The NFL has finally announced what we all have been waiting to hear since February 2: the 2014 regular season schedule. More importantly, we have collectively wondered when we will be playing each of the teams against which we were set up to match. Now that the schedule has been released, no longer shall we ponder when we will play or which games we will play on primetime. Instead, we now know:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7 – vs. Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 11 – vs. Steelers, 8:25 (CBS)
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21 – at Browns, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28 – vs. Panthers, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5 – at Colts, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12 – at Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19 – vs. Falcons, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26 – at Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2 – at Steelers, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9 – vs. Titans, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16 – BYE
Week 12: Monday, Nov. 24 – at Saints, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30 – vs. Chargers, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7 – at Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14 – vs. Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21 – at Texans, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28 – vs. Browns, 1 p.m.
At first glance, we see that the Ravens play three primetime games – Thursday night at home against the Steelers, Sunday night at Pittsburgh, and Monday night down in the Big Easy. Expect strong games for all three of these. The classic AFC North matchup between the Ravens and the Steelers is always a spectacle, especially looking at the track record of these games. Since Joe Flacco’s debut back in 2008, the Ravens are 6-8 against the Steelers with TEN of these fourteen games decided by three of fewer points. With regards to the New Orleans game, the team is 9-9 lifetime on Monday Night Football and 4-1 lifetime against the Saints, winning the last matchup by a score of 30-24. Coming out of a bye and playing on Monday night, it seems tough to think the Ravens are going to lose this game, especially with the Saints coming off of a game against the Bengals the week prior.
Noticeable in this schedule is the relative lateness of the team’s bye week. Baltimore’s week without football comes in week 11, the latest it has been since the 2001 season where the bye came in week 13. It’s going to be a difficult first half of the season up until then with the Ravens playing five of their six divisional games during this span. The only divisional game that falls out of this half is the season finale at home against Cleveland. In fact, the Ravens open their season with three divisional games, one against each of the other three teams in the division.
The Ravens have the 28th most challenging strength of schedule out of 32 teams; in other words, based on the numbers from last year, the Ravens have the fifth easiest schedule in the league this year. Judging by these numbers, fans can expect a big year out of the team. A 12-4 finish does not seem to be impossible this season. With this, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Ravens once again claim the divisional crown. Expect big things out of the team this year – stand by the Ravens as they look to reclaim their spot atop what seems to be the toughest division in football year after year. This is easily the year that the Ravens can begin their new streak of consecutive playoff appearances, which hopefully will not stop at five this time.