Last night, the Ravens released their 2012 schedule. After taking some time to think about it, it looks like the Ravens will have another tough road ahead of them if they're going to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
If the Ravens are going to make some noise, logic would say it's going to be at the beginning and end of the season with some mid-season struggles to be expected. That may not be the case though.
The Ravens do open with three of their first four games at home, with all three in primetime. The problem is all three of those games are against teams that have the potential to give them fits.
During opening week, the Ravens will play the Bengals on Monday, Sept. 10. The Bengals are a tough out, even though the Ravens swept them, along with the rest of the division, last season. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green will be one more year experienced and their young defense from a season ago should be better, as well.
The next two home games will come against the Patriots on Sept. 23, who, at this point, may just be in the Ravens' heads after beating them in the AFC championship game, and another division rival, the Browns on Thursday, Sept. 27. Each of these teams has the potential to give the Ravens fits.
In between, the Ravens will take on coach John Harbaugh's former team, the Eagles on Sept. 16, in their only afternoon game in the month of September.
October and November is where the schedule starts to get dicey. The Ravens only have a single home game in each of those two months, but they also get their bye week right at the end of October.
During October, the Ravens will travel to face the Chiefs on Oct. 7, and Texans on Oct. 21, while facing the Cowboys at home on Oct. 14, in between. The game against the Texans could be a game that helps or hurts playoff seeding.
November could prove to be the pivotal month of the season for the Ravens. To kick off the month, the Ravens have their second game against the Browns on Nov. 4, come home for the Raiders on Nov. 11, who now employ longtime nemesis quarterback Carson Palmer, then travel to Pittsburgh on Nov. 18 for a night game and to San Diego on Nov. 25.
Three of the Ravens' last five games will be at home. They will open their stretch run schedule against the arch-rivals Steelers on Dec. 2. Yes, that's the Steelers for a second time in a three-week period. They will face, what could be, a dynamic offensive football team in the Redskins on Dec. 9, before closing out their home schedule against the Manning brothers, Peyton first on Dec. 16 and then Eli on Dec. 23. The schedule will close, once again, in Cincinnati on Dec. 30.
Can the Ravens make the playoffs again? Absolutely. It will not be a cake walk, though.