Next year's schedule won't be an easy one

Next year's schedule won't be an easy one
February 17, 2013, 6:00 pm
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The Ravens and coach John Harbaugh may have just won the Super Bowl two weeks ago, but they didn't get a good break when it comes to their 2013 schedule. 

An article in NFL.com and another on ESPN.com said that the Ravens will face the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL next year. That won't make life easy for the defending champions.

The Panthers have the toughest schedule, followed by Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis. That's where the Ravens come in, playing opponents who combined for a 137-119-0 record this past season --a winning percentage of .535. 

On Baltimore's schedule, according to the team's web site,  will be the normal games with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati -- two with each -- plus match-ups with the other AFC Division winners, New England, Denver and Houston. 

The Ravens also get to play the Jets, Green Bay, Minnesota, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and Denver, a schedule loaded with tough teams. In addition to the three division games, the Ravens will meet the Patriots, Jets, Packers, Vikings and Texans at home. 

Interestingly enough, Denver caught a break in the schedule. The Broncos were the top seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs before the Ravens knocked them off in the conference semifinals, but they've got the easiest schedule in the NFL next year. 

The Broncos probably got some help in the strength of schedule area because the breezed to the AFC West title with a 13-3 record, and the other three teams in the division won 13 games combined. If those teams don't improve much, that's why their schedule would look softer on paper.