The Baltimore Ravens ended the 2012 regular season with four losses in their final five games, but they quickly turned things around in the playoffs all the way to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was a standout all postseason, throwing 11 touchdowns without an interception in four games, and the Ravens rewarded him with a big contract during the offseason.
Baltimore had some significant roster turnover after the Super Bowl, with the retirements of linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk followed by the free agent departure of safety Ed Reed and the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. If simply being defending champions wasn’t enough, the loss of some key veteran leaders will make a repeat an even tougher challenge.
Here’s my look at Baltimore’s 2013 schedule, with a prediction for all 16 games.
Week 1- at Denver Broncos (Thursday Night)
The traditional first game of the season will be a tough challenge for the Ravens, with the added layer of being a rematch of the AFC Divisional Round game from last postseason.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Ravens 20
Week 2- vs. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have some good players on their roster, but the Ravens should not have too much trouble getting into the win column.
Prediction: Ravens 23, Browns 17
Week 3- vs. Houston Texans
The Texans should again be one of the best teams in the AFC, but playing at home may give Baltimore a slight advantage.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Texans 20
Week 4- at Buffalo Bills
The Ravens may need to put together a winning streak at this point in the schedule, before things get more difficult down the road.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Bills 13
Week 5- at Miami Dolphins
The Ravens will take their talents to South Beach, and I’m thinking they’ll come home with a victory.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Dolphins 20
Week 6- vs. Green Bay Packers
This has a chance to be a high-scoring game, with two questionable defenses and two of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league leading each offense.
Prediction: Packers 31, Ravens 27
Week 7- at Pittsburgh Steelers
This has been one of the most contentious rivalries in the league in recent years, and that should not change even with some key players on each side no longer around.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 10
Week 8- Bye
Week 9- at Cleveland
A season sweep of the Browns will be vital to any chance Baltimore has to keep themselves in the playoff race.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Browns 14
Week 10- vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals won 10 games in 2012, and they have a chance to be better this year with a very deep and talented roster.
Prediction: Bengals 21, Ravens 13
Week 11- at Chicago Bears
Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler will be trying to follow Flacco’s model from last season by having a good year and leading his team deep into the playoffs, and we should know if he’s on the right track by this point.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Bears 17
Week 12- vs. New York Jets
The Jets are one of the least-talented teams in the entire league, so the Ravens should have no trouble here.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Jets 10
Week 13- vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday Night)
This should be a nice cap to Thanksgiving, as these two teams try to knock the stuffing out of each other.
Prediction: Steelers 13, Ravens 10
Week 14- vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings were a surprise playoff team in 2012, and will not be easy to beat despite the fact they are a dome team and generally don’t play well outdoors.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Vikings 14
Week 15- at Detroit Lions (Monday Night)
This game could be big in the playoff race in both conferences, with the winner perhaps separating themselves from the other contenders in their respective division.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Lions 21
Week 16- vs. New England Patriots (Sunday Night)
These two teams have played each other in back-to-back AFC Championship Games. This game won’t have quite that much on the line, but the result could lead to some shuffling of the playoff seeds in the conference entering Week 17.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Ravens 21
Week 17- at Cincinnati
This game could easily be for the AFC North title, if not more than that in the AFC playoff picture as a whole.
Prediction: Bengals 21, Ravens 17
Final Record: 10-6
I think the Ravens will make the postseason, most likely as a Wild Card, but they will not make it back to the Super Bowl in what will be a season of transition.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.