Telling 3 week stretch for Ravens begins with Cleveland
By Darin McCann
With Chiefs battle behind them, Ravens have to see next three games as an opportunity
If you haven’t heard yet, the Baltimore Ravens lost their first game of the season last week to the Kansas City Chiefs. Or, depending on who you’re talking with, the Ravens were cheated out of an opportunity to beat the Chiefs by the refs, coaching staff, Tony Jefferson, an anemic pass rush, woeful inside linebackers, the ghost of Henry VIII and… did I mention the refs?
But that’s all in the past, and it’s time to live in the “now.”
The Ravens face their three divisional rivals in the AFC North over the next three weeks, starting with a home game against the Cleveland Browns this weekend. That’s followed by a road tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers before they return home to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals. With Cleveland starting out with a mark of 1-2, and the Steelers and Bengals kicking off their 2019 campaigns with a combined — let me double-check my math — zero wins, this is an early-season opportunity to get a little distance on the field before the midway mark of the season.
Of course, a loss to Cleveland at home this weekend can change the entire narrative. That would level both teams at 2-2, give Cleveland a key tie-breaker down the road, and set the course for a season-long struggle against the Browns for divisional supremacy. A win, though? Oh, a win sets the table for this whole three-game run.
The Steelers and Bengals face off this Monday night (who is setting up this primetime schedule, anyway?), with the loser sliding further into the abyss with an 0-4 mark, while the winner climbs to one. One win.
If the Ravens come out of this stretch with a 5-1 record, with their closest competition being, at best, 2-3 with a loss to the Ravens, well, that sets up very nicely for the rest of the season. This is especially true with some tough match-ups left with New England, Houston, Buffalo, Seattle, the Rams and a somewhat surprising 3-0 49ers team.
Every win in the National Football League is a good win, but a win over a divisional foe is a little better. A win over a division foe who is struggling is even more better. Let’s face it, the chance to kick Cleveland and Pittsburgh while they’re down might just be the goodliest good thing of all time.
The goal here has to be coming out of this set of games with a 4-2 or 5-1 mark, with the Cleveland win probably having a little more oomph, simply because they are closest to the Ravens in the standings — and because their fans have been remarkably annoying in their unbridled optimism this offseason.
Let the games begin.