Looking at the road ahead

With the Ravens (3-4) having only nine games left in the season, and in need of a drastic turn around to win the division or make the playoffs, we take a look at the remaining nine games and the Ravens chances of winning them.

Week 9: At Cleveland- The Browns have played the Ravens tough the past couple of times they have faced off, but with Jason Campbell starting I fully expect the Ravens to come away with a win in Cleveland on Sunday. They have had two weeks to get healthy and adjust their game plan for the second half of the season, and Harbaugh teams have had great success when playing their first game coming off a bye. Look for the Ravens to take this game.

Week 10: Cincinnati- The good news is they have the Bengals at home. The bad news is that Cincinnati has been playing great football, and the Ravens will be underdogs in this game. The Bengals have always found a way to confuse quarterback Joe Flacco and make him look uncomfortable. If the Ravens don’t figure out how to improve their running game in time for this matchup, it could be a long day at M&T Bank.

Week 11: At Chicago- The Bears have had a successful season thus far under first year Head Coach Marc Trestman, but with Jay Cutler’s health in doubt, this game could favor the Ravens. If Cutler is healthy this will be a very good game. If he isn’t, then look for the Ravens to steal one in Chicago

Week 12: NYJ- The Jets are coming off an embarrassing loss against the Bengals, but they have shown that they are capable of playing with the big boys, despite the fact that teams thought they were in rebuilding mode. Rookie Geno Smith has played well, but the Ravens defense has done a good job against rookies in the past. Rex Ryan returns to Baltimore for the second time since becoming head coach of the Jets, and you know his team will come ready to play. The Ravens will want to back up John Harbaugh too, who got the job over Ryan years ago. This should be a close, defensive game. At home, though, I like the Ravens.

Week 13: Pittsburgh- The week seven matchup between these teams showed us that records are thrown out the window when these teams meet. No matter what these teams records are this will be a tight, intense game. The Ravens will be looking for revenge, and on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore, they should do just enough to win the game.

Week 14: Minnesota- If last Monday night’s performance by the Vikings was a sign of things to come in Minnesota, then the Ravens should be just fine come week 14. Stopping Adrian Peterson won’t be an easy task, regardless of Minnesota’s record, but with no stable quarterback play, Dean Peas might as well put 10 guys in the box. With this being the last game of a three game home stretch, the Ravens will look to put themselves in good position as they have three tough games to close out the year.

Week 15: At Detroit- Matthew Stafford and company won’t be easy to stop at all, especially when they are playing at home on their turf. Calvin Johnson will be a matchup nightmare for this Ravens secondary, and Detroit’s pass rush won’t be easy to contain either. Depending on how well the Ravens are playing coming into this game will determine the outcome of this matchup. Both teams are inconsistent, so the hotter team that Monday night will probably come out victorious.

Week 16: New England- Everyone knows that the Patriots have had this game circled on the calendar since the schedule came out as they look to extract revenge on the team that kept them from advancing to the Super Bowl last year. Tom Brady is starting to find his groove after getting off to a slow start and that doesn’t bode well for the Ravens defense. Injuries have decimated this New England defense, so Flacco should be able to put up points, so this game will come down to the wire.

Week 17: At Cincinnati- It feels like every season ends with a dramatic game in Cincinnati and the next eight weeks will determine how this one will play out. If Cincinnati has locked up the division and aren’t in contention for a bye or already have secured a bye, then the Ravens will win this game against the Bengals’ backups. In any other scenario, assuming the Ravens don’t go on a rampage and have clinched a bye or the division, this game should be intense. These teams have battled it out for the division the past couple of years and the Bengals will be looking to finally win it for the first time since 2009. The Ravens won in Cincinnati two years ago when it mattered, so we know they are capable of it. Cincinnati is the more talented team though, and will be playing at home, so they have the edge until the Ravens show that they can play better football at a consistent level.

Recap: I expect the Ravens to beat Cleveland, the Jets, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota, but the rest are toss ups. If Jay Cutler doesn’t play, then the Ravens have a big advantage, but it is unknown what Cutler’s status will be for that game. Both Cincinnati games figure to be close, but Baltimore will have to play their best football to beat Cincinnati. The Lions and Patriots games will be good games as well and could go either way. The Ravens are going to have to start playing clutch football and winning close games or they won’t be able to rebound from their 3-4 start.

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