Pundit Says Ravens Have Second-Easiest Schedule; More Takeaways From 2022 Schedule
We all know there's no such thing as an easy game in the NFL, but there are some schedules that appear to be less challenging than others.
After the release of the 2022 NFL schedule last night, NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman determined the top 10 most favorable schedules by taking into account factors such as homestands, travel, player availability, and weather.
The Ravens came in at No. 2.
"The AFC North teams play the squads from the AFC East and NFC South, two top-heavy divisions crawling with unknowns, this season. For the Ravens, who finished last in the North in 2021, the crop of opponents is even more mediocre," Bergman wrote. "After missing the tail end of last season, Lamar Jackson has a chance to lead the team to a strong start while playing the entire AFC East in their first four weeks, essentially ramping up (Jets, Dolphins, Patriots) to the mighty Bills in Week 4.
"Two home games against division opponents (Bengals, Browns), a visit to the Giants and two prime-time road games against the NFC South's best (Bucs on Thursday night in Week 8, Saints on Monday night in Week 9) await them afterward before a Week 10 bye. With fewer prime-time games on the 2022 slate compared to those of recent years, the Ravens could fly under the radar into the second half of their schedule (starting with the Panthers and Jaguars) and make a run back to the postseason."
That all sounds good. However, I think Bergman could be underestimating the AFC East. The Dolphins made a big splash this offseason and could be a dangerous team. The Jets figure to be improved with a young, talented roster and the Patriots are always tough. Plus, the games against New York and New England are the home openers for both.
On a side note, the Ravens' division rivals all landed on NFL.com’s Nick Shook’s top 10 most difficult schedules: Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 1), Cleveland Browns (No. 9) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 10).
Here's a sample of what else pundits are saying about the Ravens' schedule:
The Ravens will have to prove they can win away from home – and stay healthy – late in the season.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "For the third straight year, Baltimore plays three AFC North road games in December and January. It's the first time this has happened since the 2002 division realignment. The Ravens have played 11 road division games in December and January since 2016 (tied for the most in the NFL), going 4-7 (3-2 with Jackson as their starter)."
The Ravens' loaded secondary has tough matchups in Weeks 4 and 5.
NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha: "The Ravens are excited to have All-Pro cornerbacks returning from injuries (Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters), a free-agent acquisition at one safety spot (Marcus Williams) and a first-round pick at the other (Kyle Hamilton). They'll be tested early in October with back-to-back games against the Bills and Bengals. Buffalo's Josh Allen will be a trendy MVP favorite, while Cincinnati's Joe Burrow torched the depleted Ravens defense twice in 2021."
The Sunday night home game against the Bengals in Week 5 is one of the top 5 prime-time games of the season.
NFL.com’s Adam Schein: "This one just oozes fun. Joe Burrow brings sensational swagger to every field he takes. And fresh off the run to the Super Bowl, the bar is rightly raised for more greatness. Flanked by Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, Burrow should lead one of the league's most explosive offenses in 2022. Especially after the significant work Cincy did in the offseason to upgrade Burrow's protection, snagging OT La'el Collins, OG Alex Cappa and C Ted Karras in free agency.
"Of course, Lamar Jackson is always must-see TV. Jackson vs. Burrow is why you love football: Two highly confident 25-year-olds with two distinctly different styles duking it out under the Sunday night lights. The Ravens were snakebit last year with an unprecedented rash of injuries. It's honestly kind of impressive that they even flirted with a winning record. Don't sleep on John Harbaugh's group. This divisional rivalry has real hate, and it's awesome."
The Thursday night game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 is the hardest game on the schedule.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer: "Remember when quarterback Tom Brady was retired and Bruce Arians was still head coach? Every opponent on the Buccaneers' schedule would've preferred that arrangement in 2022. Despite a string of injuries last season, Tampa Bay lost just one game at home and entered the playoffs with a share of the NFL's best record. Tight end Rob Gronkowski's future in football is still uncertain, but the ageless Brady led the league in passing yards last season and will have seven Pro Bowl teammates returning. It's an ideal setup for defensive coordinator turned coach Todd Bowles, and the Ravens have a short week to prepare for their 'Thursday Night Football' road trip."
The Week 17 game against the Carolina Panthers at home is the easiest game on the schedule.
Shaffer: "The Panthers have playmakers at every level of their defense (defensive end Brian Burns, weak-side linebacker Shaq Thompson and safety Jeremy Chinn); a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver (D.J. Moore); and, when healthy, maybe the NFL's best running back (Christian McCaffrey). They also have one of the NFL's worst starting quarterbacks and offensive lines. Sam Darnold finished 29th in the league in QBR last year, and top pick Ikem Ekwonu can provide only so much cover up front."
One game the Ravens can't afford to lose: at Giants, Week 6
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The four-game stretch ahead of their matchup with the Giants features contests against the Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Bengals, all viewed as AFC playoff contenders. The three-game stretch after the trip to MetLife Stadium includes a matchup with the Browns and prime-time road games against the Buccaneers and Saints. If the Ravens don't take care of business against the Giants, they could head into their Week 10 bye in a deep hole. The Giants won't be a pushover and you know that Don 'Wink' Martindale, a longtime Ravens assistant, will have his defense ready to face his former team."
Ravens will go 10-7, finish second in the AFC North behind the Bengals
Zrebiec: "My answer might be more optimistic in late August, but the Ravens right now are depending on so many players coming back from 2021 season-ending injuries. That list includes Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Ronnie Stanley, Nick Boyle, Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Until they are back on the field practicing on a regular basis and until they show that they've regained their pre-injury form, it's easy to have skepticism about the team. The lack of depth at wide receiver, cornerback and edge rusher are hard to overlook. Still, this is a talented and well-coached team and in Jackson, Baltimore has one of the league's most dynamic players."
Bold prediction: Ravens will win the AFC North
Hensley: "The Ravens win the AFC North to become the NFL's latest team to go from last place to first. This has happened in 17 of the last 19 seasons, and the Ravens are in a great position to continue this trend. Baltimore gets back six starters who suffered season-ending injuries last year, along with a healthy and motivated Jackson, who is entering his fifth-year option. That's a major boost to a Ravens team that lost five games by three points or fewer last season, including a one-point defeat to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams."
Report: Ravens Talked With Eagles About Trading Chuck Clark During Draft; Jalen Reagor Discussed
The latest news regarding safety Chuck Clark potentially being on the trade block is that the Ravens reportedly talked with the Philadelphia Eagles about dealing Clark during the draft.
"The Ravens were trying to trade Chuck Clark during the draft and they talked to the Eagles," Adam Caplan of the “Inside the Birds” podcast said. "Our understanding, and it still is, that they were not interested in Chuck Clark at that point."
Caplan said Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor was mentioned during the talks.
"We were also told that Reagor's name came up. There was no offer," Caplan said. "The Ravens definitely, from multiple sources, had had interest in Reagor during the  draft. Reagor's name came up, but there was no offer."
The Ravens selecting Hamilton in the first round, combined with their signing of Williams earlier in the offseason, has raised questions about Clark's future in Baltimore. Baltimore is likely looking to add a wide receiver after trading Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for a first-round pick.
Reagor, the 21st overall pick in 2020, has had a disappointing start to his career in Philadelphia. He has 64 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns in 28 games.
Marcus Peters Says He's 'Going in Right Direction' in Recovery from ACL Tear
Peters spoke with Zrebiec and gave a positive report on his progress after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.