The Ravens’ 2021 schedule is out, and the takes are rolling in.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, with three prime-time games over the season’s first five weeks and an NFL-high five overall, the Ravens will be one of the league’s most talked-about teams this fall. And with tantalizing matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers ahead, their 2021 slate won’t lack for star power, either.
Need help sorting through all 18 weeks? The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston, Childs Walker, Jonas Shaffer, Daniel Oyefusi and C.J. Doon addressed some of the biggest questions about the Ravens’ schedule, including the toughest matchup, and offer a final record prediction (see full schedule below).
Which game is the toughest matchup?
C.J. Doon, editor: The Week 2 prime-time game against the Chiefs sticks out like a sore thumb, but how about the Week 17 matchup against the Rams? Both teams could be fighting for the top seed and a first-round bye in their respective conferences, which means resting starters might not be an option. New Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford currently has better NFL Most Valuable Player odds than Lamar Jackson, and L.A. is tied with the Ravens at 12-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. This should be a heavyweight fight.
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: Week 2 vs. the Chiefs is the predictable answer, but when a team has struggled against a single opponent as much as the Ravens have against Kansas City over the past three seasons, it’s the only answer. With another early-season prime-time matchup, a loss could once again hover over the Ravens for the rest of the season. A win, on the other hand, could be a very premature sign that things might be different this year.
Mike Preston, columnist: It has to be against Kansas City, because the Chiefs have been to two straight Super Bowls, winning one, and kept most of their team intact, including an improved offensive line.
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: My bank account versus the siren song of Las Vegas casinos. (Just kidding. Kind of.) The Chiefs, after rebuilding their offensive line this offseason, should be better in Week 18 than they’ll be in Week 2. That could be good news or bad news for the Ravens. Regardless of how they handle Kansas City’s “kryptonite,” watch out for the Packers in Week 15. If Aaron Rodgers is back on speaking terms with general manager Brian Gutekunst by then, Green Bay should be in a good spot. Shailene Woodley’s husband hasn’t played the Ravens in a while — not since 2013.
Childs Walker, reporter: The early-season marquee matchups with the Chiefs have not gone well, but the real briar patch in this schedule comes in weeks 12 to 15, with three straight divisional slugfests followed by the Packers. Let’s call that Week 14 matchup at Cleveland the toughest on a tough calendar.
Which game is the most interesting?
C.J. Doon, editor: It has to be the Week 15 matchup against the visiting Packers. If Rodgers retires or is traded to another team before the season, this game obviously loses its appeal. (Sorry, Jordan Love.) But the first matchup between the two most recent MVP winners will be fun to watch, especially so late in the season.
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: Week 14 at the Cleveland Browns. It’s the tougher of two matchups with Cleveland over a three-week span. The Ravens will be playing their third straight divisional game and coming off a road meeting with the Steelers. It’ll be the second straight game against the Ravens for the Browns, who will be returning from a bye week. Cleveland has for so long felt like the little brother of the AFC North. It will be as hyped as ever to prove it’s a new day in the division.
Mike Preston, columnist: The Dolphins improved last year and got some offensive help in the offseason. They get the Ravens at home on a short week during Week 10.
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: The two-games-in-three-weeks series with Cleveland. The Ravens and Browns are both Super Bowl contenders. They’re the AFC North’s top two teams. Now just imagine the subplots if either Jackson or Baker Mayfield has signed a contract extension before they finally meet. You’ve got yourself a matchup with financial intrigue, playoff race implications and over-the-top narratives in play.
Childs Walker, reporter: The Week 10 road matchup with the Dolphins should give us a fascinating midseason glimpse at two would-be contenders trying to take the next step. Is Miami a touch overhyped, or is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ready to lift a well-rounded roster?
Which opponent might be the biggest surprise?
C.J. Doon, editor: The Bears. Trading up for quarterback Justin Fields in the draft gives Chicago a potential star at the position it’s been lacking for decades, and by Week 11, there’s a good chance he’s taken over for veteran Andy Dalton. The Bears still have a great defense, and if Fields pops as a rookie, this could be a dangerous matchup — especially with Chicago coming off its bye week.
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: Week 6 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. Justin Herbert is the real deal and the Chargers did everything in the offseason to put the right pieces around the young quarterback. Los Angeles will still have to handle growing pains with a second-year signal-caller and first-year head coach, but the Chargers have the talent to surprise a lot of people this season.
Mike Preston, columnist: Cleveland surprised and went to the playoffs last season, and the Browns have improved enough to make a serious run.
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: It’s easy to forget that the Bears made the playoffs last season. Now they have Fields, who is unlike Dalton in the best of ways. When the Ravens head to Chicago in Week 11, just before Thanksgiving, they might just be walking into a hornet’s nest. Good defense? That’s long been the expectation. Star wide receiver? Hello, Allen Robinson II. Athletic quarterback? Just watch what Fields did to Clemson last season.
Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens will need to build an early cushion again this season, but they best not nap on the Denver Broncos, who have more skill-position and defensive talent than their 5-11 record last season indicates.
What will the Ravens’ record be in the regular season?
C.J. Doon, editor: 12-5
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: 13-4
Mike Preston, columnist: 12-5
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: 12-5
Childs Walker, reporter: 13-4
Ravens 2021 regular-season schedule
Week 1 (Monday, Sept. 13): at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ABC
Week 2 (Sunday, Sept. 19): vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Week 3 (Sunday, Sept. 26): at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Week 4 (Sunday, Oct. 3): at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5 (Monday, Oct. 11): vs. Indianapolis Colts, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Week 6 (Sunday, Oct. 17*): vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.
Week 7 (Sunday, Oct. 24*): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 8 (Sunday, Oct. 31): BYE
Week 9 (Sunday, Nov. 7*): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 10 (Thursday, Nov. 11): at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m., Fox, NFL Network
Week 11 (Sunday, Nov. 21*): at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 12 (Sunday, Nov. 28*): vs. Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Baltimore Ravens Insider
Week 13 (Sunday, Dec. 5*): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14 (Sunday, Dec. 12*): at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Week 15 (Sunday, Dec. 19*): vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Week 16 (Sunday, Dec. 26*): at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 17 (Sunday, Jan. 2*): vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.
Week 18 (Sunday, Jan. 9*): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
* — Flexible scheduling games