Five thoughts on Ravens 2018 regular season schedule

On Thursday night the NFL announced the 2018 regular season schedule. As usual the announcement did not go over well with many fans. Thursday night football continues to drive most of the debates but other issues and conflicts, such as the London and Thanksgiving games, will surely get their share of complaints.

In case you missed it here is the Ravens full 2018 schedule.

Preseason:

Thursday, August 2, 8:00 pm – Chicago Bears (HOF game in Canton Ohio)

Thursday, August 9, 7:30 pm – LA Rams

Monday, August 20, 8:00 pm – at Indianapolis Colts

Saturday, August 25, 7:00 pm – at Miami Dolphins

Thursday, August 30, 7:30 pm – Washington Redskins

Regular Season:

Week 1 – Sunday, September 9, 1:00 pm – Buffalo Bills

Week 2 – Thursday, September 13, 8:20 pm – at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 3 – Sunday, September 23, 1:00 pm – Denver Broncos

Week 4 – Sunday, September 30, 8:20 pm – at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 5 – Sunday, October 7, 1:00 pm – at Cleveland Browns

Week 6 – Sunday, October 14, 1:00 pm – at Tennessee Titans

Week 7 – Sunday, October 21, 4:05 pm – New Orleans Saints

Week 8 – Sunday, October 28, 1:00 pm – at Carolina Panthers

Week 9 – Sunday, November 4, 1:00 pm – Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 10 – Bye

Week 11 – Sunday, November 18, 1:00 pm – Cincinnati Bengals

Week 12 – Sunday, November 25, 1:00 pm – Oakland Raiders

Week 13 – Sunday, December 2, 1:00 pm – at Atlanta Falcons

Week 14 – Sunday, December 9, 1:00 pm – at Kansas City

Week 15 – Sunday, December 16, 1:00 pm – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 16 – Sunday, December 23, 4:05 pm – at LA Chargers

Week 17 – Sunday, December 30, 1:00 pm – Cleveland Browns

Five Thoughts:

  1. Extra preseason game

This summer the NFL Hall of fame will welcome one of the most star-studded classes ever. Headlining the group will be former Ravens and Bears legends, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. So it’s only fitting that these two teams square off in the annual Hall of fame game to be played in Canton Ohio.

This extra preseason game presents a handful of challenges and benefits for the Ravens. On the plus side, John Harbaugh and his coaching staff will get and extra week to evaluate the players fighting for a roster spot. On that same token, the players the preseason with a lot to prove will have an extra opportunity to do so in a nationally televised preseason game.

The bad part of playing a fifth preseason game is the risk of injury and fatigue. We know that essential, franchise players like Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs will not be suiting up more than they have to this preseason, but the risk of injury should definitely be a concern. This is especially for a Ravens team that has experienced more than their fair share of training camp / preseason injuries in the past few years.

2. Three game road trip

One of the biggest complaints from fans every year usually surrounds a team being scheduled with three road games in a row. This year the scheduling committee made an effort to decrease this issue but the Ravens still ended up being one of the three teams with a three game road trip. Their three game stretch includes back-to-back divisional opponents (Browns & Steelers) as well as a meeting with the Titans.

3. A change of pace

At the very least Ravens fans can be happy with the fact that the 2018 schedule looks very different than the ones they have seen in recent history. For just the second time in the last eight seasons, the Ravens will not play the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17. The NFL seems to like having divisional matchups at the end of the season so the Ravens will host the Cleveland Browns instead. The cynic in me says that the Browns will be a more dangerous late season opponent than the Bengals this year but a change of pace is certainly nice.

4. Lack of prime time games

Baltimore is slated for just two prime time games in 2018 but both will be on the road. In week 2 the Ravens will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night football. At least the NFL did away with the color rush jerseys that were associated with Thursday’s. Two weeks later the team will be off to Pittsburgh for yet another Sunday night game against the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens haven’t performed well in recent seasons, making them a less attractive team for national television, but this is just the second time since 2006 that there wont be a prime time game played in Baltimore.

5. Bye week placement

The Ravens 2018 schedule does not look very good on paper but at least they did not draw a short stick with their bye week. Unlike last year, the first half of the Ravens season appears to be tougher than the back end. This could pay off really well for Baltimore if they take care of business early on. Nine of the Ravens games in 2018 will be played against teams that made the playoffs last season but only two of them (Kansas City & Atlanta) appears after the week 10 bye.

Image credit: sportingnews.com

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Best and worst case playoff scenarios for the Baltimore Ravens

As you can probably tell by the name of this article, I will be guiding you through the best and worst case playoff scenarios for the Baltimore Ravens. Based on their play this season, I am also predicting the outcomes of the games they play if they make it that far. This is my opinion, with uses of factual data to make the best judgment. Currently Baltimore sits at the #5 seed, the first Wild Card spot in the AFC. It is week 17 and on New Year’s Eve the Ravens will play their final regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who the Ravens shut out in week 1, 20-0. Kickoff is slated for 4:25 pm from M&T Bank Stadium.

Scenario #1: Baltimore comes into their home stadium with momentum and grit after last week’s hard-fought contest against the Indianapolis Colts. They beat the Bengals handily by a score or two and clinch a playoff berth. But somewhere else in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills succumbed to a smokin’ Jay Cutler resurgence and fell to the Miami Dolphins. Elsewhere, the Tennessee Titans may have saved Mike Mularkey’s job by defeating division winner Jacksonville Jaguars who have nothing to play for this week.

Baltimore keeps the #5 seed and moves on to Wild Card Weekend (where John Harbaugh-led Ravens teams have never lost) to take on Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs. The home of the Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium, is notorious for being one of the loudest in the NFL and it shows on multiple false start penalties for the Ravens. But with the stout run defense able to slow down upstart rookie Kareem Hunt to a crawl, the Ravens force Alex Smith to take it to the air. Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill abuses the Ravens secondary but they make an adequate enough halftime adjustment to beat the Chiefs 30-27 on a last-second FG by phenom Kicker Justin Tucker.

The Tennessee Titans faced the Jaguars on Wild Card Weekend and got decimated in every sense of the word. The Jaguars defense, after being rested in week 17, was suffocating. The Jags ended up winning 30-7 and will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.

That leaves the Ravens with a trip to Foxborough to take on the #1 seed New England Patriots. The Ravens have consistently given Bill Belichick and Tom Brady headaches in January, but the Ravens don’t have the consistency or leadership this time around to stun the football world. The Ravens offense is not able to get it going and the absence of Jimmy Smith is noticed as they wind up losing in the cold 28-13.

Thats where their season ends.

Scenario #2: The Ravens drop the ball on Sunday against the Bengals, quite literally. Breshad Perriman’s last play as a Raven was a dropped pass in the end zone that would’ve won the game. Baltimore loses quick enough to watch the Bills and Titans both win, successfully edging them out of the playoffs. Baltimore hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014 and with this failure, even at 9-7, the John Harbaugh era has ended in Baltimore.

Sources: CBSSports.com & NFL.com

Photo Credit: CBSSports.com

Follow @VTheNFLGuy on Twitter for more fun takes and behind the scenes stuff

Preview: Ravens, facing win-and-in situation, wrap up regular season against Bengals

BALTIMORE, MD — It all comes down to one game. After an injury-filled training camp and 15 games filled with plenty of ups and downs, the Ravens find themselves just one win away from the playoffs. If Baltimore defeats the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, they will be heading to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

There are other ways for the Ravens to make the playoffs but they all rely on others to lose. As long as Baltimore wins they are guaranteed the 5th seed and a trip to Kansas City in the Wild Card round. If the Ravens can not get the job done against Cincinnati, either a Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans loss will be enough to earn them a spot in January. The Bills travel to Miami to face the Dolphins, and the Titans host an angry Jaguars team that will most likely not rest their starters.  All four games carry Wild Card implications.

Following the games this past holiday weekend, the NFL announced that the week 17 schedule would have some major changes. The Ravens were one of a handful of teams who had their game moved from 1:00 pm to 4:25 pm. This ensures that the Ravens and all of the other AFC Wild Card contenders will play at the same time.

The Ravens have been in this scenario before but it has been a while since the team has been able to close out the year on their home field. The opportunity to clinch a playoff appearance in front of their own fans certainly had the team hopeful for a larger crowd. However, after the time change, it is likely that the game will interfere with the New Year’s Eve plans that some fans made prior to the kickoff time change.

John Harbaugh expressed his frustration with this earlier in the week by saying the NFL didn’t do the team any favors. “It’s kinda tough for the fans,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know what the considerations are at the league office and I don’t really care, other than the fact that I hope our fans are ok with it.”

When it comes to head coaches, Cincinnati has their own issues. Just a few weeks ago Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis announced that he would be steeping away from the team at the end of this season. Lewis has been wearing the headset in Cincinnati for 15 seasons but has failed to win a playoff game in seven tries.

Even if Bengals fans are cheering on this exit, the team is certainly playing hard for their coach. Last week Cincinnati knocked the Detroit Lions out of playoff contention and they would love nothing more than to possibly knock a division opponent out as well. Let’s not forget that Lewis was Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator from 1996-2001.

Last Meeting: The Ravens opened their 2017 season on the road in Cincinnati with an impressive 20-0 win. In the weeks following that win, the media downplayed the Ravens performance as the Bengals looked like one of the leagues basement dwellers. Even if that ended up being true, a shutout against a division rival should not be overlooked. The Ravens will look to replicate that performance again on Sunday.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD.

When: Saturday, Dec. 23, 4:25 pm

Radio: WBAL-109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Jarrett Johnson

TV: CBS/WJZ-TV13

Commentators: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn

Notes on the Bengals:

  • Since being drafted in 2011, A.J. Green has been a thorn in the Ravens side. In nine career games against Baltimore, Green has racked up 800 yards and six touchdowns on 46 receptions. He has also averaged 169 yards in his last three games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Notes on the Ravens:

  • After throwing for 237 yards in Saturday’s win over Indianapolis, Joe Flacco entered the top 25 of all-time passing yards leaders. Currently in his tenth year, Flacco has averaged roughly 3,557 yards a season.
  • Undrafted free agent receiver Quincy Adeboyejo was promoted from the practice squad earlier this week. With Jeremy Maclin still questionable, Adeboyejo will get a chance to prove himself after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.

 

Image Credit:  John Grieshop/Getty Images

Podcast: Nolan and Jake break down the Ravens’ sloppy win over Indy, and talk Britton & Machado

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On this episode, staff writer Nolan McGraw joins Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of Baltimore Sports talk.

Topics covered:

  1. The Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Colts: How full was M&T Bank Stadium? Did the rain impact player performance? Did the guys have any issues with coaching?
  2. Analyzing the Dick Cass letter sent to Ravens season ticket & PSL holders on Friday: Is the week 3 protest in London the biggest reason for the increased amount of empty seats at Ravens games?
  3. Looking ahead to the week 17 “win and in” game against the Bengals: How confident are we feeling eight days away from this big matchup?
  4. How the Zach Britton injury impacts the 2018 Baltimore Orioles, and more analysis of the Manny Machado trade talks.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Leave us a 5-star review on iTunes, we may read it on a future episode!

From all of us at Charm City Bird Watch, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Turnover hungry defense shines in Ravens shutout rout of Bengals

CINCINNATI — Going into the 2017 season, high expectations surrounded the Baltimore Ravens defense. On Sunday, the unit lived up to the hype, causing five turnovers and shutting out the Cincinnati Bengals in a 20-0 rout. The win gives the Ravens their first victory in Cincinnati since January 1, 2012, and records their first shutout since Nov. 16, 2009 against the Browns.

Four different defenders – Brandon Carr, C.J. Mosley, Lardarius Webb, and Jimmy Smith picked off Andy Dalton. Baltimore’s defense limited Dalton to 170 passing yards, which, apart from a 78-yard partial performance in 2012, marks Dalton’s lowest passing yards total against the Ravens.

The other turnover transpired about four minutes into the third quarter, when Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Dalton, and Michael Pierce recovered the football. Suggs finished the game with two sacks, which he last accomplished last on Nov. 27, 2016 against, you guessed it, the Bengals. Along with Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Pierce, and Za’Darius Smith knocked Dalton down in the Bengals’ backfield once. Shortly after Z. Smith’s sack, he left the game in painful fashion with a knee sprain. He did not return.

As a unit, the Ravens defense restricted the Bengals to four third down conversions (13 attempts). The Bengals averaged 3.8 yards-per-play, and never reached the red zone. Tony Jefferson led the Birds with nine tackles (five solo, one for loss), and Mosley followed with eight (five solo, one for loss).

The dominance by the defense, particularly in the turnovers department, gave the Ravens outstanding field position to work with. However, coming off turnovers, the Ravens’ offense punted three times. With five offensive drives beginning off turnovers, Baltimore tallied 10 points. If that number rises in the coming weeks, the Ravens will win games against teams like the Steelers and the Raiders.

As expected, the offense did just enough to come out on top. With several veterans missing significant time in training camp, week 1 served as a preseason-like game for the unit. On his first in-game drive since week 17 against Cincinnati in January, Joe Flacco marched the offense on a 13-play, 57-yard drive that resulted in a Justin Tucker field goal to put the Ravens up 3-0.

Along the way, newly-acquired running back Danny Woodhead caught three passes for 33 yards, but left the game after pulling his left hamstring. Woodhead, coming off a torn ACL suffered a year ago, missed a big chunk of training camp with an ailment to the same hamstring. He did not return, and the Ravens will find out the severity of the injury soon.

Following their injuries, both Woodhead and Smith got carted off the field.

Another free agent addition made plays on Sunday. With 1:52 remaining in the first half, Flacco found Jeremy Maclin in the middle of the field. Maclin out-ran a Cincinnati defender for a 50-yard catch-and-score.

Prior to the touchdown drive, the previous two Ravens drives ended with punts. If Ravens fans knew beforehand that the offense would score in two of their first four drives, they would gladly take it.

Less than 30 seconds later, the Ravens put seven more points up. Baltimore received a gift when Webb picked off a Dalton pass on the second play of Cincinnati’s drive. Webb caught the ball at the Bengals’ 12-yard line and ran 10 yards. Terrance West then ran the ball in win the first play of the drive, putting the Ravens up by 17.

Baltimore added three more points in the third quarter on a 25-yard boot from Tucker. The first 12 plays of the 17-play drive came on the ground, with the duo of West and Buck Allen. The 81-yard drive that started with 10:44 in quarter three ate 9:38 of clock, giving the Bengals just over 16 minutes to attempt a comeback.

The rest of the game featured punts, an unsuccessful fourth-down attempt by the Bengals, and the Smith interception.

As an offense, the Ravens ran the ball 42 times and passed 17. Flacco completed nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Nick Vigil intercepted a Flacco pass in the third quarter, but the strip-sack by Suggs occurred six plays later.

Other than Woodhead and Z. Smith, the only other injury scare came in the second half when Flacco and some trainers entered a blue tent on the Ravens’ sideline. Turns out that Flacco just entered the concussion protocol after taking a big hit.

Post-game Tweets from the press: 

 

Next Sunday, Sept. 17: The Ravens face the Cleveland Browns in their home opener from M&T Bank Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm.

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens 

 

Game Preview: Ravens open up 2017 campaign in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — With Joe Flacco, Breshad Perriman, and Danny Woodhead all returning to practice the same day last week, it’s been looking bright for Baltimore. Since Joe Flacco entered the league back in 2008, the Ravens are 3-6 in Cincinnati. The only difference this time around is Cincinnati’s offensive line is a shell of its former self, with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher headlining the unit instead of Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth.

The Bengals are also a few men short, LB Vontaze Burfict, CB Adam Jones, and rookie WR John Ross are all out for week 1, giving the offensively-challenged Ravens a chance to start quickly. The Ravens have announced that rookie DB Jaylen Hill will be out for week 1.

What to Look For: 

  1. The Ravens O-Line: It remains to be seen if the patchwork offensive line, outside of Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda, will be able to protect Flacco and his ailing back, let alone open up holes for a struggling Terrance West.
  2. Andy DaltonThe Bengals QB will be facing a lot of adversity in week 1. In addition to playing with untested linemen and wide receivers, he happens to be playing against the best and most physical defense the Ravens have fielded in many moons.
  3. Ravens Defensive Secondary: Going against A.J. Green has always been tough for the purple and black, but now that they solidified the safety positions with Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, Green may not make much of an impact. Rookie CB Marlon Humphrey has looked very impressive in his preseason snaps
  4. Ravens Pass Rush: With the struggles the Bengals are certain to have at OL, look for rookie LB Tyus Bowser and established veteran Terrell Suggs to terrorize Andy Dalton and disrupt the running game.
  5. Joe Flacco: After many months of not throwing a single pass, Flacco is going to immediately be thrown into the crucible with established DT Geno Atkins looking to take him down. Flacco has to be able to make all the throws and manage the game to make it work.

My Prediction: Ravens win 21-20 in Cincy

Where: Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, Ohio

When: Sunday, Sept. 10, 1:00 pm

Network & Commentators: CBS, Spero Dedes & Adam Archuleta

How to watch/listen: Ravens fans can catch the game on their local CBS station. Fans out of market can watch on NFL Sunday Ticket. Gerry Sandusky and Stan White have the call on WBAL 1090, 98 Rock, and gameday audio will also stream on the Baltimore Ravens website.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sports and Life