The first day of November will represent the toughest, most important and most physically demanding five games you’ll find on the Ravens’ schedule this season.
On Nov. 1, they’ll face the unbeaten Steelers at home in their most important game of the year to date. Next week, they’ll travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts and one of the league’s best defenses. The following week they’ll play Bill Belichick’s Patriots on Sunday Night Football on the road. Then, they’ll face the one-loss Titans in what figures to be an intensely physical game.
And as a Thanksgiving treat, they’ll head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on a short week.
The Ravens are set to play five games in 26 days starting Sunday in games that not only are tough matchups on paper, but important ones as it relates to the AFC playoff picture.
Of the Ravens’ four opponents they’ll face in the next four weeks, they boast a combined 17-7 record. Excluding the 2-4 Patriots, that record drops to 15-3.
The game against the Steelers requires no explanation or detailed answer about what it could mean. The Steelers are the only unbeaten team left in the AFC and, should they win Sunday, they’ll hold a two-game lead over the Ravens in the division with the tiebreaker in-hand.
The Titans (5-1) and the Colts (4-2) are in a battle for the AFC South and, in a larger sense, playoff positioning.
Seven teams will make the playoffs in each conference this season, meaning just the top seed in each conference will get a first-round bye. As of now, the Ravens are a half-game behind the Chiefs in the standings and will lose the head-to-head tiebreaker at season’s end. Meaning, they’ll have to earn a better record than the runaway favorites in the AFC West.
If the Ravens lose to the Steelers they’ll drop to 5-2, and more importantly, put themselves behind the eight-ball with just nine games left in the season in the midst of their toughest stretch of the year. While the Ravens aren’t in danger of falling out of the playoffs altogether, they could do significant damage to their hopes of playing at home for even a single round if they leave this five-game stretch with a handful of losses.
It’s still far, far too early to discuss potential playoff matchups. That won’t come for nearly two months. It isn’t, however, too early to mention that the AFC has some of the best teams in the NFL this season and from top-to-bottom doesn’t appear to have many weaknesses in its playoff teams.
Should the Ravens get out of this five-game stretch in good standing, they’ll be rewarded with, as of late October, what appears to be a remarkably easy December.
After the Thanksgiving game against the Steelers, they’ll play their second Thursday night game in a row at home against a battered Cowboys team.
They’ll head to Cleveland for a Monday Night Football game 11 days later and finish their home schedule with games against the Jaguars and Giants. Then, they’ll end the season on Jan. 3 in Cincinnati against a team they’ve already beaten 27-3.
The Ravens’ last three games were loaded with teams that, on paper, the Ravens should’ve beaten handily. While it wasn’t always the prettiest, they escaped with three wins.
Now, they’ll march into November with an unenviable task against some of the toughest matchups in the NFL. And it starts Sunday with perhaps the toughest of them all.