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NFL Schedule Release: What we already know about 2017 Ravens slate

NFL Schedule Release: What we already know about 2017 Ravens slate

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

With the NFL schedule being released on Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens already know which teams they will be up against to make postseason after missing out in back-to-back years. 

First the team will play six games against their division, both a home and an away matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Cleveland Browns. Throughout the past several seasons, the league has back-loaded the schedule with divisional matchups in order to keep most teams' playoff hopes alive. Typically three of those six games will be post-Thanksgiving, with one also within the season's first three weeks. As always (except last year), one of the Ravens-Steelers matchups will sure to be on primetime.

In this year's cycle, the Ravens will face off against the AFC South and the NFC North, which means three more playoff teams from last year, the Lions, Packers, and Texans. Tough road games will include at Green Bay and an 'away game' against the Jaguars played in London (typically scheduled in the middle weeks of the season).

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As the second place finishers in the AFC North, the squad will host the Dolphins and travel to Oakland for the 16 game schedule. Both those units took home the AFC Wild Card slots in 2017. 

The timing of the Green Bay and Oakland road games will be critical in the season. Field conditions inside Oakland Alameda Coliseum have never been the best when the Oakland Athletics games are still going on in September and potentially October. Meanwhile a trip to Lambeau in late November or December will surely be a dreaded matchup where temperatures hover around zero degrees.

Last year the team finished with a tough stretch against the Cowboys, Bengals, Dolphins, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, and Bengals again. Make that three playoff teams and three divisional rivals in the final seven games. Odds would favor the Ravens getting a better balance this go around.

On Thanksgiving do not expect the Ravens to back in the limelight. With the team playing the Detroit Lions at home and the Redskins reportedly taking the primetime slot, there would be no room for Baltimore. In addition, they played against Pittsburgh on Christmas this past season. A shame for the team which is 2-0 on turkey day in their franchise's history.

There is also an indication for an uptick in primetime games for the Ravens with the team only having two last year, their lowest since 2006. Three total games were broadcast on national television. 

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Former Ravens LB Zach Orr retires from the NFL ... again

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USA Today Sports

Former Ravens LB Zach Orr retires from the NFL ... again

In 2016, Zach Orr was the Ravens' leading tackler, and earned a spot on All-Pro second team.

But before Orr could begin preparing to replicate his standout 2016 season, a rare spinal condition forced him to announce his retirement in January.

At just 25 years old, Orr struggled with the decision and considered the thought of unretiring earlier this summer.

But on Friday afternoon, the Fairfax, Va. native made his retirement official.

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With Orr coming off of his best season in his young and promising NFL career, he went to multiple consultants where he received mixed reviews on whether or not he could continue his NFL career.

Orr took to The Players' Tribune to inform the public as to why he made this decision and explains his health concerns.

After going undrafted out of North Texas in the 2014 NFL Draft, he was signed by the Ravens as a free agent. He finished his rookie season with seven special teams tackles, the second-most on the roster. In 2015, Orr finished with 22 tackles, and looked primed for a breakout season. That's exactly what happened in 2016, as he finished with 132 total tackles, three interceptions, and two fumble returns.

 

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Jay Cutler makes debut as Dolphin in preseason game against Ravens

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler makes debut as Dolphin in preseason game against Ravens

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida -- Jay Cutler's night started by getting an ovation from Miami Dolphins fans just for taking the field, and ended with him giving a shout-out to Mark Bowen.

That's the surgeon who fixed his right shoulder after his season with the Chicago Bears ended last December.

Cutler's shoulder is just fine, and that's about all Miami had to cheer about. Ryan Mallett threw for 113 yards and a touchdown , Josh Woodrum ran for two more scores and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Dolphins 31-7 on Thursday night in the second preseason game for both teams.

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"Dr. Bowen in Chicago, nice job," Cutler said, with a thumbs-up for emphasis.

Cutler played the first two series for the Dolphins, his debut as injured starter Ryan Tannehill's replacement in Miami. He was 3 of 6 for 24 yards , some of it in a no-huddle tempo, and his highlight play was one that didn't count. Facing a third-and-16, Cutler stepped up and found DeVante Parker for what would have been a 31-yard gain -- one erased by a holding flag.

"Thought he was good," said Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who also coached Cutler in Chicago. "First time out. Looks like we really weren't apart for a year. His tempo was really good."

Cutler took a big hit on his last snap, courtesy of the Ravens' Za'Darius Smith. He got up without any problem, then switched his helmet for a baseball cap and headset.

"I was kind of glad to get that one out of the way," Cutler said.

Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco isn't expected to play until Week 1 of the regular season because of back woes, and Mallett played the entire first half.

"I thought he did good," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He got out of trouble a few times. He made a few throws."

Mallett completed 13 of 22 passes, getting intercepted twice -- both on passes intended for Quincy Adeboyejo. The first pick was by Xavier Howard on a ball lofted down the left sideline and overthrow, the other coming when Cordrea Tankersley ripped the ball out of Adeboyejo's hands after he had to reach back to make a catch on a quick slant.

"I think I played better," Mallett said. "There's still plays to be made."

Woodrum completed eight of 10 passes for 110 yards.

"He's got some poise, he can play the game," Harbaugh said.

Senorise Perry had an 11-yard touchdown run for Miami, but he also fumbled away a kickoff return -- one of many Miami special-teams miscues. The Dolphins also had a punt blocked in the second quarter, setting up Mallett's 1-yard touchdown toss to Larry Donnell, and later had a hold on a kickoff return.

Gase said Miami had 10 men on the field for the blocked punt.

"It's one of those unforced errors we can't have happen," Gase said.