With the regular season a week away, here are five pivotal games on the Ravens’ schedule that could be turning points:
Sept. 7 vs. Bengals – The Ravens begin the season hosting the defending AFC North champs, without suspended running back Ray Rice. This is an early chance for the Ravens to show they are better than last year, and that they are the team to beat in the division. However, will the Ravens’ secondary be healthy enough to handle Bengals wide receiver A. J. Green, and the passing attack led by Andy Dalton? Will Joe Flacco and company start the season smoking or sputtering in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system? Losing the opener at home to a division rival would be a huge letdown.
Oct. 5 at Colts – Many people expect the Colts to be an AFC heavyweight. The Ravens struggled on the road (2-6) in 2013. Winning in Indianapolis would be a signature victory.
Nov. 2 at Steelers – After hosting the Steelers in Week 2, the Ravens will face their biggest rival on Sunday night. Beating the Steelers is always special to the Ravens. Winning in Pittsburgh is that much sweeter.
Nov. 24 at Saints – After a bye week, the Ravens visit New Orleans on Monday Night Football. Few venues in the NFL are tougher on road teams. The noise is deafening, and the Saints offense led by Drew Brees is particularly potent at home. Another measuring-stick game for the Ravens.
Dec. 28 vs. Browns – The season finale, and it could easily have playoff implications for the Ravens. Will Johnny Manziel be the Browns’ starting quarterback by then? And will the Ravens be packing after this game, or preparing for the playoffs?