Baltimore Ravens' 2021 schedule: Daunting December will decide division

The Baltimore Ravens' 2020 schedule looks like a breeze compared to what's in store for them late in 2021. Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Ravens:


Sept. 13: at Las Vegas (MNF)

Sept. 19: vs. Kansas City (SNF)

Sept. 26: at Detroit

Oct. 3: at Denver

Oct. 11: vs. Indianapolis (MNF)

Oct. 17: vs. L.A. Chargers

Oct. 24: vs. Cincinnati

Oct. 31: Bye

Nov. 7: vs. Minnesota

Nov. 11: at Miami (TNF)

Nov. 21: at Chicago

Nov. 28: vs. Cleveland (SNF)

Dec. 5: at Pittsburgh

Dec. 12: at Cleveland

Dec. 19: vs. Green Bay

Dec. 26: at Cincinnati

Jan. 2: vs. L.A. Rams

Jan. 9: vs. Pittsburgh

Strength of schedule: 2nd, .563

Biggest takeaway

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta recently said he first looks at December when the schedule is released. What he saw this year is a make-or-break month if Baltimore wants to capture its third AFC North title in four seasons. For the first time in franchise history, all of the Ravens’ divisional road games are in one month (December). This comes after Baltimore goes against one AFC North team in the first 11 weeks of the season.

Overall, Baltimore faces a 2020 playoff team in six of its final seven games -- which is much different than a year ago, when the Ravens had the NFL’s easiest schedule down the stretch. The start of the season isn’t exactly a breeze, either. The Ravens are on the road for three of their first four games for the first time since 2015, which is coach John Harbaugh’s only losing season (5-11) in Baltimore.

One storyline to watch

The schedule makers didn't do the Ravens any favors against the Chiefs and Browns. Lamar Jackson has yet to beat the Chiefs in three meetings, and it’ll be a stiffer challenge to do so this year against the team that has won the AFC the past two years. Baltimore plays host to Kansas City after opening the season at Las Vegas. This means playing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on a short week after taking a cross-country, red-eye flight.

The lack of rest could also come into play in Week 14, when Baltimore travels to Cleveland. The week before (Week 13), the Browns are on a bye while the Ravens play at the Steelers in one of the most physical rivalries in the NFL. This game could give Baltimore or Cleveland the inside track to the AFC North title.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Ravens' win total at 11. This looks like a push, as long as the Ravens take care of business at M&T Bank Stadium. This is one of the toughest home schedules in team history: six of the nine teams playing in Baltimore made the postseason last year. But the Ravens have the NFL’s third-best home record (77-27) since Harbaugh became coach in 2008.

Bold prediction

The Ravens will sweep their December division road trips to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati. How bold is this? The Ravens have gone undefeated on the road in the AFC North only twice (2011 and 2019). But Jackson has shown that he plays his best at the end of the regular season. He has won his past 11 starts in December, producing a league-high total QBR (78.5) and scoring the most total touchdowns (31).