NFL Baltimore Ravens

Top 8 Toughest Games For Baltimore Ravens In 2013

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Top 8: Toughest Games For Baltimore Ravens in 2013

Evan Habeeb-USA Today Sports

We're now less then two months away from the start of the new NFL season, and I can't wait. I'm still a little high on the ether from the Super Bowl victory of the Baltimore Ravens, but I still have great excitement for the 2013 season. It's not going to be easy, as it never is for the defending champions.

There's a lot to be optimistic about for the 2013 Ravens. After a down year for the usually great defense, many additions were added that should improve every facet of the unit. Elvis Dumervil and a healthy Terrell Suggs should improve the pass rush. Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and rookie Brandon Williams should improve last year's weak run defense. In addition, shutdown corner Ladarius Webb will return, along with new and more versatile safeties Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam.

There's still some questions on offense, like if LT Bryant McKinnie can hold up for a whole season, and which of the unproven Ravens wide receivers can possibly pick up the slack of the great Anquan Boldin.

The journey to a repeat title will be difficult with a slew of tough regular season games. I made a list of the eight toughest games for the defending champs. Why eight? I figured 10 was too much and five wasn't enough, so I split the difference. Without further ado, here's my list of the top eight games that will surely provide a difficult path of resistance to a repeat championship.

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8. @Cincinnati Bengals (Week 17)

David Kohl-USA Today Sports

It was hard to chose between the two games against the Cincinnati Bengals. I gotta go with the Week 17 game on the road. This game could very well be a contest for the AFC North Crown. Then again, it could be meaningless like last year's Week 17 game, as both teams had already clinched playoff spots by that point.

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7. @Chicago Bears (Week 11)

David Banks-USA Today Sports

The dreaded non-conference road game. These can be the most difficult games, because you're playing in an unfamiliar environment against a team you only play once every four years. The Chicago Bears have the talent of a playoff team and a great home field advantage, add to the fact that this game will be played in mid November, so the elements should be a factor here. This game is already shaping up to be one of those ugly 13-10 slugfests.

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6. @Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 7)

Charles LeCluire-USA Today Sports

Had to put the Pittsburgh Steelers on this list at least once. Could they possibly appear a second time? Keep clicking to find out. Anyway, we all know how these Ravens/Steelers games go: hard hitting, maximum intensity and extreme hatred. It must be nice to watch these games for anyone who isn't a fan of either team, and for the Baltimore and Pittsburgh fans, I think I can speak for all of us when I say these games take years off our lives.

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5. Houston Texans (Week 3)

Brett Davis-USA Today Sports

Talk about a huge swing game early in the season. The Houston Texans have kind of had the Ravens/ number the past few years. Two years ago they took the Ravens to limit in the Divisional Round in Baltimore with a third-string QB, and of course, the Texans demolished the Ravens in Houston 43-13 last year. That Ed Reed guy will also be making his return, which should make things very interesting. The Texans are always a pain in the butt and this year will be no different.

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4. Green Bay Packers (Week 6)

Benny Sieu-USA Today Sports

The Green Bay Packers will always be a threat as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing. Luckily this time, the Packers are the ones playing the dreaded non-conference road game. Still, the Ravens' new and improved pass rush needs to be as good as advertised here, along with the new secondary hopefully being on the same page. Otherwise, this could be a very long day for the Ravens.

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3. Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 13)

Mitch Stringer-USA Today Sports

Here's the Steelers again. This will be a Thanksgiving Night game; as if playing the Steelers wasn't hard enough, now they have to do it on a short week. The Ravens luckily should have the advantage here though as they play at home the Sunday before against the New York Jets while the Steelers have to play divisional rival Cleveland Browns away. Either way, it will probably be another three-point game, since it seems that way between these teams.

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2. New England Patriots (Week 16)

David Butler II-USA Today Sports

The New England Patriots may look a little different this season, but as long as Tom Brady is around, they'll always be relevant. Ravens/Patriots is turning in to one of the best rivalries in the AFC as these teams have played each other the past two AFC Championship games. This match up will be in Week 16, so the chances of something being on the line in this game is high. There should be an electric atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium that night.

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1. @Denver Broncos (Week 1)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA Today Sports

The Denver Broncos are the odds-on favorite to win the the AFC this year and for good reason. The Broncos were the no. 1 seed last year and added Wes Welker to an already-potent offense with Peyton Manning. This will be the opening game of the entire season and Denver still has to be stinging from their shocking double overtime loss to the Ravens last January. Winning in Denver against that team once is hard enough, to have to do it a second time in a row ... this no doubt will be the Ravens' toughest game of the season.