OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens are set to begin the season Sunday, there’s more than just the first game at stake.
The Ravens open up with two teams projected wind up at the bottom of the NFL in the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. After the first two weeks, the schedule gets significantly tougher.
Baltimore will head to Kansas City in week three for a date with Patrick Mahomes, then head home for a game with the high-flying Browns offense.
Here’s a brief look at what the Ravens will be facing in September.
Week 1: at Miami Dolphins
The Ravens received perhaps the best possible matchup any team could have asked for in week one.
Against the Dolphins, who seemingly have sold everyone on the roster in recent weeks, the Ravens have a week one affair against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is set to start at quarterback, but who he’ll have with him on offense is up in the air. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was traded to Houston, along with wide receiver Kenny Stills.
With new coach Brian Flores in town, the Dolphins' gameplan is still a mystery. Otherwise, the Ravens couldn’t have asked for a better week one matchup.
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
Week two will present a completely different set of challenges for the Ravens.
Like the Ravens, the Cardinals offense is a big mystery entering the season. With new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and No. 1 pick Kyler Murray at quarterback, the Cardinals are set to unveil a version of the Air Raid offense in the desert this season.
The viability of that offense in the NFL remains to be seen. But the Ravens will have just one week of film to prepare for the real version of Kingsbury’s new offense.
But again, the Cardinals are projected to finish among the NFL’s worst teams this season. And without star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is suspended for the first six games, the Ravens' schedule sets up as well as possible for a quick 2-0 start.
Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs
This is why the Ravens need to capitalize on their first two games of the season.
After a relatively easy start to the season, the Ravens will head to Kansas City to face one of the league’s best in the Chiefs. If there is a game to find out how strong the Ravens secondary is, week three is it.
The Ravens fell 27-24 in overtime in last season’s matchup, leading in the fourth quarter before a last-second score by the Chiefs sent the game to overtime. This season, without some members of the team’s front seven from last year, the Ravens will be put to the test.
Tavon Young, out for the season with a neck injury, could see his loss felt the most in this one, as the Chiefs' variety on offense will be a tough task to handle.
Week 4: Cleveland Browns
The Ravens won’t get a break from the offensive weaponry in week four, as the Browns will come to Baltimore with a host of new playmakers.
Baker Mayfield will enter his second year with high expectations, especially considering the new weapon he’ll have to throw to in Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns are one of the league’s most exciting teams, and week four will be a big divisional matchup early.
Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon will be two excellent edge rushers for Ravens tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. to deal with, so the Ravens will have their hands full on both sides of the ball.
With the AFC North expected to be an intensely close division, every tiebreaker matters, especially considering the Ravens play the Browns in week 16, followed by the Steelers in week 17.
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