Every year at about this time I provide a public service. I let you know how your Ravens will fare in each game of their upcoming season. This way, you can spend your Sundays working in the yard, or enjoying long weekends at the beach, or watching other games whose outcomes you don't already know.
OK, so I didn't do a great job last year. But who could've predicted weather delays in Denver and Chicago? Or a setback in Cincinnati despite picking off Andy Dalton four times? Or a loss to, gulp, Cleveland?
So, I'll admit, if you followed my advice in 2013, you lost your shirt. Keep in mind, you had that shirt, and many others, thanks to my perfect prognosticating in 2011 and a solid follow-up in 2012. (Of course, these picks are for entertainment purposes only, not to be used for illicit gambling no matter how tempted you are. Past performance does not guarantee future results, regardless of how stellar that past performance may have been.)
So, without further ado …
Week 1: Joe Flacco got overpaid last offseason, but only after phenomenal postseason success. The Bengals vastly overpaid Dalton after repeated playoff failures. He'll be feeling the heat all season, particularly in Week 1, on the road, against a much-improved Ravens pass rush. Ravens 23, Bengals 9.
Week 2: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell didn't know you could be charged with a DUI for being high. He also didn't know tough it would be to run against the revamped Baltimore defense. Ravens 16, Steelers 13.
Week 3: The NFL's two most talked-about suspensions come into full view as Ray Rice returns this week from a two-game suspension against a team missing its best player, Josh Gordon, for the whole season because of marijuana use. Without Gordon, Cleveland's season goes to pot. Ravens 26, Browns 14.
Week 4: That 4-0 preseason and 3-0 start has some Baltimore fans thinking about the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They should've been thinking about the 2014 Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton exposes the Baltimore secondary a bit. Panthers 33, Ravens 24.
Week 5: Just how did the Ravens go 8-8 last year and still draw such a tough early season schedule? Andrew Luck picks up where Newton left off. Colts 27, Ravens 24.
Week 6: The Buccaneers are much improved, but Doug Martin fantasy owners (like me) should sit him this week. Ravens 17, Bucs 10.
Week 7: It will always be an interesting sidebar when Flacco faces fellow Class of 2008 QB Matt Ryan. Flacco has been far superior in the playoffs, but both have been good, and both are good on this day. Flacco has the ball last. Ravens 35, Falcons 31.
Week 8: The Ravens repeat their Week 1 and 2 schedule, this time on the road. A pair of wins by the Ravens over their conference rivals would pretty much make the division theirs. Only the Bengals are too good to get swept. Bengals 24, Ravens 13.
Week 9: So much for that great start. After Big Ben and the Steelers pull out a typically low-scoring, ugly, down-to-the-wire home win, the AFC North is a muddled mess.Steelers 14, Ravens 13.
Week 10: Following two straight road divisional defeats, the Ravens come home and take out some anger on a Tennessee team that likes to run, but won't be able to this week. Ravens 41, Titans 13.
Week 11: The Ravens will neither win nor lose during their bye week, and that's the one prediction in this column sure to be correct.
Week 12: The Ravens went to the Superdome in February, 2013 and won Super Bowl XLVII. They went there in August and won a preseason game. None of that matters to Drew Brees, who sends the Ravens home with nothing but a few beads to show for their trip. Saints 34, Ravens 24.
Week 13: Phillip Rivers and the Chargers were surprisingly good in 2013. They'll be surprisingly bad in 2014. Ravens 33, Chargers 17.
Week 14: Knowing they have at least two "gimme" wins in the next three weeks and knowing a win at Miami this week will put them in the proverbial driver's seat for the division, they stall out. Dolphins 21, Ravens 10.
Week 15: The Jaguars wish this game could be played in London, the only place in the world anyone seems to care about them. It's a jolly old beatdown. Ravens 41, Jaguars 13.
Week 16: Gary Kubiak returns to Houston only to find the Texans are better off without him. They're the surprise team in the league, so it really isn't a surprise when they hand Baltimore yet another road loss. Texans 27, Ravens 17.
Week 17: Needing a win in the final week of the season to have a shot at the playoffs, Ravens fans are delighted to see a home game against Cleveland on the schedule. Not surprisingly, the Gordon-less Browns get — wait for it — smoked. Ravens 37, Browns 20.
So that's 9-7. Better than the 8-8 of 2013. Not as good as the double-digit win seasons John Harbaugh & Co. were used to before that.
Is it good enough to make the playoffs? To know that, I'd have to go through this exercise with 31 other teams. That's about as likely as Rice getting a standing ovation in the Dawg Pound or Flacco doing a standup routine on late-night TV.
Anyway, at least you know what's going to happen with the Ravens. And remember where you heard it. Unless, of course, it all turns out to be wrong. In that case, let's just forget this ever happened.