Baltimore Ravens 2014 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVApril 24, 2014

Baltimore Ravens 2014 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

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    The Baltimore Ravens went a disappointing 8-8 in 2013, just one season after winning the Super Bowl. The reasons were many, but the offense was the biggest culprit. With an offensive line that couldn't open holes in the run game, the Ravens had their lowest rushing total in franchise history. The line also struggled to protect quarterback Joe Flacco—he was sacked a career-high 48 times.

    This year, things could certainly be different. Flacco not only has tight end Dennis Pitta at full health, but he also has the services of veteran receiver Steve Smith to help him move the ball. The offensive line already looks to be in better shape, with Jeremy Zuttah replacing Gino Gradkowski at center and Eugene Monroe remaining at left tackle.

    Though many things are likely to change for the Ravens in the coming months—including, but not just limited to, next month's draft—Wednesday's release of the 2014 NFL schedule provides us an opportunity to make early predictions on how the Ravens' season will play out.

    Will they improve from 2013's 8-8 record? Could they win enough games to reach the postseason and contend for the Super Bowl yet again? Here are predictions for the Ravens' entire 2014 schedule.

Week 1: Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North last season with an 11-5 record, but one of those losses was a Week 7 20-17 overtime contest against the Ravens in Baltimore. This season, the game should be similarly as close, but it could have a different outcome.

    The Bengals are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Their run game is good, their offensive line is good, their defense is good and their receivers are good. The only question mark is their quarterback, Andy Dalton, who can often play as well as the rest of his team just as he can take them down. 

    But with Hue Jackson as their new offensive coordinator, Dalton's bad days will be better mitigated by a heavier dose of the run game. Granted, the Ravens defense wasn't easy to run against last year, giving up just 105.4 yards per game. The Bengals themselves never had more than 85 rushing yards against them in 2013 despite ranking in the top 10 in rushing attempts per game.

    The Bengals, however, aren't just going to run more in 2014—they are going to use the run more creatively. Giovani Bernard, in particular, will see more work. And the elusive, versatile running back will be the driving force to a Bengals win in Baltimore in the season opener. 


    Prediction: Bengals, 21-17

Week 2: Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 8:25 PM ET (Thursday Night Football)

    Network: NFL Network


    The Ravens' biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, come to town in Week 2, with both teams trying to regain postseason relevance and improve upon the 8-8 records they each finished with last season. 

    When the Ravens and Steelers meet, it's often expected it will be a hard-fought, defense-first and low-scoring contest. Last year's two meetings ended a bit higher in scoring than is typical of this narrative, with the Ravens falling 19-16 in Week 7 and winning 22-20 in Week 13.

    For this meeting, it will be more like the Ravens-Steelers battles that have typified the rivalry. It will be a game won in the trenches, with the sometimes-fragile offensive lines of both teams staving off the opposing pass rush and trying to open running lanes.

    Yardage totals are on the rise in the NFL, and they've been rising in this rivalry as well, but the Steelers and Ravens are due for an old-school style matchup. The Ravens will get the better of the Steelers in a lower-scoring game only because they'll make fewer mistakes in the comfort of their home field.


    Prediction: Ravens, 14-10 

Week 3: Ravens at Cleveland Browns

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Cleveland Browns could be an offense-poor team in 2014, but they'll probably be defense-rich, which may prove to be bad news for the Ravens when they travel to Cleveland in Week 3.

    The Browns have the core of last year's Buffalo Bills defensive coaching staff. Their head coach is Mike Pettine, who was the Bills' defensive coordinator, while former Buffalo linebackers coach Jim O'Neil is their coordinator. In 2013, the Bills defense led the league in tackles, ranked second in sacks and second in interceptions. They were in the top 10 in lowest yardage allowed.

    At the same time, the Ravens are coming off of a bad season for their offense. They were 25th in points per game, averaging 20 per contest. They ranked 29th in average yards per game and scored touchdowns on a mere 46.15 percent of their red-zone appearances.

    A better offensive line, a healthier group of running backs and the addition of wide receiver Steve Smith should raise these numbers in 2014, but it might not be a significant enough improvement to outplay Cleveland's defense. This could be one of Baltimore's rougher weeks of the season.


    Prediction: Browns, 13-7

Week 4: Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Carolina Panthers rode their stifling defense and Cam Newton's connection with Steve Smith to a playoff berth and the NFC South title in 2013. Things are a bit different this year, with Smith now on the Ravens and Newton coming off of ankle surgery.

    Some things won't change much, particularly the defense, which should be wreaking havoc on quarterbacks for yet another season. That's bad news for Joe Flacco, who completed only 48.1 percent of his passes under pressure in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was also sacked a career-high 48 times last season.

    If there are still even the slightest of cracks in Baltimore's offensive line when the Panthers come to town, that defense will exploit it. Pressure might be harder to come by where the Ravens are concerned, and this is because of Newton's ability to run the ball. He is not the type of quarterback the Ravens often face.

    What Carolina may lack offensively they more than make up for with their defense. The Ravens are not the same way; if Flacco is shut down, they won't be able to match the Panthers' defensive prowess. Week 4 could end with an ugly loss for the Ravens.


    Prediction: Panthers, 17-7

Week 5: Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Indianapolis Colts commanded the AFC South with an 11-5 record last year while notching wins against some of the league's most dominant teams. The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs all fell to the Colts, mainly because of Andrew Luck's quarterback skills—especially in the latter half of games.

    The Ravens travel to Indianapolis to take on the "giant killers" in Week 5, looking to slay a giant themselves. However, it appears there is practically no outsmarting third-year quarterback Luck. If the Super Bowl champion Seahawks defense couldn't get the better of him, the Ravens are likely in for a long day.

    Luck is not without his flaws—his accuracy under pressure is pretty poor, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and his deep passing suffered last year after Reggie Wayne suffered a knee injury. But he knows how to engineer drives and how to stay calm with his back against the wall. There may be nothing Baltimore's defense can do to rattle him.

    One man is not the team. And Baltimore's offense can certainly match Luck and Co. pass for pass, yard for yard. But if this game comes down to one play, or one drive, then Luck and the Colts get the edge.


    Prediction: Colts, 27-23

Week 6: Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned over their coaching and front-office staffs this offseason. Lovie Smith is now their head coach, and he has tapped a former Chicago Bear, Josh McCown, to be the starting quarterback.

    McCown had a very good 2013 stepping in for Jay Cutler, throwing 13 touchdowns to just one interception. But the magic may not continue with his new team. There are a lot of new faces in Tampa, and there are about to be more after next month's draft. It may take some time for Smith's vision to be properly executed on the field.

    At six weeks into the season, the Buccaneers may not have gotten everything together yet. The Ravens can take advantage of this by keeping things close on the road and using their collective experience to propel them to a win.


    Prediction: Ravens, 21-20

Week 7: Ravens vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: FOX


    The Atlanta Falcons were a surprising disappointment in 2013, going 4-12 a year after being just one play away from making the Super Bowl. Injuries—and a lack of serviceable depth—were mainly to blame, but unless so much misfortune strikes the team again, they should improve.

    Still, shaking off a four-win season isn't easy, even by Week 7 when the Falcons come to Baltimore. On top of that, they will be out of the comfort of their home dome. Weather is more likely to impact the Falcons negatively than the Ravens.

    The Falcons' biggest issue last year was on offense, specifically the line, much like the Ravens. However, the effect was even more disastrous for Atlanta, and it may not recover completely. Matt Ryan needs a comfortable pocket and proper timing to be effective, and the Ravens can easily exploit this and not allow much offense.

    Atlanta, on the other hand, might not do much to rattle Joe Flacco or stifle Baltimore's run game. There is almost a degree of rebuilding going on with the Falcons after they realized how shallow their roster truly was last year. That process could continue well into the 2014 season, which works to the Ravens' advantage when they meet in October.


    Prediction: Ravens, 31-17

Week 8: Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The thing about the Cincinnati Bengals is that they have many ways they can win games. The defense, the run game, the passing game, even special teams have been keys to their wins over the last three seasons, and when they work in concert, the team approaches being unbeatable.

    There is no stage this is better illustrated than on their home turf, where the Bengals lost exactly zero games in 2013. And with only a slightly different roster and just as much desire to again win the AFC North crown and (finally) win a playoff game, they'll just as ferociously defend their field in 2014.

    The Ravens have exhibited a similar ability to win by various means, but not recently. Their defense returned to being a strength in 2013, though not the strength it once was. The run game, which had helped quarterback Joe Flacco immensely in times of need, simply didn't work. The receiver pool was thin; it's gotten better with the addition of Steve Smith, but they don't have many homegrown playmakers.

    Going into Cincinnati and winning is thus not going to be an easy task for the Ravens this season. Even if they are significantly improved from 2013, the Bengals are still too many steps ahead. 


    Prediction: Bengals, 30-20

Week 9: Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM ET (Sunday Night Football)

    Network: NBC


    The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 9 ready to complete the sweep. But it won't be so easy. They've only done it twice in franchise history.

    The pressure of traveling to meet their biggest rival on the national stage is hard to overcome. The Ravens weren't able to accomplish it last year, with the Steelers winning 19-16. Both teams have undergone significant changes in the offseason, but they are still quite familiar with one another. 

    To defeat the Steelers means to rein in their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, and it's not an easy feat. Roethlisberger is large and elusive and thus he can play behind a bad offensive line and still make plays and help his team win. Where Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had his worst season in the NFL because of a subpar line, Roethlisberger can often work under similar conditions and take his team all the way to the playoffs.

    This will be the key to the Ravens' appearance in Pittsburgh this year. Both teams are coming off of a 2013 season rife with offensive line problems. It's just that the Steelers are often more impervious to those issues. The Steelers will simply be able to make more things happen offensively than the Ravens, with Baltimore carrying more of its 2013 line problems into 2014 than Pittsburgh.


    Prediction: Steelers, 20-13

Week 10: Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Tennessee Titans were thoroughly middle of the road in 2013. They were 18th in points per game, 22nd in total yardage, 14th in yards allowed to their opponents and 16th in points per game given up. 

    Defensively, the Ravens were similar, while on offense they struggled. Both sides of the ball should be improved this year, enough to rise above the middle of the pack, while it doesn't seem like the Titans will free themselves of mediocrity.

    Add into that the fact that the Titans have to go on the road to face the Ravens in Week 10, and it's not looking good for the visitors. Titans quarterback Jake Locker will be tested by Baltimore pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Without cornerback Alterraun Verner, Torrey Smith should be freed up to make big plays. 

    Granted, middling teams don't get that way by playing average football every week. There are games in which they will shine, just as there are games in which they will fall flat. But the former just doesn't seem likely for the Titans' trip to Baltimore this season.


    Prediction: Ravens, 20-10

Week 12: Ravens at New Orleans Saints

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    Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM ET (Monday Night Football)

    Network: ESPN


    The New Orleans Saints might be running out of time to make a push for the Super Bowl, with quarterback Drew Brees now 35 years old. That might make them a little desperate this year, but a desperate team is often dangerous, especially one playing on their home turf.

    For three straight seasons, Brees has passed for over 5,000 yards. Now, they possess a Rob Ryan-led defense that can match the explosiveness of the offense. And if New Orleans' defense cannot contain Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense, Baltimore could be drawn into a shootout, playing right into Brees' hands.

    The Saints didn't lose a game at home last year, either, and it's not a coincidence. Though no team is invincible, a visiting team leaving the Superdome victorious is a rare occurrence, and it will be hard for the Ravens to accomplish it. The Saints are like the Ravens, only turned up to 11. The national audience and late-season timing of this game will only further seal Baltimore's fate.


    Prediction: Saints, 35-26

Week 13: Ravens vs. San Diego Chargers

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The San Diego Chargers went 9-7 last year and won a playoff game thanks in part to quarterback Philip Rivers getting back to his old form behind a line that actually protected him. Add into that the fact the Chargers might very well be competing in the toughest division in the AFC, and there's a good chance this is a team destined for the postseason for a second consecutive year.

    Traveling east isn't easy for a West Coast team, especially in late November when the Baltimore weather could be poor. And while the Chargers may have revenge and 4th-and-29 on their minds, it may not be so easy.

    Both teams could have the playoffs in their sights by the time this game rolls around, but the Ravens may prove to be the hungrier and thus more dangerous squad. If their defense can throw Rivers off his game even slightly, this contest will be close enough for the Ravens to win.


    Prediction: Ravens, 27-23

Week 14: Ravens at Miami Dolphins

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    Like the Ravens, the Miami Dolphins went 8-8 last year, and like the Ravens, they were unpredictable every week. They were good—and sometimes brilliant—on defense, notching 42 sacks and 18 interceptions, and they only gave up 20.9 points per game. However, the offense was their Achilles' heel—they scored just 19.8 points per game of their own, on average.

    Miami can get the better of the Ravens in Week 14 by employing its defense to get in Joe Flacco's face. Flacco saw pressure on 35.6 percent of his dropbacks in 2013 and completed only 48.1 percent of his pressured passes, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    The Dolphins defense loves to take advantage of quarterbacks who display inaccuracy under pressure (see: Dalton, Andy in both 2012 and 2013). Flacco could be in for a rough day. Dalton had the benefit of one of the better pass-protecting lines when he faced the Dolphins and was still rattled, the result being two losses that he helped cause.

    The offensive line was a huge problem for the Ravens in 2013. This year, it should be improved, but it may not hold up enough to allow Flacco the time to make plays. It doesn't look like this will be a road win for the Ravens.


    Prediction: Dolphins, 23-13

Week 15: Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the midst of a very serious effort to turn their fortunes around, getting aggressive in free agency and likely planning on their choices in the upcoming draft to make a positive impact on their roster.

    It can work, but there's no guarantee that it will. One test will be on the road, against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15.

    The Ravens cannot underestimate the Jaguars, despite the team's recent years of struggle. The Jaguars have a strong defensive roster already, and their offense should be more effective than it was in 2013, when they averaged a league-worst 15.4 points per game. The Ravens didn't get caught by underdogs very often in 2013, which at least shows they aren't prone to being fatally overconfident.

    As long as Joe Flacco doesn't have one of his unpredictable bad weeks, the Ravens should be able to control the Jaguars in Week 15. The Jaguars are getting better, but they won't be good enough to travel to Baltimore and win.


    Prediction: Ravens, 20-13

Week 16: Ravens at Houston Texans

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Houston Texans won just two games in 2013 after two years of looking like they could soon reach the Super Bowl. As a result, they ditched head coach Gary Kubiak, who is now the Ravens' offensive coordinator, and quarterback Matt Schaub, who is now with the Oakland Raiders.

    This gives the Texans the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Who they choose with that selection could heavily define their 2014 season. Either way, the Texans have a lot of work to do to get significantly better than they were last season. Like the Atlanta Falcons, injuries to key players exposed a woeful lack of depth that they may not be able to completely address during the offseason.

    There are signs that the Texans may not have a major one-year turnaround as the Kansas City Chiefs did last season. Just the quarterback situation alone could be a liability. The Ravens can certainly come to town and look dominant, much as they did when they hosted the Texans in Week 3 last season and defeated them 30-9.

    Though playing at home has its advantages, the real advantage here goes to the Ravens. They have more experience, more depth and more talent at most positions. The Texans may not be a two-win team this year, but they won't win against Baltimore.


    Prediction: Ravens, 23-10

Week 17: Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

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    Kickoff Time: 1 PM ET

    Network: CBS


    The Cleveland Browns are a difficult team to pin down at this point in the year, with the draft ahead and a quarterback situation that has yet to be resolved. However, it's not hard to project where the team is headed in 2014.

    They have one of the league's most dynamic receivers in Josh Gordon, who can make plays regardless of (or, sometimes, despite) the quarterback throwing to him. Their new head coach and defensive coordinator come from the Buffalo Bills, who boasted one of the most impressive defenses in the league in 2013. Ben Tate is now their chief running back, guaranteeing the run game won't be an afterthought as it was last season.

    So, the key to a Ravens win against the Browns is to rattle the quarterback—who will either be a first-year player or the relatively inexperienced Brian Hoyer—and keep Gordon away from the football. They'll need to prepare for an aggressive pass rush and let the run game and tight end Dennis Pitta make meaningful plays.

    It's going to be a difficult matchup, despite the Browns' recent history of poor performances and their 4-12 finish in 2013. But the Ravens should be able to power past what Cleveland throws at them in Week 17 in what should be an ugly win to end the season.


    Prediction: Ravens, 13-10