With the NFL releasing the 2021 schedule on Wednesday night, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Remember how simple and balanced that 2019 schedule was with home and away games alternating throughout the season? Three out of four on the road followed by four straight home games — with the bye mixed in — and then four of the next five away certainly doesn’t fit that description.
2. With five of the six divisional meetings taking place after Thanksgiving, the AFC North should be relatively wide open until late December, which is the way the league would certainly prefer it. We know health is always important, but it could be particularly critical down the stretch this season.
3. The Ravens play the second-most difficult schedule by 2020 winning percentage, but most of the tough matchups do come at home. Sharp Football ranks Baltimore with the 10th-most difficult schedule based on forecasted wins while Cleveland sports the third easiest and Pittsburgh has the second most difficult.
4. Given the turnover at outside linebacker and how the lack of a four-man rush has doomed the Ravens against Patrick Mahomes, another early-season meeting against Kansas City seems suboptimal. On the flip side, the Chiefs have undergone significant changes on an offensive line that will also need to gel.
5. Playing the same team twice in three weeks is unusual enough, but Cleveland having its bye sandwiched between meetings with Baltimore is the first time that’s happened in the NFL since 1991. Of course, the Ravens playing at Pittsburgh between those games is a brutal draw. What a crucial stretch.
6. Acknowledging the possibility of their Week 18 game being flexed, it’s still strange to see neither Ravens-Steelers game land in prime time for the second time in three years. Before 2019, that hadn’t happened since 2006. It doesn’t help that Lamar Jackson and Ben Roethlisberger have faced off only once.
7. The lack of buzz about Indianapolis visiting for Monday Night Football reflects how deep Baltimore is into Ravens history and how far removed we are from the Colts leaving in the middle of the night. To be clear, that’s not a bad thing, and this should be a good game.
8. Attention will be on high-profile showdowns with Kansas City and Green Bay — assuming Aaron Rodgers is still a Packer — but the Los Angeles Chargers coming to town in Week 6 has sneaky potential. You had to be impressed with Justin Herbert as a rookie despite unprecedented challenges from the pandemic.
9. Being scheduled for five prime-time games for the second straight year and just the third time in team history again indicates how much Jackson has elevated the Ravens’ national profile. His critics might be loud, but he has plenty of fans around the league and rightfully so.
10. Baltimore hosting a Monday night game for the second straight season will hopefully start to put that beef to rest. It’s not a conspiracy, but the Colts game being only the fourth Monday home contest in the John Harbaugh era — compared to 14 Monday road trips — remains a crazy factoid.
11. Going through the schedule to predict the wins and losses reinforces how it’s going to take some time to get used to thinking in terms of an 11-6, 13-4, or 8-9 season. The lucrative money made a 17-game schedule inevitable, but another week of injury attrition does concern me.
12. On the bright side, there are only three preseason games to suffer through now. New Orleans comes to Baltimore for the exhibition opener before the Ravens play preseason contests at Carolina and Washington. While acknowledging its value for young players, I still didn’t miss the fake football last year.