The Ravens (7-6) have turned their season around in recent weeks, and are riding a three-game winning streak heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Upcoming games against the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals could very well be the toughest three-game stretch of the season, and the Ravens may have to win all of them to advance to the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
“We’ve got to be at our best,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to play the best we’ve played all year.”
The Lions, Patriots and Bengals all have winning records, but which matchup is the toughest for the Ravens?
Week 15 at Detroit Lions (7-6)
The Lions are tied with the Chicago Bears for the best record in the NFC North, and they are hoping to advance to the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.
Detroit’s success is largely built on its explosive offense, highlighted by wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Lions rank top five in most statistical offensive categories, and Johnson ranks second in the NFL with 1,348 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 3,973 passing yards is third best in the league.
The Lions also have a dominant defensive front with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who can both wreak havoc in the backfield. Detroit has the sixth best run defense in the NFL, so the Ravens will likely need a strong performance from quarterback
Week 16 vs. New England Patriots (10-3)
The Patriots weathered the storm early in the season where they had to overcome a number of injuries and complete turnover in their receiving corps. Now they have the second best record in the AFC and appear headed for a home playoff game.
However, quarterback Tom Brady will have to overcome the loss of star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who tore his ACL last week against Cleveland. Gronkowski was a game changer for the Patriots offense, and no other tight end on their roster has more than 10 catches.
The Patriots are no stranger to the Ravens, as the two teams have battled in some classic late-season contests in recent years. The Ravens have won the last two matchups against New England, but the conference rivals have split their last six games overall.
Week 17 at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)
The Bengals have a two-game lead in the AFC North and are hoping to advance to the playoffs in three straight seasons for the first time during Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ tenure. Cincinnati ranks as one of the NFL’s top 10 offenses, and wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the best pass catchers in the NFL.
The Ravens beat Cincinnati 20-17 in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 10, and they have won five of their last six games against the Bengals.
The Bengals may not have much at stake in the regular season finale in Cincinnati. If the Bengals continue to win down the stretch, they will have the division wrapped up and may decide to rest their starters against the Ravens.