The 2014 Baltimore Ravens regular season scheduled was announced on Wednesday and includes home games to both open and close the season at M&T Stadium.
Though every schedule is going to have some unique elements and peculiarities, the Ravens have to be pleased overall with what is being presented to them.
The list of opponents has been known all along, and it is quite an easier collection of characters than having to play such as the Broncos and Patriots as in 2013. In fact, the strength of schedule for the Baltimore Ravens is ranked 28th … or another way of saying it is that they have the 5th easiest schedule. The 2013 combined winning percentage of opponents was .461, and only six games this year will be against five teams that made it into the playoffs.
Here is the actual schedule (with commentary to follow below):
|Sept. 7||home||Cincinnati Bengals||1:00|
|Sept. 11 (Thur)||home||Pittsburgh Steelers||8:25|
|Sept. 21||away||Cleveland Browns||1:00|
|Sept. 28||home||Carolina Panthers||1:00|
|Oct. 5||away||Indianapolis Colts||1:00|
|Oct. 12||away||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1:00|
|Oct. 19||home||Atlanta Falcons||1:00|
|Oct. 26||away||Cincinnati Bengals||1:00|
|Nov. 2||away||Pittsburgh Steelers||8:30|
|Nov. 9||home||Tennessee Titans||1:00|
|Nov. 24 (Mon)||away||New Orleans Saints||8:30|
|Nov. 30||home||San Diego Chargers||1:00|
|Dec. 7||away||Miami Dolphins||1:00|
|Dec. 14||home||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00|
|Dec. 21||away||Houston Texans||1:00|
|Dec. 28||home||Cleveland Browns||1:00|
The Front Door Challenge and Opportunity
Opening at home against both the Bengals and the Steelers is a great challenge and a great opportunity as well. The challenge will be to have the new offense REALLY ready to roll on the first play of the first quarter of the first day. Presuming the Bengals are the team for the Ravens to beat in the AFC North, an opening win against them could go down as the biggest win of the season.
It is difficult to have to turn around quickly and play a second game just four days later. But the Baltimore Ravens can be thankful that it is a Thursday night home contest against the Steelers. In fact, the Ravens only have three prime-time games this year, with two of them being against Pittsburgh. Steelers President Art Rooney said, “We were chosen for the first-ever CBS Thursday Night Game, and it’s at the Ravens. It seems like all of our games against the Ravens lately are being shown on prime-time, so there’s obviously a lot of national interest in that rivalry.”
With games three and four being away against the Browns and the “blood and guts all over” home game of Steve Smith against the Panthers, the Ravens have an opportunity to get the season started at 3-1 or even 4-0. And they had better do that, because of what comes in the middle.
The Interior Challenge
The next six games that lead up to a late bye week (week 11 on November 16th) feature four of five games on the road. We all remember the road problems of the Ravens in 2013, so this will be a big test.
The first of the big four midseason road games is against the Colts. A win here would be huge for momentum to take to Tampa Bay. After a home game against the Falcons on October 19th, the Ravens will be packing for consecutive trips to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. So five of the six conference games will be completed within the first nine games of the season. Hopefully the Ravens will be able to take a home victory over the Chargers into the bye week.
The Back Door Opportunity
Game 11 will be on the road against the Saints on Monday night – a difficult task, though having the extra week to prepare should make the challenge more potentially successful. The Saints will be coming off consecutive home games against the 49ers and Bengals.
The final five games of the regular season provide a good opportunity for the Baltimore Ravens to finish strong, with the final four against teams that did not make the playoffs. Each is a very winnable game, involving two road trips: to Miami and a return of Gary Kubiak to Houston for game 15 of the season. The home finale is against the Browns. That could prove fortuitous.
I believe the Ravens have the advantage in nine games, the disadvantage in four, with three as a toss-up. If they can win eight of the nine with the advantage, one of the four where they are an underdog, and two of the three toss-ups, they can finish 11-5.
After a 2013 season with weird weather seemingly almost every week, the Ravens would look to have a more reasonable chance of playing in better conditions – with three domes and various trips to the south.
Overall, this is a good schedule, and frankly, any lack of success in the 2014 season will not be able to be justly laid at the feet of the schedule-makers.