LOOKING OVER THE 2014 SCHEDULE
The 2014 NFL schedule was released last week, and the predictions and lines are already beginning to be set. The Ravens open the 2014 season at home against the 2013 division-winner Cincinnati Bengals, and with over four months before kickoff, are 2.5-point favorites, according to Vegas.
The Ravens then host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night football before traveling to play the Cleveland Browns on the road the following week. Unlike in recent seasons, the Ravens will finish the season with only one divisional game, hosting the Browns in Week 17. The two games before that will be at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars and in Houston against the Texans.
The one potential issue with the schedule is the Ravens’ bye week, which does not come until Week 11, one of the latest ones in the entire league. They also may be unhappy with playing four of five consecutive games on the road in October and early November.
Before the season begins, the Ravens are set to play the 28th most difficult schedule, as the 2013 winning percentage of their opponents was only .461. The three prime-time games on the schedule are at home against the Steelers on Thursday in Week 2, on Sunday night in Pittsburgh in Week 9, and in New Orleans on Monday night in Week 12.
RAVENS BRING BACK LAQUAN WILLIAMS
Wide receiver LaQuan Williams, a Baltimore native and former University of Maryland Terrapin, re-signed with the Ravens last week, to a one-year deal with no guaranteed money. Williams joins a receiving corps that already has Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Marlon Brown, among others.
The signing will likely place Williams into a role on special teams, where he has excelled in the past, and with his contract counting very little against the salary cap, the signing is very low-risk in nature.
Last season Williams was released by the Ravens prior to the beginning of the season with hamstring and shoulder injuries. He managed to catch on with the New England Patriots at one point last year, but was cut 10 days later.
Another potential benefit of bringing back Williams is that he may increase the competitive nature of the team’s wide receiver corps and special teams unit simply by competing for his own spot. If he can push players like Deonte Thompson to be better, that would also be beneficial to the Ravens.
STEVE SMITH ENJOYING BALTIMORE
Newly-acquired Ravens’ receiver Steve Smith has moved on fairly quickly from being cut by his former team earlier this offseason. Smith had been a member of the Carolina Panthers for thirteen years prior to this season, and while he will always have a home in Charlotte, he’s embracing Baltimore well.
Smith has already pledged his allegiance to crab cakes, a popular cuisine in Baltimore, after visiting Jimmy’s Famous Seafood with running back Ray Rice. Smith has also made it known he is house hunting in the area.
In addition, Smith has already begun bringing his strong competitive nature to Baltimore and has circled the Ravens’ fourth game of the season against the Panthers circled, according to wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Jones told NFL Network that Smith has a “chip on his shoulder.”
Jones added later that while Smith has tried to hide his excitement to play the Panthers, it’s visible on his face. Smith has since then had a playful back-and-forth on Twitter with his former teammate, Panthers’ running back DeAngelo Williams.
PARTICIPATION FOR WEBB’S SOFTBALL GAME GROWING
Cornerback Lardarius Webb’s annual charity softball game on June 1st has gotten bigger and more popular each year. The game pins the Ravens’ offense against the defense, with Webb the captain of the defense and receiver Torrey Smith the captain of the offense.
Webb found out earlier this offseason that new receiver Steve Smith was going to participate in the event, and Smith has since taken to Twitter to talk trash. Smith told Webb that Webb would “learn how to take this L June 1 softball game O vs D.”
The trash talk is beneficial as it will make the game more entertaining to fans, but the entertainment value was boosted again last week when former Raven and future hall-of-fame safety Ed Reed announced he would play.
The game will take place on June 1st at 3:30, at M&T Bank Stadium, and anyone interested in attending can purchase tickets from Webb’s website. Webb said earlier this month, “I feel privileged. It’s not a game without my teammates coming out to support me, and the fans coming out to support all of us.”