With the NFL’s schedules for 2019 released, the Ravens know where their regular season will start and where it will end.
But as for when it gets tough? Any team, no matter how good, would have you believe that it’s Week 1. But five months from the Ravens’ season opener, some games on their schedule certainly look more challenging than others.
Here’s how the defending AFC North champions’ 16-game slate stacks up, with opponents ordered from least to most difficult.
16. Week 2 vs. Cardinals
Terrell Suggs was supposed to retire a Raven. Instead, he’ll be on the other sideline in Baltimore, helping a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015. Kyler Murray could be joining him. If Arizona takes the Oklahoma quarterback No. 1 overall in the draft next week, this could be a matchup of two of the fastest starting quarterbacks ever.
15. Week 1 @ Dolphins
In Lamar Jackson’s first homecoming as a starting quarterback, the Ravens open the season as early favorites against an overhauled Miami team with a new coach, Brian Flores. Oddsmakers expect the Dolphins to win five games in 2019 — one fewer than Jackson did after replacing Joe Flacco last season.
14. Week 6 vs. Bengals
Jackson finished with 27 carries in his first NFL start last season, a home win over the Bengals. Jackson’s workload should be more manageable from now on. Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green missed the teams’ second meeting after a dominant Week 2 showing; the Ravens wouldn’t mind another absence.
13. Week 14 @ Bills
The Ravens’ season-opening 47-3 win last year revealed only so much, most of it Nathan Peterman-related. The Ravens didn’t get revved up again until midseason, and Buffalo rallied to win four of its last seven games. This marks a return to Buffalo for Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who lasted just over a season there.
12. Week 15 vs. Jets
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley’s last regular-season game in Baltimore was the site of maybe his defining highlight, an AFC North title-clinching interception. For his next appearance, he’ll be wearing green and white. So, too, will running back and longtime Ravens killer Le’Veon Bell. The Jets are 2-8 in the all-time series and, like the Ravens, have just three days to prepare for this game.
11. Week 13 vs. 49ers
The teams have met just once since their Super Bowl XLVII clash. That 2015 game feels like a relic now: Flacco and Colin Kaepernick combined for 683 passing yards in a San Francisco win. After losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3 last year, the 49ers need a bounce-back season. They’ll get a Ravens team coming off a short work week.
10. Week 10 @ Bengals
The Ravens defense was a mess in Week 2 last season after Mosley suffered a bone bruise on his knee in Cleveland. With Zac Taylor now in charge, the Bengals are a wild card in the division.
9. Week 17 vs. Steelers
Pittsburgh’s win in Baltimore last season marked a turning point in the Ravens’ year and, indeed, franchise. Flacco’s hip injury cleared the way for Jackson to start at quarterback throughout the season’s second half. Who knows what this finale could have in store for both franchises?
8. Week 4 vs. Browns
The Ravens will want nothing more than to show they’re still the kings of the AFC North. The Browns can prove they’re now the team to beat in the division. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will have receiver Odell Beckham Jr. out wide, but running back Kareem Hunt will be serving his eight-game suspension.
7. Week 11 vs. Texans
The AFC South champions were one of just six teams to win at least five road games last season. Again, with Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt back, Houston won’t lack for star power. Again, its secondary and offensive line play will need to be better.
6. Week 5 @ Steelers
Flacco was never more impressive last season than in the Ravens’ 26-14 win at Heinz Field in Week 4. Now that challenge falls to Jackson. The Ravens have won three of their past five games in Pittsburgh, and with wide receiver Antonio Brown gone, this will be a test for the Steelers.
5. Week 16 @ Browns
Cleveland’s 12-9 overtime win at home last season over the Ravens (and wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s slippery fingers) was its first victory against a divisional opponent in three years. The Browns tacked on another two AFC North wins and lost just twice all year at FirstEnergy Stadium. This time around, the Ravens will have a week and a half to prepare.
4. Week 9 vs. Patriots
A bye in Week 8 should help, but the Ravens are winless in their past three meetings with New England, last triumphing during their Super Bowl XLVII run. Quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick are back, and even if tight end Rob Gronkowski isn’t, it’s not hard to figure out why the Patriots are among the early favorites to repeat as champions.
3. Week 7 @ Seahawks
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on Tuesday became the highest-paid player in NFL history, taking some of the money safety Earl Thomas thought he’d deserved. The safety flipped the Seahawks sideline the bird in his final game last season; now he’ll try to lead the Ravens to their first-ever win in Seattle, a playoff team in 2018.
2. Week 12 @ Rams
The Ravens handled their lone California road trip last season impressively, beating the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16. They might need to be even better against the defending NFC champions. The teams held a joint practice last season, but the Ravens haven’t faced the Rams since they departed St. Louis.
1. Week 3 @ Chiefs
Kansas City handed Jackson his lone regular-season loss as a starter in early December, knocking him out late in one of the games of the year. The rematch in Arrowhead Stadium sells itself: quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ rocket arm, Jackson’s elite speed, two reigning division champions.