First of all, for you one-stop shoppers, here's the Ravens' 2019 schedule:
|Week 1, Sept. 8||@ Miami Dolphins||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 2, Sept. 15||Arizona Cardinals||1 p.m. (FOX)|
|Week 3, Sept. 22||@ Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 4, Sept. 29||Cleveland Browns||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 5, Oct. 6||@ Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 6, Oct. 13||Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 7, Oct. 20||@ Seattle Seahawks||4:25 p.m. (FOX)|
|Week 9, Nov. 3||New England Patriots||8:20 p.m. (NBC)|
|Week 10, Nov. 10||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 11, Nov. 17||Houston Texans||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 12, Nov. 25||@ Los Angeles Rams||8:15 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Week 13, Dec. 1||San Francisco 49ers||1 p.m. (FOX)|
|Week 14, Dec. 8||@ Buffalo Bills||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 15, Dec. 12||New York Jets||8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN/AMAZON)|
|Week 16, Dec. 22||@ Cleveland Browns||1 p.m. (CBS)|
|Week 17, Dec. 29||Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m. (CBS)|
So here are my five takeaways:
There have been years when you go, "Wow, that's tough," in reaction to some challenge or quirk of the scheduling gods being foisted on the Ravens, be it a weeks-long road trip, a difficult stretch run or something that makes your eyes widen. But the Ravens have little to complain about this year. Their schedule is perfectly balanced, alternating home and road contests throughout. Two of the three prime-time games are at home, including a Sunday night matchup against the defending Super Bowl champions. The start is relatively forgiving, featuring a road-and-home doubleheader against teams that won a combined 10 games last season and changed head coaches. In fact, four of the first six games are against teams that changed head coaches after a losing 2018. Is the schedule entirely lovable? Of course not. The Ravens will face three conference finalists from 2018. A Monday night game in California (against the defending NFC champions) means a very short week will ensue. Two overall trips to the West Coast is two more than the Ravens have made in some years. Generally, though, while the caliber of the opponents is high, they've been given a fair and workable 2019 schedule.
For the first time since dinosaurs roamed the planet (actually 2006), neither game between the Ravens and Steelers is slotted for prime time. A sign of changing times? I suppose you can take it as such, as the great rivals have combined for just one conference title-game appearance in the past six years. In 2019, they'll meet in Pittsburgh in early October, similar to a year ago, and the rematch in Baltimore is set, deliciously, for the final Sunday of the season. If I'm the Ravens, I love that. Their season usually comes down to a must-win finale, and they'll be hosting their great rivals. It wouldn't surprise me to see that game get flexed into prime time, extending the streak of at least one Ravens-Steelers game per year being played under the lights. And by the way, a week before they finish the season against the Steelers, the Ravens will conclude their road schedule in Cleveland against a Browns team many believe might surpass them and everyone else in the division this year. No doubt, the schedule-makers have set the stage for some great season-ending drama in the AFC North.
The best home game on the schedule is, of course, the New England Patriots' first visit to Baltimore since 2013. For sheer marquee wattage, you can't do much better than hosting the reigning Super Bowl champions on Sunday Night Football. Baltimore will surely be fired up for the matchup on November 3, in no small part because the rivalry between the teams has taken place almost exclusively on New England's home turf. They've played 13 regular season and postseason games since the Ravens kicked off in 1996, and nine of those 13 games have unfolded with the Patriots as the home team. I'd say it's only right that the Ravens also get to host now and then, and this time, as a bonus, the Ravens will be coming off their bye-week break, giving them extra time to prepare for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, etc.
Here's a scouting report and what to expect from the Ravens' 2019 opponents.
No doubt, opening against the Miami Dolphins (on the road) and Arizona Cardinals (at home) offers an opportunity for the Ravens to build some early-season momentum. They still have to win the games, but those are opponents they traditionally handle. (They've won five of their last six against Miami and four of their last five against Arizona.) But I'm thinking the Ravens might be even more excited about a part of the late-season schedule that also offers the possibility of well-timed success. After Thanksgiving, with the days growing short and winter enveloping the sport, the Ravens will open December with consecutive games against the San Francisco 49ers, who went 4-12 a year ago; the Buffalo Bills, who went 6-10 a year ago; and the New York Jets, who went 4-12 a year ago. That could give them a chance to build momentum heading into those season-ending games against the Browns and Steelers.
Quick thoughts: Another year without a home game on Monday night means the Ravens have played just twice at home on Monday Night Football since John Harbaugh became their head coach … Playing in Miami in early September probably will be hot, hot, hot, and playing in Buffalo in December probably will be cold, cold, cold. Too bad those trips couldn't be reversed … It's amazing Terrell Suggs will be back in Baltimore for the Ravens' home opener even though he now plays for Arizona. Sounds like a script that Suggs, the well-known movie buff, would approve of … Five of the Ravens' 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, while six are against teams that amassed double-digit losses in 2018 … If anything about the schedule surprises me, it's that neither Ravens-Browns game is in prime time. I thought the networks would be all over Baker Mayfield vs. Lamar Jackson. Actually, an even bigger surprise is that alternating home-road setup, which is pretty remarkable. I'm guessing the Ravens would sign up for that every year.