The Long Road to Dallas

Every year about this time, Roger Goodell pokes his head out of the ground and checks for a shadow. If he sees his shadow then we all find out who plays when during the upcoming season. If he doesn’t, we’re all doomed to six more weeks of pre-draft prognostication. Thankfully last night Punxsutawney Roger saw his shadow and we have all been blessed with the Ravens up coming 2010-2011 regular season schedule.

The big problem of course in analyzing the schedule is that we must judge it through the rose colored glasses of the past. We can only make assumptions based on what we know about the 2009-2010 Ravens. There’s no way to know what will happen with injury, the draft, and free agency, etc. But that doesn’t stop talking heads like myself from throwing out their two-cents on how they think the Ravens will finish up.

For what it’s worth, based on nothing more than first impressions and gut instincts I feel the Ravens will finish out in the 10-6 or 9-7 area. The schedule is oddly weighted and appears far more difficult than say last year’s schedule or the year before. That doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t finish 14-2 (or god for bid 7-9) but based on last year, I’d  say the road to Dallas will be full of peril. Let’s look at a few of the juiciest matchups.

Week 1: Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets

Once we learned that the Jets were to host a Monday night game at the new Meadowlands to start the season, the Ravens had about a 1/8 chance of being the team the Jets ultimately drew. The Ravens got the short straw and have the unfortunate honor of being the first team to face Rex Ryan’s all stars for the first game in the new stadium. Drama abounds and the trash talk will be epic. Bart Scott will fill several ledgers with insane ramblings about respect and pride.

Weeks 2-4: Baltimore Ravens v. the AFC North

These three weeks will likely determine the fate of the entire Ravens season. Three straight weeks of early division matchups. If Roger Goodell wanted to ensure that the end of the regular season matters, he had a funny way of showing it in Baltimore. If the Ravens come out of this fracas with at least 2 out of 3 wins they’ll be sitting pretty for another division run.

Week 6: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

Revenge match for the drubbing Tom Terrific and his merry band of aging superstars took at the hands of the Purple Tide in Foxboro this past January.  Should be an epic battle if both teams are healthy and winning at this point in the season.

Weeks 7-12: Baltimore Ravens v. the Junior Varsity

If we look at the schedule through our magical 2009-2010 glasses, we should be inclined to think that this section of the season is all about going 5-0. Buffalo, Bye Week, Miami, Atlanta, Carolina & Tampa Bay. Not exactly the cream of the NFL Crop. Sure Miami is decent but the Ravens have had their number as of late. None of this of course means anything in the context of 2010-2011, but man you have to believe 2009-2010 Ray Lewis would be salivating at the chance to go on a monster run midway through the season.

Week 15: Defending World Champions at Baltimore Ravens

Any armchair quarterback out there with concerns about our secondary should be penciling in this date and circling it in red sharpie. This is the day the New Orleans Saints and their uber-offense come rolling up MLK. The Saints should provide a mighty test to the defense, and at this late point in the season it should make for an interesting matchup for both teams.

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