If the Baltimore Ravens want to win the AFC North in 2022, then they are going to have to finish the season strong—at least, that’s what the schedule implies. Indeed, four of their final five games are against their own divisional opponents, including two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and one each against the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.
That’s a lot of unfinished divisional business 12 games into the year, and of course, this thing can go either way for the Ravens. If they come out of that gauntlet having been triumphant, then they can dominate the division, or make up important ground. Alternatively, they could enter that final stretch with control of the division, only to lose it by getting run down by their most familiar adversaries.
For what it’s worth, the Steelers, too, have three divisional games in their final five, including the two against the Ravens. Every team finishes off the year with a divisional game, and as they usually do, this year’s final matchup is against the Browns. So half of their divisional work will come in December and January.
Not that last year is anything to go by, but the Ravens finished the 2021 season on a 0-6 run, going from the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the AFC to a losing record and out of the playoffs altogether. So much of that was directly attributed to the health of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and injuries are about the most volatile factor in the football equation.
John Harbaugh’s Ravens teams, on the contrary, tend to be strong finishers. They finished the 2020 season on a 5-0 run, for example. The year before that, they went 14-2 on the season, so of course they had a strong finish. They also went 6-1 in 2018, which was Jackson’s rookie year.
But they went 0-2 against the Steelers last year, and the year before, as well. They did sweep the Bengals and Browns in 2020, but went a combined 1-3 against them last year, finishing the season with a 3-3 divisional record overall, which proved to be the difference between a winning and losing record.
The point is, Baltimore will have a big say in how the AFC North goes over the course of the final month of the season; or at least, there’s a very good chance that it plays out that way. This is a division that is, overall, fairly evenly matched. There are no matchups where you can say for sure that one team should sweep the other without question.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is on a four-game winning streak over the Ravens. Can they continue that, or will their luck run out? This will be one of the major themes down the stretch, as these two classic rivals will square off twice in that span.