Ravens Game-By-Game Predictions
Can you imagine the excitement around town if the Ravens head into their Week 8 bye with a 6-1 record?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley published his game-by-game predictions after the 2016 schedule was unveiled, and that's exactly what he envisions. The Ravens only drop one game to the Oakland Raiders before the bye.
That's the type of fast start the Ravens will need as they open the 2016 schedule with six of the first seven games against opponents who missed the playoffs last year. Then, after the bye week, things really start to heat up with five of the last nine games against AFC North division rivals and a brutal final four-week stretch.
That near perfect start would give Baltimore a big enough cushion to absorb Hensley's predicted losses in five of the final nine contests, including to the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice), Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots.
That totals a 10-6 record, which is usually enough to advance to the postseason.
Below are Hensley's predictions:
Week 1: vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Welcome home Rex Ryan, Tyrod Taylor and Ed Reed. Ryan has never beaten his former team, going 0-3 against Baltimore since leaving in 2009.
Result: Win, 1-0
Week 2: at Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Whether it's a freshly drafted quarterback or Robert Griffin III, Cleveland should have somebody under center learning on the fly. Enjoy, Terrell Suggs.
Result: Win, 2-0
Week 3: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Be careful. The Ravens were predicted to win this matchup last year, but with the help of a blown call by the refs, the Jags stole the victory.
Result: Win, 3-0
Week 4: vs. Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Be careful redux. The Raiders are 0-5 all-time in Baltimore, but they're also one of the up-and-coming teams with quarterback Derek Carr leading the way. It will be the Ravens' first battle against Kelechi Osemele, who left via free agency for a whole lot of money.
Result: Loss, 3-1
Week 5: vs. Washington Redskins (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Washington is the only team among the Ravens' first seven opponents to make the playoffs last year with a 9-7 record. But, as Hensley points out, the last time the Redskins had back-to-back winning seasons was in 1996-97.
Result: Win, 4-1
Week 6: at New York Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: The Giants spent nearly $200 million beefing up their defense, but quarterback Eli Manning has had his worst passer rating against the Ravens. This will be the first of back-to-back games at MetLife Stadium.
Result: Win, 5-1
Week 7: at New York Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: The Ravens have won eight-straight games against the Jets, and Gino Smith is looking like the starting quarterback if New York can't re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Result: Win, 6-1
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Baltimore swept Pittsburgh last year, and Hensley sees the Steelers returning the favor with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. This marks the second home loss of the season.
Result: Loss, 6-2
Week 10: vs. Cleveland Browns (Thursday, 8:25 p.m.)
Note: This is the only primetime game the Ravens are scheduled to host this season, and the Ravens are 5-0 in primetime against the Browns.
Result: Win, 7-2
Week 11: at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: The first and only time the Ravens travel outside the Eastern Time zone and they drop a game to the Cowboys with quarterback Tony Romo presumably healthy.
Result: Loss, 7-3
Week 12: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: Baltimore has to wait a loooong 12 weeks before getting a rematch with the Bengals, who have won the last five straight meetings. The Ravens defense must figure out a way to slow receiver A.J. Green, and Hensley sees that happening this time with a healthier Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle in the backfield.
Result: Win, 8-3
Week 13: vs. Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: The last time Miami won in Baltimore was in 1997.
Result: Win, 9-3
Week 14: at New England Patriots (Monday, 8:30 p.m.)
Note: By this time, it will have been nearly two years since the Patriots overcame two 14-point deficits in the 2014 divisional playoff game to defeat the Ravens. And of course the Ravens' only Monday night game this year is in Foxboro.
Result: Loss, 9-4
Week 15: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Note: The Eagles have uncertainty at the quarterback position with a drafted rookie, Sam Bradford or Chase Daniel likely to be the starter. This is the Ravens' last home game of the season, and last win of the regular season too, if Hensley is correct.
Result: Win, 10-4
Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Christmas, 4:30 p.m.)
Note: The Ravens would love nothing more than to give the city of Pittsburgh a lump of coal for Christmas, but will it be the other way around? The AFC North title could be on the line.
Result: Loss, 10-5
Week 17: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, New Year's Day, 1 p.m.)
Note: For the fifth time in six years, the Ravens will finish their regular season in Cincy. That's just messed up, schedule makers.
Loss: Loss, 10-6
Schedule Complaint Department
Compared to last year, this season's schedule stacks up quite nicely. No crazy travel, no three-game road stretches, a nice bye week.
But every team's fans are going to have complaints about their schedule, and The Flock is no different. Here are two, and feel free to add your own below:
1) Why, oh why, can't the Ravens host Monday Night Football? Baltimore has played 10 MNF games on the road and just one at home since John Harbaugh arrived in 2008. Oh, and this is the first time since 2006 that the Ravens and Steelers haven't played in primetime. They do play on Christmas, though.
"The Ravens have complained about their lack of Monday night home games for years, and that won't change in 2016," wrote CSNMidatlantic.com's Clifton Brown.
2) I get that a Ravens-Bengals rivalry finish with the division potentially on the line is exciting, but what does the league have against letting that play out in Baltimore?
"This] has become a [cruel joke," wrote Hensley.
Dennis Pitta's Contract Numbers Are In
The Ravens and tight end Dennis Pitta agreed to reduce his base salary from $5 million to $1 million, according to the NFL Players Association's website. He can earn that money back via incentives, but the details of that structure were not revealed.
This is exactly what Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland predicted when the restructure was initially reported.
This means that the Ravens will save $4 million against the salary cap. They would have saved $5 million had they released Pitta with a post-June 1 designation. So, for just $1 million more, Baltimore gets another look at one of the key weapons of Super Bowl XLVII to determine whether he can play this season.
And if doctors don't clear him to play, they can still release him for the same $5 million in savings.
That is what you call a win-win.
Laremy Tunsil Or Elite Defender Now A Legitimate Possibility At No. 6
Are we in a Kevin Costner movie?
Seriously, I'm not sure Costner in the movie "Draft Day" would have given as much as the Rams did for the top pick (No. 15, No. 43, No. 45, No. 76, first-round pick in 2017 and a third-round pick in 2017). But, they did and the Ravens stand to benefit.
With the trade, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora says it's now "virtually certain" two quarterbacks will be taken with the top two picks.
If he's correct, there would be a legitimate chance for the Ravens to get the top tackle in the draft or an elite defender. At least two of the following would be on the board when the Ravens are on the clock:
Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil
Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey
Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa
UCLA middle linebacker Myles Jack
Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner
"All of those players would fill significant needs for the Ravens and make it very difficult for them to trade back," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.