Instant Analysis: Ravens' 2012 schedule

April 17, 2012

Jeff Zrebiec, reporter: Fretting over how difficult the Ravens' schedule could be in mid-April is a pretty pointless exercise when one training camp injury, extended holdout or botched first-round draft pick can significantly alter a team's fortunes for the 2012-13 season. Sure, the Ravens figure to have their hands full in 2013, but nobody knows if Peyton Manning will instantly make the Broncos an elite team or if the Bengals will continue to take steps forward rather than back or if the Giants will more resemble the team that went 9-7 and nearly didn't make the playoffs or the one that got hot and won another Super Bowl. The good news is the Ravens have the Giants, Patriots and Broncos on their home field, where they've been nearly unbeatable with John Harbaugh at the helm. They also have a group of talented veterans, who are still seething about getting so close to the Super Bowl last year and know that their chances for a title are running out. I wouldn't bank on another 12-4 season, but with relatively good health, a couple of offensive line additions along with a solid draft class, the Ravens will maintain their status as one of the AFC's elite teams.   

Matt Vensel, reporter: It’s tough to forecast how good each NFL team will be when the schedule is released in April. The draft has yet to go down, there will still be free-agency tinkering, and injuries start to come into play as soon as the pads come on at training camp. Plus, all it takes is a couple of early-season wins for an overlooked squad to suddenly become dangerous (see Detroit and San Francisco last year). Here's what I do know: Teams with top quarterbacks are usually formidable. And the Ravens will have to deal with Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, and Matt Schaub. Andy Dalton tested the Ravens last year, too. And some are predicting a Cam Newton-type rookie impact for Robert Griffin III. Of course, the Ravens have a pretty good quarterback, too, and one of the most balanced rosters in the league, so five months out from Week 1, I would love to say that the Ravens will probably be back in the playoffs in January. But football happens, so I’m going to pass on making a win-loss prediction until training camp wraps up out at The Castle.

Edward Lee, reporter: According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Ravens' 2012 schedule is tied for the fourth-toughest in the league as the opponents boasted a .523 winning percentage in 2011 compared to the .477 percentage their 2011 opponents had compiled in 2010. With the Bengals getting better and the Steelers still one of the toughest outs in the league, I can envision the Ravens going 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

Peter Schmuck, columnist: Nobody said that 2012 was going to be easy, so 11-5 is going to have to be good enough. The Ravens don't figure to sweep their home schedule again, so they'll have to be better on the road. Look for them to go 6-2 at M&T Bank Stadium and 5-3 everywhere else, which means that we'll be sweating out the playoff seedings right down to the end -- just like every year.

Chris Korman, reporter/editor: It's difficult to envision the Ravens beating Pittsburgh twice again, and Cincinnati is on the cusp of competing for the division title. The Browns, Redskins and Chiefs likely won't offer much resistance, but every other team on the schedule will fight for a playoff spot. It's too early to predict how the Peyton Manning era in Denver will play out (even if he's healthy), and it remains to be seen whether the Raiders franchise will stabilize without Al Davis' meddling. While the Ravens have a few holes on both sides of the ball, the primary pieces remain in place for a Super Bowl run. Ozzie Newsome has proven adept at finding castoffs who fit, and assuming he does that again the Ravens will go 10-6 and earn the first wild-card spot.

Ron Fritz, head of sports: We all thought the Ravens had a difficult 2011 schedule on paper, but some teams simply didn’t show up last season. This season’s schedule certainly looks tougher for the Ravens, so we’ll go 9-7 and a wild-card berth. The playoff streak continues for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco.

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