It seems like almost every year the Baltimore Ravens enter a new season submerged in uncertainty. Will Lamar Jackson be able to stay healthy? Will the secondary hold its own? Is Lamar Jackson going to be on the team? Regardless of the answer to those questions, they are usually sitting comfortably in a playoff slot by the end of the season.

But the concerns surrounding Baltimore ahead of the 2024-25 campaign could be what finally trips it up. An offensive line undergoing sizable reconstruction and the departure of former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald can potentially create a challenging adjustment period for last season's No. 1 seed in the AFC. A difficult schedule might only accentuate these issues.

The Ravens' residence in the AFC North requires them to always be prepared and mentally tough, qualities they consistently exemplify, but every other team in the division has a chance to theoretically be better than it was last year either because of health or roster additions.

If Derrick Henry can hold off Father Time a bit longer, then obviously the same could also apply to Baltimore. One should not be overly dependent on 30-year-old running backs, however. Furthermore, the AFC is becoming dangerously deep both at the top and bottom of the playoff picture. The opportunities to coast, even for a squad that had a league-best +203 point differential in 2023-24, per StatMuse, are sparse.

There is one particular stretch of games that should force head coach John Harbaugh and company to bring their best brand of football, otherwise it could be a rare uphill climb for Baltimore this year. Now that fans have had a month to digest the new NFL schedule, we are going to dig into it a bit more and try to identify the Ravens' biggest pitfall.

Weeks 3-5 will test the Ravens' defense, O-Line and resolve

A Week 2 meeting versus the Las Vegas Raiders in M&T Bank Stadium is the only reason this subheading does not read “Weeks 1-5,” as an opening battle with the two-time defending champion Kansas City Chiefs ensures that there is no smooth transition from preseason to regular season action. Though, the first quarter of the schedule is grueling enough even with this expected respite.

Following an offseason characterized by considerable change, it can be especially tricky to navigate early bumps in the road. And there are possibly a number of those on the Ravens' 2024-25 path.

Week 3 at Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) and quarterback Dak Prescott (4) talk during the game against the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Since I continue to emphasize Baltimore's key subtractions, I would be remiss if I did not also allude to the myriad of questions and potential distractions levitating above Jerry World. The Dallas Cowboys have lost a trusted defensive coordinator in their own right and arguably have the thinnest running back room in the NFL. But they should also have a highly motivated Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons charging onto the field, playing for historic contract extensions (I expect CeeDee Lamb to have signed by then).

Dallas is a different team at home and has the personnel to slow down Baltimore's rushing attack. Lamar Jackson might have to get creative to put points on the Cowboys' mammoth scoreboard. Fortunately, he has the ability and weapons like Henry, Mark Andrews, Zay Flowers and possibly Rashod Bateman to do just that in this prime-time showdown.

If America's Team still manages to pull out the victory, we will all be subjected to the annual “Is Dallas a legit Super Bowl contender?” talk even earlier than usual.

Week 4 vs. Buffalo Bills

The 2023-24 postseason ended in disappointment for both the Ravens and Buffalo Bills, as they could not solve the Rubik's Cube that is the Chiefs. Each roster has undergone a shake-up to some degree but remain AFC contenders largely because of the dynamic athletes who take snaps under center for them.

All of this is to say that the Week 4 edition of Sunday Night Football should be a tightly-contested and offensively explosive affair. Josh Allen could be in line to snag MVP honors if he cuts down the turnovers a bit, and the Bills' revamped wide receiving group is primed to help him do just that. Rookie Keon Coleman has the tools to be an effective red-zone magnet and the steal of the 2024 NFL Draft.

In general, Buffalo plucked multiple players out of the prospect pool who could ensure it stays in the hunt for that elusive championship. It has been a while since Jackson has seen this team, but he is unlikely to underestimate the four-time defending AFC East champs.

And Buffalo must be sure to have the same mindset, as Baltimore still has the manpower, led by Second-Team All-Pro Justin Madubuike, to disrupt the opposing O-Line. No matter who prevails, this feels like the makings of an exhausting battle.

The grind will only continue going into the following week.

Week 5 at Bengals should be tougher than usual for Ravens

Usually, Ravens fans wait for this matchup with forks and knives in their hands. Simply put, with Lamar Jackson at QB, Baltimore has dominated its rivalry with the Cincinnati Bengals. He is 8-2 against the AFC North foe in his career, Despite never throwing for 300 yards in any of those games, the two-time MVP has still left his mark on the franchise and fan base.

And yet, Who Dey Nation can still claim some bragging rights, due to the Ravens star quarterback not yet reaching the Super Bowl. The environment is always tense in this divisional collision, and this year's should be no different.

Like the two other teams on this list, Cincy faces some difficult roster questions entering next regular season. But also just like the Cowboys and Bills, they have at least two offensive gamebreakers who can ignite the home crowd. And if the extension-seeking Tee Higgins is still on the team, they have three.

Baltimore has dangerous playmakers of its own, so this could come down to the defense. New DC Zach Orr is going to be tested in this road game. Actually, he figures to be pushed in all three of these aforementioned contests.

Though, if he and the Ravens fare well by the end of this taxing stretch, confidence from and in this squad should be running high heading into the rest of the 2024-25 schedule. Moreover, they would probably be viewed as the Chiefs' biggest obstacle to a historic three-peat.