Ravens' schedule ranked second-hardest

Our friends at numberFire have crunched all the schedules and determined the Baltimore Ravens have the second-hardest road to the playoffs. The group rated the five toughest and easiest schedules based on their calculations.

The Ravens, who were one game away from reaching the Super Bowl, face the two teams who played in the Super Bowl last season (the New England Patriots and New York Giants). Baltimore finishes the regular season by playing five playoff teams in the last seven weeks.

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Starting QB Joe Flacco recently claimed he was the NFL's best quarterback. He'll have his chance to back up that claim this season against a difficult set of opponents that includes matchups against all AFC No. 1 seeds, their strong division rivals and the NFC East. Do not let the fact that the NFC East did not grade out spectacularly record-wise in 2011 fool you. The East is still strong with dominant forces in the Eagles and Cowboys, not to mention the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Expect the ageless Ravens defense, however, to rise to the challenge and secure another playoff bid.

Based on how the schedule makers laid out the season, I think the Pittsburgh Steelers have the toughest road in the AFC North. The Steelers only have two home games before Oct. 28 and travel to two AFC West teams in the first three weeks of the season. To increase the level of difficulty, Pittsburgh's bye comes in Week 4. That's 13 straight weeks without a break to finish the season.