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Baltimore Ravens Schedule Breakdown 2021: The NFL’s Second Hardest Schedule

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The release of the 2021 schedule signifies the start of the next NFL season and the Baltimore Ravens have a complex schedule to dissect.

The Ravens will play the second-toughest schedule in the NFL in 2021. Their opponents .563 winning percentage from 2020 only trails that of their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers at .574 for the hardest in the entire league. Just two of the Ravens first eight opponents finished the 2020 season above .500. However, their next nine games are a gauntlet against five different teams that made the playoffs a season ago with five divisional games mixed in.

General manager Eric DeCosta has constructed one of the strongest rosters in the entire NFL and the Ravens will be put to the test due to the toughness of their schedule. Baltimore will play eight games against playoff teams from 2020 and will have to do it on top of playing in maybe the best division in football. The Ravens faced eight playoff teams in 2020 as well and finished the season splitting the games at 4-4.

Coming off of their first playoff win since 2014, the Ravens will be looking to be back in the Super Bowl contender conversation this coming season. This is a breakdown of the most difficult games – ranked 1-to-17 – on the Ravens 2021 schedule.

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Baltimore Ravens Schedule Breakdown 2021

1. Week 2: vs Kansas City Chiefs

For the third straight year in a row, the Chiefs will be the Ravens hardest opponent this coming season. Since Patrick Mahomes’ sophomore season, he and Andy Reid have dominated the entirety of the NFL and have effectively become the “Kryptonite” of the Lamar Jackson-era Ravens. Jackson’s first two games against Mahomes were fairly close one-score games but their 2020 meeting was a surprise blowout to more people than just the Ravens. The 34-20 loss was just the second regular-season two-score loss of Jackson’s career and one in which he may have played his worst game as a Raven. He was held to the fewest passing yards of his career (97) as Chris Jones tore up the Ravens offensive line and Mahomes and Ried toyed with Baltimore’s non-existent pass rush.

Beating the Chiefs in Jackson’s fourth try will not be easy. Kansas City is one of only two teams with more wins over the past three seasons than the Ravens and is also one of two teams to have beaten Jackson multiple times as a starter. The Chiefs have averaged over 31 points per game the last three seasons and Mahomes is yet to lose by two or more scores in the regular season. He has just eight regular-season losses over that time span and seven have come when his opponent has scored 29 or more points. If the Ravens are to break their losing streak against the Chiefs, it will likely be in a shootout. Maybe the fact that it will be the first time Jackson plays the Chiefs at home with fans in the stands could help flip his fortune.

2. Week 14: at Cleveland Browns

Baltimore, like every team in the AFC North, has a long history of dominating the Browns. The Ravens own the all-time record with an impressive 33-11 mark and have not been swept in a season series since 2007. Since that season, Baltimore has swept Cleveland nine separate times, including last year, and holds an incredible record of 22-4 over that time span. However, the 2021 version of the Browns is a new animal, and Baltimore’s games against Cleveland look to be far more competitive in the coming decade.

Last year’s final Browns vs Ravens game was perhaps the best game of the NFL season altogether. The 47-42 shootout was easily the most dramatic of Jackson’s career to this point and was the first time the Ravens had given up more than 40 points since losing 44-7 Week 3 of the 2017 season in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Still, the Browns offense has now put up 40 or more points on the Ravens with Baker Mayfield at quarterback. While it is impossible to expect another game to live up to the dramatic Week 14 game from last season, the new-look Brown vs Ravens rivalry is going to be a lot closer than it has been in the past.

3. Week 18: vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Regardless of the time of year or venue, Ravens and Steelers games are some of the most tightly contested in the NFL. The rivalry is perhaps the best of any two teams since the Ravens were established as a franchise back in 1996, regardless of record, and likely won’t take a year off in 2021. Since John Harbaugh took over the Ravens head coaching job in 2008, the Ravens-Steelers series (including playoffs) sits at a remarkably close 15-14 in favor of Pittsburgh. Harbaugh and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin have by far the most head-to-head matchups amongst active divisional head coaches and are two of just four head coaches who have been with the same team each of the past 13 years.

Facing the Steelers during the final game of the regular season means there is almost a 100% chance of drama. The winner of the final Ravens-Steelers game has claimed the AFC North crown in back-to-back seasons and there is a good chance the same thing could happen in 2021. In the 19 seasons since the division’s formation in 2002, one of the Steelers or Ravens has taken the title 15 times. Over the past 10 seasons, both teams have won the division four times. While the Steelers may look like they will be chasing the Ravens and Browns for the divisional crown next season, their rivalry with the Ravens has no easy games.

4. Week 12: vs Cleveland Browns

After the off-season moves made by general manager Andrew Berry, the Browns currently possess debatably the deepest roster they have had since being reestablished as a franchise back in 1999. Cleveland’s greatest deficiency in 2020 was undeniably their back seven. They finished the season as the 21st ranked passing defense (third-worst amongst playoff teams) and gave up an average of 32.25 points in games in which Denzel Ward was inactive. Now going into next season, they have remade their entire secondary by adding high-profile free agents John Johnson and Troy Hill, as well as consensus top-50 prospects in the 2021 draft, picks Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

On the other side of the ball, Kevin Stefanski’s Browns have become one of the few teams in the NFL whose rushing offense can rival that of the Ravens. Nick Chubb is perhaps the best all-around running back in football going into the 2021 season and forms a deadly thunder-and-lightning backfield with Kareem Hunt. Cleveland finished last season as the league’s third-ranked rushing offense and should find themselves in a similar position after returning all five offensive linemen. Led by maybe the best run blocker in the NFL in Wyatt Teller the Browns offensive line will be one of the toughest matchups on the ground the Ravens defensive line sees all season.

5. Week 15: vs Green Bay Packers

The Packers are a true unknown going in 2021. They are coming off of their second NFC Championship game appearance in as many years but the status of their MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers still appears to be up in the air. Green Bay’s defense is not a bad unit, boasting two of the best players at their respective positions in cornerback Jaire Alexander and EDGE defender Za’Darius Smith, but their team is untested without Rodgers.

Coincidently, the Ravens faced the Packers the last time a quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers was starting for the team. Brett Hundley was at the helm Week 11 of the 2017 season as the Ravens recorded six sacks on route to shutting out the Packers for the first time at Lambeau Field since 2006. If Rodgers plays, the game should be very competitive but if he is quarterbacking for another team, the Ravens could be set up for another dominating win.

6. Week 16: at Cincinnati Bengals

Despite a recent series of dominance over Cincinnati, the Ravens have historically been dominated at Paul Brown Stadium. Prior to the 2017 season, the Bengals were 10-2 against the Ravens (including a five-game winning streak from 2012 to 2016) when playing at home. Since the start of that season, they are 1-3 and have dropped the past two meetings to the Ravens while losing each game by at least three scores. Cincinnati likely will not be challenging for the AFC North in 2021 but they proved to be a thorn in the sides of Baltimore for a long time.

This year, the Ravens play the Bengals for the second time after their hardest stretch of the season. Baltimore plays three straight division opponents and then the Green Bay Packers from Weeks 12-15. They then visit the Bengals Week 16. The Ravens have beaten the Bengals by a combined score of 114-19 over their past three contests but they run into them at a bad time in this spot. Baltimore could be facing a lot of fatigue and is going into an environment they have historically struggled in. No divisional game is ever easy and the Bengals catch the Ravens at the worst possible time in an environment they have historically struggled in.

7. Week 5 vs Indianapolis Colts

The Colts were the only team outside of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to finish 2020 in the top-10 in each scoring offense, total offense, scoring defense, and total defense. They then went out this past off-season and made the bold move of reuniting Carson Wentz with his old offensive coordinator and current Colts head coach Frank Riech. However, last season the Ravens beat both the Colts and Wentz when he was still with the Philadelphia Eagles. The question now becomes: which version of Wentz will the Colts get in 2021? The MVP front runner from 2017, the turnover machine from 2020, or someone in the middle? The Ravens navigated the Colts last season despite trailing at halftime of their meeting and should have a good chance at winning again this season.

8. Week 17: vs Los Angeles Rams

Adding Matthew Stafford at quarterback should give the Rams passing game an upgrade but by how much is still unknown. For comparison over the past three seasons, Stafford trails Lamar Jackson in each passer rating, passing touchdowns, and yards per completion while having thrown more interceptions. Los Angeles was largely carried by their defense in 2020 and made almost no significant additions this off-season while losing, John Johnson and Troy Hill to the Browns and defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Chargers.

The last time the Rams saw the Ravens was in 2019 when Jackson essentially locked up his MVP Trophy by accounting for a total of 264 yards and five total touchdowns. The Ravens dismantled the Rams to the tune of a 45-6 victory. Sean McVay’s Rams look a little more complete in 2021 than they did in 2019 but they still remain a tier below the Ravens in quality. Expect this year’s game to be closer to a one or two-score game than the five-score game from two seasons ago.

9. Week 13 @ Pittsburgh Steelers

2020’s edition of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was a bit funky. Pittsburgh swept the season series but was perhaps the worse team of the two in both games. Two very poorly timed Jackson interceptions led to 14 Steelers points at the beginning of both halves Week 8 before the game came down to the final play and an eventual Minkah Fitzpatrick pass breakup in coverage against Willie Snead. Then with the Ravens severely short-handed due to COVID-19 protocols and multiple player absences, the combination of Robert Griffin III (who left the game in the third quarter) and Trace McSorley kept Baltimore within striking distance of Pittsburgh all game before eventually falling 19-14.

Their first matchup in 2021 could look a lot different than their two from last season. Ravens-Steelers are historically won in the trenches and the Steelers offensive line is maybe their biggest question mark on their roster. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a total of just two times in both matchups last season and it is hard to picture that being the case in 2021. Pittsburgh also ran the ball for less than 3.5 yards per carry on 44 total carries across both matchups. If the Steelers offensive line is as thin as it currently looks on paper when they hit the field in September, they will struggle to take just one game from the Ravens next season.

10. Week 6: vs Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert gave the Charger’s a spark throughout the 2020 season but where he takes them in 2021 will be dependant on a lot of individuals outside of him. Despite the sixth-overall pick’s quality play, Los Angeles did not beat a team over .500 last season until their final game. It came against a Chiefs team on Week 17 while they were wresting a number of crucial starters. Tom Telesco added crucial bodies to the offensive line including former Steeler’s guard Matt Feiler and could pose one of the toughest tasks for the Ravens pass rush early in the season. The Chargers could be one of the biggest dark horse playoff contenders in 2021 and could give the Ravens problems in the trenches after dominating the line of scrimmage in their last meeting — Jackson’s first playoff start back in 2019.

11. Week 10: at Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins look to be one of the most improved teams in the NFL for the second year in a row. General Manager Chris Grier is showing the power of accumulating high picks and successfully building through the draft. In just two seasons, his team has turned from a rebuilding bottom-dweller into one of the strongest overall rosters in the AFC. Tua Tagovailoa looks poised to take the next step in his development in 2021 and his new offensives pieces such as former Alabama teammate and this year’s sixth-overall pick Jaylen Waddle and deep-threat Will Fuller, should be paramount in helping him become the player Grier envisioned when he selected him third overall in 2020.

With that said, there has been no team that has beat down the Dolphins quite like the Ravens. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Baltimore holds a 7-1 record against Miami and has won their previous three games by a combined score of 137-16. The most recent of which came in 2019 when Lamar Jackson kicked off his MVP campaign by throwing for a career-high 324 passing yards while adding five touchdowns through the air. He was then benched for the entire fourth quarter after putting the Ravens up 52-10. The Dolphins are a much-improved team from the one in 2019 but the long-standing history of Harbaugh’s dominance in Miami is hard to overlook.

12. Week 11: at Chicago Bears

Baltimore’s degree of difficulty with the Bears will be completely contingent on who is playing quarterback when the Ravens visit Soldier Field. Andy Dalton holds a 9-9 record against all-time against the Ravens but holds a less than convincing 23-to-19 touchdown to interception ratio over that time span. He is currently riding a three-game losing streak against Baltimore and would not be in a great spot if he were to suit up against the Ravens in 2021.

Justin Fields, on the other hand, could deliver a spark to a recently middling Bears team. He will almost certainly be one of the biggest steals of the 2021 NFL Draft and pairs both great accuracy with tremendous athleticism. Unfortunately, coach Harbaugh has been one of the toughest coaches to play for any rookie quarterback — holding a 19-6 against first-year quarterbacks. It will be an uphill battle for the Bears in either scenario but one that may become a little easier to manage for the Ravens if they wind up facing a more familiar face in Dalton.

13. Week 4: at Denver Broncos

If one of Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater is starting Week 4, the Broncos will struggle against Baltimore. However, Vic Fangio’s team has one big thing going for them; the Ravens have not won a regular-season game in Denver since 2001. There one victory game in the playoffs during the Mile High Miracle on route to the Ravens winning their second franchise Super Bowl. The 2021 Broncos team is one of the best rosters on paper in the NFL but they don’t match up against the Ravens particularly well. Denver’s deep receiving room will have a tough time against Baltimore’s elite secondary and their spotty offensive line will not pose a humungous challenge to Odafe Oweh and an equally-spotty Ravens pass rush.

14. Week 9: vs Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings will be the team the Ravens face coming off of their Week 8 bye. Harbaugh has been one of the best coaches coming off of his bye over the last 12 seasons and holds a 10-2 record over that time span. Minnesota is a team that is a bit less predictable with Kirk Cousins at quarterback. He has not beaten a team that finished the season over .500 outside of his own division since Week 6 of 2019. The Vikings have rotated between making and missing the playoffs each year over the past six seasons and their 2021 roster team looks like another wild card. Their hopes of beating the Ravens likely hinge on the health of their front seven after each Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, and Michael Pierce (opt-out) each missed 14 or more games last season.

15. Week 7: vs Cincinnati Bengals

After watching Joe Burrow take seven sacks at the hands of the Ravens Week 5 of 2020, the Bengal’s front office made only a few marginal upgrades on the offensive line this past off-season. Many speculated they would heavily pursue a number of high-profile additions but added just veteran tackle Riley Reiff and a developmental second-round tackle in Jackson Carman. Cincinnati is currently projected to return three starters from the offensive line that was easily abused all throughout 2020.

Baltimore’s pass rush may be a work in progress but it should be noted that the majority of the Ravens pressure against the Bengals Week 5 of last season was due to defensive coordinator Don Martindale’s ability to scheme-up pressure. Seven different Ravens registered a sack and nine different Ravens registered a tackle for loss. If the Bengals offensive line plays anything like they did a year ago against the Ravens, Burrow is in for another very long day in the pocket.

16. Week 1: at Las Vegas Raiders

Baltimore opens their 2021 season against the Raiders in a game that could not be more tailored to a blowout. The Ravens have won their past five seasons openers by a combined score of 177-26 and have only surrendered more than a touchdown in one of the five games. The last time they opened their season on Monday Night Football was in 2012 when Baltimore embarrassed the Bengals by a score of 44-13 — before Harbaugh’s team went on to win the Super Bowl at the end of the year. While anything can happen in any NFL game, this looks like about as sure of a win on the Ravens schedule as you’ll find.

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17. Week 3: at Detroit Lions

While the Lions could be one of the more surprising teams in the NFL in 2021, there is a reason they exited the draft tied with the Houston Texans for the lowest odds to win the Super Bowl. New head coach Dan Campbell’s team will almost certainly be more competitive than Matt Patricia’s Lions (who put up a combined 14 wins in the three seasons he was head coach) but the roster is still as shallow as they come in football. General manager Brad Holmes invested in quality and Campbell-type players in the trenches but that is where Detroit’s depth ends. Free agency took three of the four most productive Lion’s receivers from last season and in their place are Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Kalif Raymond. None of the three have recorded a 700+ yard season over the past three years.

The Lions may be the lone team on the Ravens schedule in which Baltimore outmatches their opponent at every level of the game. It could be argued DeCosta’s team has a better quarterback, offense, defense, head coach, and perhaps most relevantly, special teams unit. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had one of the best games of his career in his last visit to Ford Field in 2013. He converted the most field goals of his career in a single game as the then 24-year-old Tucker went 6-for-6 in the dome including a 61-yard field goal with just 38 seconds left remaining in regulation to put the Ravens 18-16. Tucker’s kick was the fourth-longest of all time and remains the longest of his Hall of Fame career. The Lions might surprise some people in 2021 but the Ravens shouldn’t be one of those teams.

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