable with Simpson’s readiness, Harrison could be the odd ‘backer out.
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BALTIMORE RAVENS: S ED REED
Even restricting yourself to the true Ravens era of this franchise gives you plenty of elite options. Jonathan Ogden is one of the best left tackles ever to play. Ray Lewis ranks in the same echelon among linebackers, while cornerback Chris McCallister and edge rusher Terrell Suggs were both elite players during their peak.
But Ed Reed at safety is the pick over everyone.
Perhaps no player read the game better and changed the way offenses attacked coverage more than Reed. He was a true ball hawk in the secondary and could engage in the chess battle quarterbacks play on equal footing.