Over a three-week span in October, the Ravens will bounce from London to Baltimore to Glendale, Arizona — and that might be one of the easier stretches in their 2023 schedule, released Thursday night.

Not even a 17-game slate dotted with potential cellar dwellers offers many respites. The Ravens face a Super Bowl favorite on the road in Week 2, head to England in Week 6, play their first of four scheduled prime-time games in Week 11 and wrap up their regular season in Week 18 against their longtime rival. Every game will give coach John Harbaugh and his staff something to worry about.

Four months from the Ravens’ season opener, here’s how their schedule stacks up, with opponents ranked from least to most difficult.

17. Week 1 vs. Texans

Ravens defenses rarely make life easy for rookie quarterbacks. So how much can Houston realistically get out of No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud in his first career start, much less a road start? There’s not much of a support system in place. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is a star, but the offensive line is otherwise suspect. John Metchie III, the Texans’ most explosive wide receiver, missed his rookie year after being diagnosed with leukemia. There’s more high-end talent on defense, where first-year coach DeMeco Ryans will lean on defensive end Will Anderson Jr. and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. But how much consistency can he wring out of the group?

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16. Week 8 at Cardinals

Kyler Murray, #1 of the Arizona Cardinals, is carted off the field after being injured against the New England Patriots during the first quarter of the game at State Farm Stadium on Dec. 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

After tearing his ACL in December, quarterback Kyler Murray is expected to miss part of this season. Even a late-October return for this game might be unlikely. Whether the Ravens face a hobbled Murray or backup Colt McCoy, they should have a clear advantage at quarterback — and most every position on the field. Arizona has one of the NFL’s worst rosters, and another woeful season would accelerate its rebuild, maybe putting the Cardinals in position to draft Murray’s replacement next year. Even if this game lacks juice, Cardinals wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and DeAndre Hopkins make for a nice subplot.

15. Week 14 vs. Rams

The Ravens get the Rams after a bye week. Even better for Harbaugh: By early December, the Rams could be spiraling toward a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in 2024. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who dealt with a spinal contusion and nagging elbow injury last season, will be playing behind a shaky offensive line. Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive tackle Aaron Donald missed significant time in 2022 with ankle injuries. The team cut outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and traded away cornerback Jalen Ramsey and wide receiver Allen Robinson this offseason. Sean McVay is one of the NFL’s most creative coaches, but this is a top-heavy team with a huge rookie class. That’s a shaky foundation.

14. Week 3 vs. Colts

On paper, few quarterback matchups are as exciting as Lamar Jackson versus Anthony Richardson. Jackson might be the most talented running quarterback in NFL history; Richardson, Indianapolis’ No. 4 overall pick, might be the most athletic quarterback prospect in NFL history. The Colts’ roster had some glaring holes last season, especially along the offensive line, but it still has All-Pro-level stars: running back Jonathan Taylor, guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and inside linebacker Shaquille Leonard. Winning in Baltimore, though, especially with a raw rookie at quarterback, is a tall task.

13. Week 6 vs. Titans (in London)

Ryan Tannehill, #17 of the Tennessee Titans, hands off during a 17-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 18, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Harry How/Getty Images)

The Ravens’ first international game — a 44-7 loss to Jacksonville in 2017 — gives them a low bar to clear ahead of their second international game. Not that they’ll need much help inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This Titans team probably isn’t blowing anyone out in 2023, not in the United States, not in England. Tennessee ended last season with seven straight losses, and the offense’s two most important players, quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, are not getting better with age. Star tackle Jeffery Simmons headlines an injury-prone defense that cratered toward the end of last season.

12. Week 9 vs. Seahawks

Last offseason, Seattle traded away quarterback Russell Wilson and seemed headed for a drawn-out overhaul. This offseason, it’s looking more and more like a team no one wants to face. With first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba joining D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks should have one of the NFL’s best wide receiver trios. On defense, cornerbacks Devon Witherspoon and Tariq Woolen have lockdown potential. If quarterback Geno Smith can build on his breakout 2022 and the run defense can improve, Seattle should be a tough out.

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11. Week 10 vs. Browns

Tyler Huntley, #2 of the Baltimore Ravens, is tackled by Deion Jones, #54 of the Cleveland Browns, during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 17, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Cleveland’s 7-10 record last season was somewhat misleading. The Browns finished No. 12 overall in team efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, and their roster, at least on paper, is stocked with talent. But Cleveland’s not going anywhere unless quarterback Deshaun Watson improves. Watson finished with a career-worst 38.3 QBR in 2022, easily outplayed by backup Jacoby Brissett (60.0 QBR), who nearly led a comeback win in Baltimore last season. The addition of defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson should help the Browns’ woeful run defense.

10. Week 18 vs. Steelers

The Ravens desperately needed Jackson in last season’s 16-13 home loss, but injuries and illness keep getting in the way. Jackson has started just two games against the Steelers over the past three seasons — just as many as quarterback Kenny Pickett started against the Ravens as a rookie. Pittsburgh’s young offense should take a step forward in 2023, especially if the line keeps up its progress. The defense should remain solid, too, though the Steelers’ inside linebackers and cornerbacks look like obvious weak links.

9. Week 17 vs. Dolphins

Good luck trying to predict what happens in this New Year’s Eve matchup. In 2019, the visiting Ravens blew out Miami in their season opener. In 2021, a poor Dolphins team blitzed Jackson into submission inside Hard Rock Stadium. Last year, the Ravens coughed up a 21-point fourth-quarter lead at home. Whatever happens next, Miami’s defense should be tougher. The Dolphins traded for Ramsey and hired well-respected coordinator Vic Fangio this offseason. On offense, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion history is a worry, especially this late in the season. But he’ll have three of the NFL’s fastest players — wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and rookie running back Devon Achane — keeping defenses on their heels.

8. Week 7 vs. Lions

Two years ago, Detroit won just three games. (If not for Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, it would’ve had a fourth.) Now the Lions are NFC North favorites, riding the wave of last season’s second-half surge. After starting 1-6, Detroit won eight of its final 10 games to finish 9-8, its first winning season since 2017. The defense was leaky, so the Lions signed cornerback Cameron Sutton and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency and drafted inside linebacker Jack Campbell in the first round. The offense should again be electric, even with Jared Goff’s limitations at quarterback. Wide receiver Jameson Williams’ suspension will likely end after Week 6, so the speedster should be fresh and ready for Baltimore.

7. Week 4 at Browns

The Ravens’ last two trips to Cleveland haven’t been very fun. In 2021, Jackson suffered his season-ending ankle injury in a 24-22 loss. In 2022, offensive coordinator Greg Roman all but abandoned a successful ground game in a 13-3 defeat. The Browns have the speed on defense to contain Jackson — or at least slow him — and the rushing attack to punish the Ravens if they play with light boxes.

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6. Week 11 vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JANUARY 15: Eli Apple #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals tackles Justice Hill #43 of the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paycor Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Eli Apple, #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals, tackles Justice Hill, #43 of the Baltimore Ravens, during the fourth quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paycor Stadium on Jan. 15, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Just four days separate the Ravens from a potential knock-down, drag-out fight against Cleveland and a “Thursday Night Football” showdown against the reigning AFC North champions. Jackson outplayed Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow in their prime-time meeting in Baltimore last season, but the Bengals will have the edge at wide receiver, and their offensive line should be improved as well. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who missed the Ravens’ Week 5 win last year, almost single-handedly elevates Cincinnati’s run defense.

5. Week 12 at Chargers

The Chargers have a potential superstar quarterback in Justin Herbert. And with the help of that cheap rookie contract, they have won exactly zero playoff games over his first three seasons. The Chargers narrowly missed out on the postseason in 2021, then choked away a 20-point lead in January during their wild-card-round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston should boost the passing game, and better injury luck could keep the team in the mix for an AFC West crown. Left tackle Rashawn Slater, wide receiver Keenan Allen, outside linebacker Joey Bosa and cornerback J.C. Jackson all missed significant time last year. SoFi Stadium doesn’t offer the Chargers much of a home-field advantage, however, and the Ravens will have 10 days to prepare for “Sunday Night Football.”

4. Week 5 at Steelers

The Ravens escaped Pittsburgh with a win last season, but they had to go off script to get it. After knocking Pickett out of the game early in the first half, the Ravens lost their own starting quarterback, Tyler Huntley, to the concussion protocol in the second half. Steelers backup Mitch Trubisky threw for 276 yards, but he had three passes picked off in the red zone. No matter how the matchup looks on paper, expect a close one. Seven of the Ravens’ past eight trips to Acrisure Stadium have been decided by five points or fewer.

3. Week 15 at Jaguars

Times sure have changed in Jacksonville. The Jaguars, once perennial doormats, are getting the Ravens in a meaningful late-season “Sunday Night Football” matchup. But Jacksonville’s not sneaking up on anyone this season, certainly not the Ravens. In the Jaguars’ 28-27 win at TIAA Bank Field last year, quarterback Trevor Lawrence engineered two fourth-quarter comebacks, capped by a last-minute touchdown and 2-point conversion. With wide receiver Calvin Ridley reinstated after a yearlong gambling-related suspension, Jacksonville should be even more dynamic offensively. The defense is far from elite, but outside linebacker Travon Walker is one of several young players with impressive pedigree.

2. Week 2 at Bengals

Cincinnati’s won its past three home games against the Ravens, but Jackson didn’t play a snap in any of them. An ankle injury sidelined him in 2021, and a knee injury kept him from playing in the Ravens’ regular-season finale and wild-card-round game last season. A game this early doesn’t have much bearing on the standings, but it could shake up the AFC’s pecking order. Cincinnati is considered the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs’ conference supremacy, especially after a narrow loss in the AFC championship game. But two weeks earlier in the playoffs, the Jackson-less Ravens limped into Paycor Stadium and nearly upset the Bengals. Mike Macdonald and Cincinnati’s Lou Anarumo, two of the NFL’s most creative defensive coordinators, could loom large in this game.

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1. Week 16 at 49ers

Christian McCaffrey, #23 of the San Francisco 49ers, celebrates after scoring a 3-yard touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter in the NFC wild-card playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 14, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The biggest question mark hanging over San Francisco’s offseason: When’s quarterback Brock Purdy coming back from offseason elbow surgery? The 49ers are otherwise loaded. They have a star on every unit of their offense: running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams. They have a star at every level of their defense: end Joey Bosa, tackle Javon Hargrave, inside linebacker Fred Warner, safety Talanoa Hufanga. If rookie Jake Moody can reliably make kicks, coach Kyle Shanahan should be happy. As for the Ravens, well, no one in Baltimore will be happy about spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the West Coast. At least they’ll have another cross-country trip rewarded with a prime-time game, this one on “Monday Night Football.”

jonas.shaffer@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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