The Ravens enter 2013 after an amazing playoff run that ended with a victory in the Super Bowl and leaves them with high expectations for the season. Those expectation will unfortunately be far too high for a team that has lost major players on both sides of the ball.
My expectations for the Ravens have been discussed further HERE and HERE. I do not believe that the extreme losses they have faced, which now include breakout candidate Dennis Pitta, can be overcome by shear will power; something they often used in 2012.
Couple their roster losses with the attitude of their quarterback, who seems to be content with getting paid a ridiculous amount and letting the chips fall as they may, and things look less than stellar for a 2013 campaign.
For those of you who are still doubting the struggles they will face from their lack of potential, living in the past, or simply happy to fool yourselves, let’s break down every single game of 2013 to get a better understanding of what the Ravens are up against (hint, it includes the 5th hardest schedule in the league).
Game 1: September 5th at Denver (TNF)
The Super Bowl Champs are supposed to get a home game to open the season, but a scheduling conflict left the Ravens without that luxury. Even worse they have to travel to Denver where the Broncos will be looking for revenge from a post-season knock-out in 2012 and have one of the best offenses in the league. The spread is Denver by over a touchdown.
Ravens lose 31-16 (0-1)
Game 2: September 15th vs Cleveland
The Ravens would surely have preferred to start the season with this game. The Browns should still be in the cellar of the AFC North and Ray Rice and company do just enough in a low scoring affair.
Raven win 17-13 (1-1)
Game 3: September 22nd vs Houston
Week three brings a major home challenge for the Ravens when they face the Texans. Houston has way too much in both the running and passing game for the Ravens to keep up. You can expect to see Ed Reed play a major role with his new team in this one as well.
Ravens lose 27-13 (1-2)
Game 4: September 29th at Buffalo
The Ravens continue the teeter-totter of a season with a winnable game at Buffalo. The young Bills offense will have a shot in this one, but the veterans for the Ravens won’t let the team fall two games under .500.
Ravens win 22-17 (2-2)
Game 5: October 6th at Miami
This is a game the Ravens need to win. With four of their next five games against teams that are capable of 10 or more wins, they cannot afford to drop to 2-3. Miami has made a lot of moves in the off-season and are clearly in a “win now or else” mode. Mike Wallace will make sure the Ravens remember why they didn’t enjoy facing him twice a year in Pittsburgh and Lamar Miller will continue his growth at the RB position. Miami dominates on both sides of the ball in a surprise blow-out in a week that begins a terrible downward spiral for the champs.
Ravens lose 31-13 (2-3)
Game 6: October 13th vs Green Bay
The Ravens return home to face a Packers team that is only a week removed from their early bye and could be sitting at 2-2 and needing a win themselves to stay competitive. The Ravens defense from 2012 finished 17th in yards allowed and lost major contributors including Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Dannell Ellerbe. They will have no chance at stopping the Packers. The Green Bay secondary will dominate the Ravens lack of playmakers.
Ravens lose 37-10 (2-4)
Game 7: October 20th at Pittsburgh
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh and will be looking to right their ship. The Steelers will be looking to hold on to a slight division lead after starting 3-2 with the Bengals at 3-3. Rookie Le’veon Bell will have the reigns taken off in this one and will run wild for nearly 200 total yards of offense.
Ravens lose 27-20 (2-5)
Game 8: November 3rd at Cleveland
If it wasn’t for the Browns, the Ravens season would be all but over. Thankfully a trip to Cleveland provides a decent chance to start moving in the right direction again. Trent Richardson tries to copy Bell’s performance from week seven, but the lack of a reliable passing game has the Raven stacking the box all day. As with their first meeting the game is low scoring.
Ravens win 16-10 (3-5)
Game 9: November 10th vs Cincinnati
The Ravens face another five game stretch where four of their opponents seem likely to reach double digit win. It starts with their first game of the season against the Bengals; the division foe that tied the Ravens 2012 record at 10-6. By this point the Bengals have rattled off four wins in a row and look to grab two more before their late bye. The extremely efficient Bengals offense, including rookie of the year candidate Giovanni Bernard, hand the Ravens a loss that finally has people believing that their playoff hopes are nearly over.
Ravens lose 34-17 (3-6)
Game 10: November 17th at Chicago
By week 11 the Bears will likely be sitting in a position where the playoffs are still a strong possibility and the NFC North crown is also within reach. Playing in the best division in the NFL requires that Chicago win their home games against non-NFC North foes. An improved line and more targets for Cutler gives the Bears enough talent to make up for losses on defense and win a close one.
Ravens lose 20-16 (3-7)
Game 11: November 24th vs New York Jets
The Ravens appear down but not out. With six games left it would seem that they would need to win out to have a shot at making the playoffs. With the next three games at home and still two key divisional match-ups left, they have a shot at redemption. That starts with a beat-down of one of the worst team in the league who is likely looking forward to a top three pick in April.
Ravens win 34-13 (4-7)
Game 12: November 28th vs Pittsburgh (TNF)
After only a four day rest for both teams, the Ravens get a chance for revenge as they face the Steelers at home. This would be a competitive game no matter the two team’s records, but with the Ravens facing another must-win it will be an especially good match-up. The Ravens game-plan is to stop Le’Veon Bell; which they do. Big Ben has a decent day, but Flacco has one of his best games of the season to keep the dream alive for at least another week.
Ravens win 24-23 (5-7)
Game 13: December 8th vs Minnesota
With four weeks remaining both of these teams still have something to play for. The Bengals are close to locking up the AFC North, but there is still a glimmer of hope for the Ravens as they look to put together a three game winning streak for the first time since their Super Bowl run. The Vikings present a challenge with a very strong running attack, but the Vikings road troubles continue in Baltimore.
Ravens win 23-16 (6-7)
Game 14: December 16th at Detroit (MNF)
After winning three in a row, coach Harbaugh has his team believing in themselves once again. They travel to Detroit for a Monday Night game that would keep them in the discussion for a wild card birth. The Lions are likely out of the playoff mix themselves and while Calvin Johnson still has a shot at 2,000 receiving yards, the Lions don’t actually want to win this game.
Ravens win 27-24 (7-7)
Game 15: December 22nd vs New England (SNF)
Reality finally sets in when the Ravens get another prime time game against Tom Brady and the Patriots. With two weeks left the Ravens need to win out and get some help to claim a wild-card spot while the Patriots need a couple of wins to ensure a first round bye and possible home field through the AFC. With both teams having something to play for, the Patriots come out guns blazing and land the final blow to the Ravens season.
Ravens lose 37-24 (7-8)
Game 16: December 29th at Cincinnati
With nothing but pride left to play for, the Ravens go into Cincinnati with a chip on their shoulders. They aim to finish the season strong. The Bengals have locked up the AFC North by this point and cannot claim a first round bye; however they are still battling the Texans for the third spot and the best chance to avoid playing the Broncos in the AFC semi-finals. The Bengals take care of business and keep the Ravens from reaching .500 on the season.
Ravens lose 27-17 (7-9)
For those Ravens fans that think they might be a couple of games away from the playoffs even based on my less than favorable outlook, think again. Wins above against the Vikings, Lions, Steelers and even away games at Buffalo and Cleveland are less than guaranteed.
This team could take a full season to deal with the losses of Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Matt Birk, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and possibly Vonta Leach. It won’t take long for fans to realize that this Ravens team will come nowhere close to living up to the high standards set by the team from 2012.