The Baltimore Ravens are entering the 2023 season with heightened expectations after their 10-7 season that finished with a wildcard loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
With Lamar Jackson back healthy at quarterback and the wide receiver additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Zay Flowers, Ravens fans have hope for a much more successful season. A reinvigorated offense paired with their strong defense could make Baltimore a sleeping giant in the AFC.
Just how strong the competition will be, however, depends on who you ask. PFF lists the Ravens schedule as the eighth easiest in the league based on their metrics, while Sharp Football Analysis ranks it as the 12th hardest, based on projected win totals from sportsbooks in Maryland and across the country.
Here’s how I see it, ranking their games from easiest (17) to toughest (1).
17. Week 1 vs Houston Texans
The Ravens defense will have a great chance to begin the season on the right foot when they attack a Houston Texans team that will be starting a rookie at quarterback in C.J. Stroud despite clear issues on their offensive line.
The Texans won just three games last year and Baltimore is at home. There is no excuse to drop what should be the easiest game of the year for the Ravens.
16. Week 8 at Arizona Cardinals
Not only will the Ravens battle with the Cardinals be the easiest road game in 2023, but it is also one of the least worrisome games of the season.
The Cardinals are rebuilding around Kyler Murray at quarterback, but since Murray tore his ACL on Dec. 12 of last year, Arizona has been stuck in mud. There is no indication when Murray could return and, to make matters worse, Arizona is being led by a first-year head coach and a flawed roster. It is not hard to imagine their impending struggles.
The Ravens are simply better than the Cardinals regardless of if Murray returns in time for the matchup. Baltimore has no business dropping this game.
15. Week 14 vs Los Angeles Rams
Even with all the talent lost and injuries sustained, it seems strange to put the Rams so low on this list, but there are clear worries for a Los Angeles team that won the Super Bowl in 2021.
First, the Ravens are coming off a bye week which will give them plenty of time to prepare. Secondly, if things do go awry in the City of Angels, the Rams could be tanking for a top pick by Week 14. To round out the issues for Los Angeles, just look at what the roster has gone through the past couple years.
Matthew Stafford is not getting any younger and will have to find a way to succeed behind a less than ideal offensive line. Star receiver Cooper Kupp missed quite a bit of time last year with ankle issues and the same goes for defensive lineman Aaron Donald. To compound those issue, linebackers Bobby Wagner and Leonard Floyd were cut from the team and cornerback Jalen Ramsey was traded. The roster is significantly thinner than in years past which opens up the Rams for potential disaster in 2023.
14. Week 3 vs Indianapolis Colts
Taking on a rookie quarterback behind a lackluster offensive line is usually a recipe for success; especially for the Ravens who have a strong defense to rely on. That will be true Week 2 against the Colts, but the game might be much more fun than that sounds.
The Colts drafted quarterback Anthony Richardson who might be the most athletic quarterback prospect of all time. Watching Richardson and Jackson battle it out could make what should be an easy win into a much more exciting affair.
13. Week 6 vs Tennessee Titans (in London)
Technically this is a home game for the Ravens but flying 3,640 miles from Maryland to London makes that designation useless. By all accounts, this is a road game for both the Ravens and Titans.
The Titans finished last season with a 7-10 record, but the team still has a lot to figure out. Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry are not getting any younger, but if Tennessee is to succeed this season, huge performances from both will be required. Plus, their defense fell off a cliff toward the end of last season.
The only time the Ravens played in London was in 2017 against the Jaguars who demolished Baltimore 44-7. Thankfully for Ravens fans, there are expectations for a better outcome this time.
12. Week 9 vs Seattle Seahawks
For the rest of the list, each of these teams at bare minimum will be a difficult team to overcome, even if the Ravens are better on paper, and that begins with the Seahawks traveling to Baltimore in Week 9.
Despite trading away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks managed to finish the 2022 season with a 9-8 record and sneak into the playoffs. Geno Smith was better than expected and the Seattle wide receiver group with D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and first round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba is one of the best in the league. If Smith continues to surprise those who counted him out, Seattle could be a tough team to overcome even if the Ravens are at home.
11. Week 10 vs Cleveland Browns
The Browns roster is better than some might think, but until they figure out the quarterback situation, it does not really matter.
Deshaun Watson had arguably his worst season in the NFL in limited action in 2022, and was massively outplayed by backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett who almost upset the Ravens last year in comeback fashion.
If Watson improves, the Browns are going to be tough, but if he continues to slip, expect the Ravens defense to have a field day.
10. Week 7 vs Detroit Lions
Not only are the Lions a formidable group that could win their division this year after finishing 2022 with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games, but the Ravens have to come back from London via a seven-hour plane ride before preparing to host Detroit.
The Lions have the explosive offense to keep up with the Ravens. Now, with the additions of cornerback Cameron Sutton, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and the first round draft pick of linebacker Jack Campbell, Detroit hopes they have the defense to not just keep up but pull ahead.
9. Week 4 at Cleveland Browns
The Ravens play three-straight road games starting Week 4 with a division battle against the Browns.
Baltimore lost in Cleveland 13-3 last season, but Jackson was out making the results negligible when analyzing the upcoming matchup. Either way, the Ravens will have a battle on their hands. Cleveland is not expected to be world beaters, but they have the quickness on defense and the running game on offense to make life difficult for the Ravens and anyone else.
8. Week 7 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens home matchup against their division rivals in the Steelers comes in Week 7, just two weeks after taking on the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Really, both matchups are going to be tough even if the Ravens are a better team on paper. For this list, the Ravens home game against the Steelers is being considered easier than their road matchup, but the second matchup of the season against the same opponent is always tougher than the first.
The Ravens should win this game, but beating a division rival twice in three weeks is no walk in the park.
7. Week 5 at Pittsburgh Steelers
The second game in the Raven’s three-game road trip is in Pittsburgh against their division rivals in the Steelers.
The Ravens are likely better than the Steelers, but that does not mean their battle will be an easy win. Seven of the last eight games played in Pittsburgh between these two teams have been decided by five points or less. Expect this game to be an all-out brawl between two long-time rivals.
6. Week 12 at Los Angeles Chargers
The final four road games on this list feature significantly more talented rosters and a higher level of star power. That shift begins with Justin Herbert and the Chargers in Week 12. Injuries left the Chargers on the outside looking in at the playoffs, but with a healthier roster and the addition of rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston, they could be much more menacing.
The Ravens will have more time to prepare for this matchup after playing in Thursday Night Football the week prior. Additionally, the Chargers home advantage is not as helpful playing in Los Angeles. Regardless, Herbert and the Chargers are going to be a tough hurdle to overcome.
5. Week 15 at Jacksonville Jaguars
The last time Jackson played a full game for the Ravens was in Jacksonville last season. That game ended in a one-point road loss.
Trevor Lawrence showed why he could be a star quarterback in that game. He led the Jaguars on two fourth-quarter comebacks including a final minute touchdown and two-point conversion to steal the victory from Baltimore. With Calvin Ridley now reinstated after his suspension, the Jaguars offense is poised to take another leap forward.
Jackson and the Ravens will want revenge for their loss last season and will be able to attack a sub-par Jacksonville defense to do so. This could be an explosive and high scoring Sunday Night Football in Jacksonville with lots of stakes late in the season.
4. Week 11 vs Cincinnati Bengals
There is no simple way to overcome the Bengals who are being led by superstar quarterback Joe Burrow, but it is easier at home than it is on the road.
Burrow is rapidly becoming one of the game’s best quarterbacks and is even drawing comparisons to Joe Montana. His success paired with a strong Cincinnati defense has provided an incredibly strong foundation for the Bengals, who ousted the Ravens in the wildcard game last season.
While the battle in Baltimore should be easier than taking on the Bengals at home, both matchups are going to be extremely difficult.
3. Week 2 at Cincinnati Bengals
The second-toughest road game comes during the second week of the season when the Ravens travel to Ohio to take on the Bengals.
Overcoming a quarterback of Burrow’s caliber is no easy feat, but doing so against such a creative Bengals defense while on the road makes the task even tougher. That is how the Bengals were able to win all but one game at home last season on their way to a 12-4 record before losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
It is tough for a game so early in the season to carry a heavy weight, but the Bengals ended the Ravens season last year. There is no denying this Baltimore team will have extra motivation to go into Cincinnati and steal a win.
2. Week 17 vs Miami Dolphins
The stakes in Week 17 could be extremely high, but that is worrisome for a Ravens team that has nightmares from their previous battles with the Dolphins.
Between quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his trio of speedsters in wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as well as rookie halfback Devon Achane, the Dolphins offense is explosive. To bolster their defense, Miami traded for Jalen Ramsey and added Vic Fangio to the coaching staff.
Baltimore lost a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter last year against the Dolphins. The year prior, Jackson was running for his life as the Miami defense discombobulated the Ravens offense. In 2019, the Ravens were embarrassed on the first game of the season by the Dolphins.
If Baltimore wants to secure their best playoff positioning and overcome their past issues, they must find a way past the Dolphins.
1. Week 16 at San Francisco 49ers
Playing the 49ers in San Francisco on Christmas for Monday Night Football is not the gift the Ravens were hoping for.
Sure, the 49ers are still trying to figure out how Brock Purdy will bounce back from offseason elbow surgery, but seemingly every other position is stacked with star players. Between running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the offense is stacked top to bottom. The defense is no different with defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Fred Warner, and safety Talanoa Hufanga.
To make matters worse for Baltimore, Jackson has never played a road game in San Francisco and there could be massive postseason implications for both teams. The stakes will not get much higher than this during the Ravens regular season.