I suppose this is the way the NFL wants it in order to have some parity, but wow, this is brutal.
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will face plenty of hurdles via their schedule in their quest to repeat in 2013. Granted, the gauntlet they will be asked to run will make for plenty of entertaining matchups for NFL fans. That said, when you look at it from the perspective of a team who who just lost two of the best players in the history of the franchise as well as the team’s leading receiver and one of the best young passer rushers in the league, I’d call it anything but entertaining.
For starters, Baltimore will play Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers this season. If you were asked to list the names of five guys you’d like to avoid during the regular season, I bet those three are one your list. To make matters worse, the game against Manning is on opening night — in Denver — when it should have been in Baltimore.
Then you have the matter of preparing for six of the NFL’s top ten defenses from a season ago. Remember all of those millions Flacco got in the offseason? He’ll get the chance to prove his worth against the Broncos, Bears, Texans, Jets and two games each against the Steelers and Bengals.
Speaking of a season ago, the Ravens will play games seven games against playoff teams from the 2012 season. They lost three games to those teams alone last year.
Of the nine games they’ll play against teams that did not make the postseason last year, six of those are on the road. None of those will be easy, as Buffalo, Miami and Cleveland are all expected to show improvement from last season. The Bears are tough to beat at home and the Steelers are quite simply Baltimore’s toughest rival. The most intriguing of these games is a Monday night contest in Week 15 against the Detroit Lions. The Lions will be loaded on offense and tend to put on quite a show when they play on national TV at home. Simply put, anything could happen in that one.
Baltimore does have a few things in their favor as the 2013 season approaches. For starters, Joe Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last six starts in Jim Caldwell’s newly installed offense. Even though they lost a lot of veteran leadership, they are younger and in my opinion, faster on both sides of the ball. The emergence of Bernard Pierce at running back gives the Ravens a more complete rushing attack, while Dennis Pitta continues to rise up the ranks of the elite tight ends in the league.
One thing is for certain, Baltimore’s championship mettle will be tested in 2013. I think they are up to the challenge and barring injury, should again make the playoffs. Once that happens, they’ll be ready for what’s ahead of them after successfully navigating such a daunting regular season schedule.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 3, 2013