Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ravens' Schedule Released, Games to Look Forward To

Okay, so it is April, and from now until at least the late-July swoon we will likely have our focus on the Orioles season, which has had unexpected drama and excitement. Until that time, we will have little Ravens’ reporting to do. Sure, there will be the NFL Draft next week, and even minicamps after that, but overall we will have to survive on the Orioles for the next few months. Today, however, we have been given a wonderful taste of the 2009 football season in the release of the Ravens schedule. Any analyst will tell you that trying to predict a record based on the schedule is a complete guess, but that won’t stop us from trying to find the best games of the bunch. Among them:

September 20th, at San Diego: The first Ravens’ cross-country trip of the season has them flying to the Qualcomm to face the AFC West Champion Chargers (sure they finished 8-8, but that doesn’t sound nearly as intriguing). This will be the first major test for the new Ravens’ defense, particularly up front in stopping LaDainian Tomlinson and the big-play ability of Darren Sproles. However, a bigger story might take place on the other side of the ball, where a rejuvenated Shawne Merriman will be matched on Jared Gaither. Despite his improvement last season, Gaither will need to be at the top of his game to keep Joe Flacco on his feet.

October 5th, at New England: Tom Brady should be fully recovered and have gotten back in rhythm with his receivers by this point, making this a huge test for a reassembled Ravens’ secondary. Not withstanding any additions in the draft, the Ravens should have two different starting cornerbacks (assuming Rolle is moved to nickelback) from the start of last season and have Dawan Landry back after missing 13 games last season. Teams have had success with a precision passing attack against the Ravens, and the last time these teams met in New England the Kyle Boller-led squad was thrashed 24-3 in 2004. Two years ago, a questionably called contest had the Ravens fall away late, the biggest test during the regular season for the team that went 18-0 before falling in the Super Bowl.

November 22nd, vs. Indianapolis: I don’t need to remind Ravens fans how the last few meetings between these teams have went. The Ravens have been completely stymied offensively in both the 15-6 Divisional Playoff loss in the 2006 season and the 31-3 blowout last season in Indy. This year Baltimore won’t have to contend with an exhausted Steve McNair or a wide-eyed and overmatched Joe Flacco. Likewise, the Ravens should be deeper at cornerback to counter the numerous pass-catching threats Indy can throw at the defense. Will the Colts continue to dominate the Ravens? This will be a critical late-season AFC game that could have major implications on the playoff picture.

December 27th, at Pittsburgh: This game will be taking place a little over a month after the first meeting between these two teams, and could decide the AFC North Champion. The Steelers swept three games against the Ravens last season, and Baltimore will have to learn to beat their biggest rival if they want to take hold of this division. The reigning Super Bowl Champ is incredible at home, particularly when taking on the equally physical play of Baltimore. This game could come down to which team has more energy and will to take over after a long and exhausting season for two hard-nosed clubs.

No comments: