Sitting at 2 ½ games out of first place in the AFC North and a game out of the second wild-card spot, the Ravens’ remaining schedule plays out well for a potential comeback.
Of the final nine games, five are at the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens also get two shots at the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens do have five remaining contests against teams with winning records compared to just three against teams below .500.
“The race, it is what it is now. It’s where it stands,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “But it’s where it stands after 16 games that matters, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Here’s a breakdown of the remaining Ravens schedule:
Week 9: @ Cleveland Browns (3-5)
The Browns were surging under quarterback Brian Hoyer. But since he suffered a season-ending knee injury, Cleveland has dropped three straight. They’ve all been against strong opponents, however, in the Lions, Packers and Chiefs. The Browns have a strong defense that held the Ravens scoreless for the first half (and to 14 points overall) in their first meeting. But an offense that put up just two field goals in Baltimore hasn’t gained much traction.
Week 10: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
The Bengals are one of the NFL’s hottest teams. They’ve won four straight games and are coming off a 49-9 thumping of the New York Jets. Cincinnati has a strong defense, although it lost top cornerback Leon Hall to a torn Achilles. Quarterback Andy Dalton and the offense had a couple of games where it struggled, but seems to have found its legs considering the 49 points against New York.
Week 11: @ Chicago Bears (4-3)
Like the Ravens, the Bears have lost three of their last four games. Chicago is playing without quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a torn left groin muscle on Oct. 20. He will be out at least four weeks, according to Head Coach Marc Trestman, meaning he is slated to miss the Ravens. Josh McCown is now under center. Chicago’s usually stout defense is 29th in points per game allowed (29.4).
Week 12: vs. New York Jets (4-4)
The Jets have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises. They were riding high after a 30-27 overtime win against rival New England, but were humbled by the Bengals on Sunday. New York’s run defense is strong once again, allowing a league-low 77.9 yards per game. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had some highlights but struggled for the most part, throwing eight touchdowns to 13 interceptions.
Week 13: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)
The Steelers held off the Ravens at their place, but it could be a different story at M&T Bank Stadium on Thanksgiving night. Pittsburgh used some new running schemes to have success moving on the Ravens defense. Pittsburgh’s defense got run over by Oakland, snapping the Steelers’ two-game win streak just when it looked like they were getting back into the playoff hunt.
Week 14: vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-6)
Outside of All-World running back Adrian Peterson, not a whole lot has gone right for the Vikings this season. Their only win was over the Steelers in London. Minnesota is in the middle of a quarterback carousel between former first-round pick Christian Ponder and recently acquired Josh Freeman. Neither have played well this season. The Vikings gave up 44 points to the Packers on Sunday Night Football this past weekend.
Week 15: @ Detroit Lions (5-3)
The Lions are coming off a huge comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys. They have tons of offensive weapons in NFL-leading wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for the second-most yards in the league. Detroit’s Ford Field dome gets really loud, and this will be a big test for the Ravens defense.
Week 16: vs. New England Patriots (6-2)
The Patriots keep winning, but they aren’t without their flaws. Their usual passing offense isn’t the same without departed pass catchers Wes Welker (in Denver) and Aaron Hernandez (in prison). Quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t been the same. He has fewer passing yards than struggling Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Jets rookie Smith. The Pats’ secondary has uncharacteristically been the strong point.
Week 17: @ Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
The Ravens are finishing with the Bengals for the fourth straight year. Last season, the game meant next to nothing as both teams were already in the playoffs, and the Ravens had already won the division. This season, this Week 17 matchup could have massive playoff implications. In 2011, Baltimore won in Cincinnati to sew up the division in the final week.