We almost got to watch an NFL game for the first time since February.
As you probably know, this year’s Hall of Fame game between the Packers and Colts was cancelled due to poor field conditions.
Aaron Rodgers is probably devastated by this. That was a joke.
But what’s not a joke is football is around the corner, and this season will start before you even know it.
This means the Ravens get to put last season’s disaster in the rear view mirror and can prove they are still a powerhouse in the AFC.
As we all know, it’s much easier to be a powerhouse in your conference if you can claim the division crown – something Baltimore hasn’t managed to do since 2012.
The real question is how the Ravens can accomplish this tall task. It all comes down to four key points.
- Take advantage of schedule and get off to a fast start
The Ravens start off the 2016 season with games against the Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins, Giants, and Jets for their first seven games of the season. No wins come easy in the NFL, but, if the Ravens play their cards right, all of these games are winnable.
Let’s face it, the Ravens’ last four games of this season are going to be brutal as they will be traveling to New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in that stretch.
The Ravens are going to want to build a cushion during the beginning of the season so these games don’t end up being all or nothing for them.
- Finish close games
“Almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Ravens had 14 games decided by eight points or fewer last season. The Ravens lost nine of those games.
You can’t lose nine games and expect to win the AFC North. This division is just way too strong. The Ravens need to make sure they are on the right side of the scoreboard when games get tight.
- Beat teams in the division
You want to win your division? Beat the teams in your division. It shouldn’t be hard to figure that one out.
The Ravens haven’t posted a winning record against the AFC North since their stealer 2012 campaign. How do they pull this off? They need to sweep the Browns this time.
This shouldn’t be too difficult considering a lot of experts are saying the Browns will struggle to even win one game this season. They also need to (at least) split with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
The Ravens have been pretty good at handing Pittsburgh losses lately. They haven’t had as much luck with the Bengals, a team that the Ravens haven’t beat since 2013.
The Ravens need to keep up the good work against Pittsburgh and step up their game against the Bengals. If the Bengals sweep the Ravens again, the Ravens won’t win the AFC North. This division is just too competitive.
- Stay healthy
You would think this is a no-brainer. Not for Baltimore. In all honesty, the Ravens best bet to bounce back in 2016 is to make sure all of their key players are healthy by Week 1.
Last season, 22 players ended the season on injured reserve. Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Sr., and Terrell Suggs were all on injured reserve by Week 11 of last season. It’s hard to win games when your star talent and leadership aren’t available for a large chunk of your season. Staying healthy means staying competitive.