Expectations are high as the Ravens begin their 20th season in Baltimore on Sunday.
Having made the playoffs — and won a postseason game — in six of the last seven years, the Ravens simply expect to be playing football in January and 2015 is no different despite fair questions on each side of the ball.
These predictions aren’t an exact science, of course, but it’s a fun exercise to envision how Baltimore fares over the course of the season. The writer also reserves the right to adjust his weekly predictions at any point during the year based on injuries and other currently-unknown variables.
In other words, don’t take these premonitions too seriously and don’t bother keeping track over whether my Week 12 or Week 15 or Week 17 pick during the season matches what you see below. None of us really know what’s going to happen, and that’s what makes it fun, right?
Without further ado, here are my game-by-game predictions of how the Ravens’ 2015 season will play out:
Sunday, Sept. 13 at Denver Broncos – 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The Ravens may be be drawing the 39-year-old Peyton Manning at the wrong time, but the offense not being at its best against one of the NFL’s best defenses will be the difference in the opener.
Prediction: Denver 26, Baltimore 16
Sunday, Sept. 20 at Oakland Raiders – 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The arrivals of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack give the Raiders more hope than they’ve enjoyed in years, but this team still won’t be very good early in 2015.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Oakland 16
Sunday, Sept. 27 vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: After the long trip out west, the Ravens will be hungry to play in front of their home crowd and, more importantly, to exact some revenge on the Bengals for beating them in the 2014 opener.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 16
Thursday, Oct. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:25 p.m. (CBS/NFL Network)
Synopsis: After two straight years of Pittsburgh playing in Baltimore on a Thursday night, the Ravens return the favor and won’t quite be able to keep up with one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 27
Sunday, Oct. 11 vs. Cleveland Browns – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The Ravens will be coming off extra rest and Cleveland will be playing its second straight road game after a trip to San Diego the previous week, so this one could get ugly.
Prediction: Baltimore 34, Cleveland 13
Sunday, Oct. 18 at San Francisco 49ers – 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The 49ers still might have the talent to be tough at home, but ex-Ravens Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin won’t have enough help as Baltimore comes away with an ugly victory on the road.
Prediction: Baltimore 22, San Francisco 16
Monday, Oct. 26 at Arizona Cardinals – 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Synopsis: Making their first trip to Arizona since 2003, the Ravens will face a team that won’t be as good as it was a year ago, but a prime-time road game at the end of another long trip out west spells trouble.
Prediction: Arizona 26, Baltimore 17
Sunday, Nov. 1 vs. San Diego Chargers – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: Playing on a short week after a Monday night road game often signals danger, but the Ravens won’t allow Philip Rivers and San Diego to beat them in Baltimore for a second straight year.
Prediction: Baltimore 31, San Diego 23
Sunday, Nov. 8 — BYE
Overview: Considering the Ravens play five of their first seven on the road, you would have to think head coach John Harbaugh would be quite pleased with a 5-3 record midway through the season.
Sunday, Nov. 15 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: Jacksonville will be improved this year — especially as the season progresses — but the well-rested Ravens will handle their business with ease unlike last year’s closer-than-expected meeting.
Prediction: Baltimore 33, Jacksonville 16
Sunday, Nov. 22 vs. St. Louis Rams — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Synopsis: St. Louis has a tough defense, but there’s little reason to think Nick Foles and the Rams offense will pose much of a threat in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL.
Prediction: Baltimore 23, St. Louis 13
Monday, Nov. 30 at Cleveland Browns – 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Synopsis: While this game will likely serve as the Browns’ Super Bowl, the Ravens are prone to one or two clunkers on the road per season and this will be one of those nights in Cleveland.
Prediction: Cleveland 24, Baltimore 16
Sunday, Dec. 6 at Miami Dolphins – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The Ravens turned South Florida into M&T Bank Stadium South in each of the previous two years and will do it again in an important road victory to begin the final month of the season.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Miami 23
Sunday, Dec. 13 vs. Seattle Seahawks – 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Synopsis: This one will be hyped as a potential Super Bowl preview, but the defending NFC champions will use an exceptional defensive performance to hand the Ravens their only home defeat of 2015.
Prediction: Seattle 17, Baltimore 13
Sunday, Dec. 20 vs. Kansas City – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Synopsis: The Ravens haven’t lost to Kansas City in over a decade and Harbaugh will get the best of mentor Andy Reid in battle between two playoff contenders.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Kansas City 14
Sunday, Dec. 27 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Synopsis: The Pittsburgh defense will continue to struggle away from Heinz Field late in the season as the Ravens earn the season split over their AFC North rival in another close game.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Pittsburgh 21
Sunday, Jan. 3 at Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00 p.m. CBS)
Synopsis: In an AFC North title game, the Ravens will fall short to Cincinnati in their fourth straight loss at Paul Brown Stadium, forcing them to settle for a 10-6 record and the AFC’s No. 5 seed.
Prediction: Cincinnati 26, Baltimore 23
Wild Card Round at Cincinnati Bengals
Synopsis: Playing Cincinnati in consecutive weeks, the Ravens atone for their Week 17 loss by handing Andy Dalton and the Bengals a first-round playoff loss for the fifth consecutive year.
Prediction: Baltimore 26, Cincinnati 17
Divisional Round at Indianapolis Colts
Synopsis: The Ravens will give the No. 1 seed in the AFC everything it can handle, but it will be Andrew Luck’s time and Baltimore loses a nail-biter in the closing seconds.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Baltimore 23