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Late for Work: Pundit Says Another Ravens Road Christmas Game Is 'Naughty'

ILB Roquan Smith
ILB Roquan Smith

Takeaways From Schedule Includes Ravens on the Naughty List

There's a lot to digest from the Ravens' 2024 schedule, but one of the things that stands out is that they will play on Christmas for the second consecutive year, and once again the game will be on the road.

This time Baltimore will face the Houston Texans on the festive day, which falls on a Wednesday. Last Christmas, the Ravens beat the 49ers in San Francisco.

For the Ravens players, coaches, staff and their families, it has to feel like they're getting a lump of coal in their stockings.

"The NFL sending the Ravens on the road for a second straight year to play a good team on Christmas is pretty naughty," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.

The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker said the Ravens got "Scrooged" by having to play a second straight Christmas game on the road.

Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann wrote: "A second straight Christmas game on the road has to have been met with a few groans in the locker room, but it speaks highly of this team's national marketing power."

The Christmas game will be the Ravens' third in a 10-day span. They play at the New York Giants on Dec. 15 and host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 21.

The Ravens have played four games on Christmas overall. Only the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs have played more.

Here's a look what else pundits said about the Ravens following the release of the schedule:

Ravens' Weeks 1-5 schedule is the toughest in the NFL.

Zrebiec: "From Nov. 7 to Dec. 1, the Ravens will play the Bengals at home, the Steelers and Chargers on the road, and then the Eagles at home. It's pretty telling that it may not even be the toughest stretch of their schedule. How about having to start the season against the back-to-back Super Bowl champions on the road, having to go to Dallas for Week 3, returning home for a prime-time game against the Bills before facing another road trip to divisional rival Cincinnati? That a Week 2 home game against the Raiders is a part of that stretch doesn't diminish it at all. The Ravens will not have the luxury of easing their way into the season. By Oct. 6, we'll have a good gauge of how good they are."

Wacker: "Remember when the Ravens won 10 of 11 games en route to a 13-4 record and the top seed in the AFC last season? They will not have a run like that with this schedule. With games at Kansas City, Dallas and Cincinnati sandwiched around home games against Las Vegas and Buffalo, it's conceivable Baltimore could be 2-3 to start the year."

Ravens are in the national spotlight.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "There will be a lot of attention on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, who will play seven standalone games. Baltimore's five prime-time games include the NFL kickoff game at two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City and a Monday night game at the Los Angeles Chargers, where John and Jim Harbaugh will coach against each other for the first time since Super Bowl XLVII 12 seasons ago."

The best prime time game of the season: Ravens at Chargers in Week 12.

**’s Jeremy Bergman:** "Three days before Thanksgiving, the Harbaughs are planning a tiny family get-together ... at SoFi Stadium in front of 70,000 spectators and millions of TV viewers. In the first Har-bowl since Super Bowl XLVII, brothers John and Jim will lead their respective teams against one another in a duel for Dad's love. John got the upper hand (and the Lombardi) the last time these two faced off, but Jim is the most recent champion, leading Michigan last season to its first national title in over a quarter-century. Over the years, there's been severe cross-pollination between the siblings. Current Seahawks Head Coach Mike Macdonald jumped from John's defense to Jim's and then back to John's during a 12-month span in 2021. This offseason, Jim was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers alongside former Ravens exec and current Chargers GM Joe Hortiz, and the two then signed ex-Baltimore backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. Throw in two of the most electric quarterbacks in the AFC in Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert, and you have the makings of a must-see midseason family affair."

Balance is beautiful.

**’s Nick Shook:** "While they'll face a steady diet of 2023 playoff teams (eight) in 2024, the Ravens are never on the road for more than two weeks in a row (in Weeks 7-8 and Weeks 11-12). They'll also enjoy the benefit of a fairly balanced divisional schedule, which begins in Week 5 (at Cincinnati), continues in Week 8 (at Cleveland) and only stacks back-to-back AFC North opponents once: Weeks 10 (vs. Cincinnati) and 11 (at Pittsburgh). A December bye might make it difficult to sustain production through the first 13 weeks, but provided they stay relatively healthy, the Ravens can thank the scheduling gods for sparing them from a three-game road swing this season — and for making their Thursday Night Football appearance (that Week 10 showdown against the Bengals) the second of consecutive home matchups."

The easiest game is …

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Week 9 vs. Denver Broncos. The Broncos ate $53 million in dead money this offseason to get rid of Russell Wilson. Their reward: Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham or Zach Wilson as their starting quarterback. There aren't a lot of plus starters on offense to help them out, either. Star cornerback Pat Surtain II headlines a defense that finished 30th in the NFL in efficiency last season, according to FTN, and won't have perennial Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons, who was released in March. Before he was hired last year, Denver coach Sean Payton predicted that Lamar Jackson would leave Baltimore instead of re-signing. He might wish that were the case after this one."

The hardest game is …

Shaffer: "Week 1 at Kansas City Chiefs. The king stays the king. Defensive tackle Chris Jones called the Ravens the NFL's best team, but he said that as the Chiefs celebrated a second straight Super Bowl title in February. The path to a three-peat will start against the Ravens in the NFL's season opener. Coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce usually find a way to give the Ravens headaches, and Kansas City's receiving corps should challenge their talented secondary, even if wideout Rashee Rice is unavailable because of a suspension. The Chiefs' defense could take a step back with the departure of cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, but coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's schemes will test Jackson and the Ravens' Week 1 readiness — not to mention their willingness to run the ball."

Bold prediction: The Ravens will end the regular season by going undefeated in December and January.

Hensley: "This is ambitious considering Baltimore faces four playoff teams from 2023 in its last five games. And those four playoff teams — the Eagles, Steelers, Texans and Browns — all had double-digit records last season. But, there is no quarterback that finishes a regular season stronger than Jackson. His 18-3 regular-season record (.857) in December and January is the best in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 20 starts. He has thrown 39 touchdowns and seven touchdowns in those months. So, while there are still questions about Jackson in the postseason, he certainly knows how to close out the regular season."

The Ravens' record will be …

Zrebiec: "11-6. The Ravens lost a lot of talent from their roster this offseason, and their coaching departures might be more impactful than their personnel ones. Their schedule also looks more daunting, and every game in the AFC North will be a battle. However, this is a Ravens team that has done nothing but win in the regular season with a healthy Lamar Jackson. They're used to replacing key players and coaches and not having a notable drop-off. They deserve the benefit of the doubt in terms of finding a way to continue to win. Predicted AFC North finish: 1. Cincinnati 2. Baltimore 3. Pittsburgh 4. Cleveland."

The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "If we're playing everyone's favorite 'win-loss' schedule game four months before the regular season starts, put me down for 12-5, another AFC North title and the No. 2 seed in the conference. The five losses will come at Kansas City, at Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, at Los Angeles and at Houston."

NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund: "Projected wins: 10.2. The Ravens' schedule slides them under the Bengals in terms of median win projection and renders them a more probable wild-card team than division winner. (Again, it's May, so let's all take a deep breath.) The AFC North currently projects as the most difficult division in the NFL, which is not shocking, but makes for a lot of potential internal disruption among these four teams. For fun, I modeled out which game on Baltimore's schedule forecasts to be the most pivotal, and, as of right now, it looks like the outcome of Ravens-Eagles in Week 13, just ahead of Baltimore's bye, is the one most likely to determine the Ravens' playoff picture."

The Sporting News’ Scott Davis: "11-6. The Ravens' schedule is brutal, with tough opponents, a late bye, and a crammed schedule at the end of the season, when everyone is hurting. Still, with the Raven Way, John Harbaugh's coaching, and the top-end talent of the roster, the Ravens should be in contention to win their division."

Emmanuel Acho Says Ravens Aren't a Threat to Chiefs

If the Ravens are looking for bulletin board material heading into the season opener at Kansas City, Fox Sports' Emmanuel Acho has provided it.

Acho declared that the Ravens are not a threat to the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

"The Ravens aren't a threat because last year they were as good as they could be," Acho said on FS1's "Speak." "This year, the team's worse. The Ravens are substantially worse. You lose All-Pro Patrick Queen, who coupled with Roquan Smith, was a dude. You lose Jadeveon Clowney, who had nine and a half sacks. You lose seven-interception Geno Stone. So you lose your leading interceptor, your second-leading tackler, your second-leading sack man. The defense just isn't as good, and you lose your defensive coordinator.

"So I don't think the Ravens are a threat. Because if they were a threat they would've been a threat last year and they weren't even threatening."

Well, that's certainly a hot take. It's also a gross oversimplification.

It's absurd to say the Ravens weren't a threat last year just because they lost to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens led the league in wins and point differential and soundly defeated several of the league's best teams, including the two who played in the NFC Championship Game (49ers and Lions), so of course they were a threat.

Acho's assertion that since the Ravens didn't beat the Chiefs last year when they were "as good as they could be," they have no chance of beating them this year because they're "substantially worse," is flawed.

Sure, the Ravens lost a number of key players this offseason. But they made a huge addition in running back Derrick Henry and had a strong draft. They also have a track record of winning year in and year out despite turnover on the roster and coaching staff.

Ravens Get B+ Grade for Their Offseason

Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema posted his offseason grades for every team. The Ravens earned a B+.

"Bringing back Justin Madubuike was a big win, though Baltimore also lost Patrick Queen and Geno Stone," Sikkema wrote. "Offsetting those departures is the fact that their secondary and linebacker rooms still have stars, so instead we look at their free-agent addition of Derrick Henry as a big plus.

"They had a fairly large offensive line need, as Morgan Moses, Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson are now playing elsewhere, but the addition of Roger Rosengarten via the draft somewhat mitigates that. I ultimately loved the Ravens' draft, so outside of some other offensive line question marks, it's hard to hate on their offseason."

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