Just as I did last year, with four miserable work days to fill between now and the Ravens’ opening kickoff of the season, I’ll again do a quick little mini-preview of the Ravens’ schedule.
First, the obligatory disclaimer:
Of course, all of these predictions are based on rosters, teams, etc., as they stand today. Injuries, suspensions, and whatever else could easily drastically change my feeling about any or all of the games. This is for fun more than anything else, so don’t go calling your bookie on my recommendations.
Week 1- @ New York Jets
The Jets’ first game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, in front of the big lights of Monday Night Football. Rex Ryan has been anything but shy about proclaiming his team to be Super Bowl-bound, and the Jets have taken over for the Ravens as the most swagger-ific team in the NFL. One problem – the Jets haven’t won anything since six months before Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon. I have confidence in the Ravens to come out and knock the Jets down a peg early.
Chance of Victory: 65%
Week 2 – @ Cincinnati
The Ravens’ early run of road games vs. 2009 playoff teams continues with a trip to the Jungle. They were beat handily here in 2009, much worse than the 17-7 score would indicate. Carson Palmer has a bevy of weapons to throw to, between Ochocinco, T.O., and Jermaine Gresham, but it was Cedric Benson who gave the Ravens’ defense fits last year, putting up over 100 yards in both contests. The Ravens have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Bengals, but if they don’t stop the run better this time around, I’m afraid the results will be eerily similar.
Chance of Victory: 40%
Week 3 – vs. Cleveland
With some luck (and good execution), the Ravens won’t return home to Baltimore for the first time in over a month with a winless record. It could happen though. And, even if it doesn’t, Ray and the boys will be eager to take out some frustrations on the Brownies. After back-to-back road games against what are likely to be playoff contenders, Cleveland is going to look mighty cupcake-ish. Jake Delhomme looked good this preseason, but the interception master should have no problem finding purple jerseys, regardless of the fact that #20 still won’t be on the field. Baltimore whooped up on the Browns 34-3 in this matchup last year, and I don’t see this one being much different.
Chance of Victory: 85%
Week 4 – @ Pittsburgh
Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger taking girls to his hotel/bathroom, the Ravens will again get to face Pittsburgh without their star QB, just as they did in the first meeting last year. This game presents the Ravens’ best chance to get their first win in the city of bridges since 2006 that they’re likely to see for a while. Even those who are bullish about the Steelers’ chances without Ben in the first four games concede that they will lose to the Ravens. Joe Flacco ALMOST won in Pittsburgh in his first game there in 2008. Then he nearly pulled off the upset in the 2008 AFC Championship, before throwing a late interception. In 2009, were it not for a terrible drop in the end zone by Derrick Mason, he would have likely secured his first road victory against Pittsburgh. This is the time he finally gets over the hump.
Chance of Victory: 70%
Tomorrow: Weeks 5-9