BY BRANDON STARK
Featured photo: Baltimore Ravens logo. TheAOSN.com
The Ravens are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Browns this past Sunday, with Baltimore’s record falling to 3-2. Both head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco are in the hot seat, with their futures likely depending on whether the Ravens can make the playoffs this year.
Since winning Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens have missed the playoffs four out of the past five years. Despite this stretch, the Ravens will still make the playoffs this year. The team’s remaining schedule provides a path to that playoff spot.
The Tennessee Titans are next up on the schedule for Baltimore. Coming off of this embarrassing loss, the Ravens will rebound in a big way and defeat the Titans, improving their record to 4-2.
Drew Brees and the Saints head to Baltimore afterwards. Brees has defeated every team in the NFL except for the Ravens in his illustrious career. Along with having a chance at this, Brees also needs one more passing touchdown to reach 500 for his career. With Brees chasing history, a talented running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram and the game coming off a bye week, the Saints will win this game, dropping Baltimore’s record to 4-3.
The Ravens then head down to Charlotte to face the Panthers. Based on their early successes this season, Baltimore’s defense will keep quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense at bay as the Ravens find a way to defeat the Panthers to improve to 5-3.
Baltimore battles with divisional rival Pittsburgh in the following week. With the Le’Veon Bell situation and inconsistent play so far this year, the Steelers just do not feel like they will be a playoff threat to the Ravens this year. Add in the Ravens’ strong defense to the mix and Baltimore is looking at another victory.
As the Ravens head into their bye week, the team holds 6-3 record in the standings.
Back on the gridiron, Baltimore’s first opponent is Cincinnati. There’s bad blood between these two teams and this match-up could go either way in a close battle. The Ravens have had their problems defeating the Bengals in recent years, so Cincinnati will take this one. Baltimore falls to 6-4.
Oakland is a very inconsistent team this year. That trend will continue when the Raiders meet the Ravens, who easily will to improve to 7-4 on the season.
Next up are the Atlanta Falcons, who have had a terrible record vs. the American Football Conference at home since 2013: 1-10. With an inconsistent offense and banged-up defense, Atlanta will continue their current trend against Baltimore, so the Ravens should pretty easily win this game, improving to 8-4.
A date with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium is the next stop for Baltimore. If the Jags defense could not stop Mahomes, then the Ravens surely cannot either. Kansas City should win fairly easily over Baltimore with their high-powered offense.
Baltimore will look to rebound when they head home to take on Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers got off to a hot start early on in the season but have since fizzled out. Tampa Bay’s early spark is more than likely gone after their offense defeated the Eagles and Saints early on. Ravens should win easily, improving to 9-5 on the year.
Ravens then head out to Los Angeles for a match-up with the Chargers. The last time the Ravens faced the Chargers on the road, Baltimore converted a fourth down and 29 late in the game to set up a game-tying field goal. Ravens went on to win 16-13.
The Ravens will not be as lucky this year as the Chargers will defeat Baltimore with their high-powered offense.
Finally, Baltimore faces Cleveland at home for week 17. The last time these two teams faced off in week 17 was also in Baltimore in 2014, which the Ravens won to punch their postseason ticket. Ravens will avenge their week 5 loss, defeating Cleveland to advance to the postseason with a 10-6 record.
Overall, the Ravens will be the third seed at best and the sixth seed at worst, depending on the other AFC teams. Only Cincinnati and Baltimore can win the AFC North, unless Pittsburgh finally finds a way to get back into the race. In the Wild Card race, only the Chargers, Titans and Ravens really are threats with the possibility that the Dolphins could make a run.