NFL did Baltimore no favors in 2013 schedule
The Ravens won't get to open defense of their Super Bowl title at home, but they will play four times in prime time, including a Thanksgiving night home game against the Steelers.
There will always be some who are furious that the Ravens can't open the season at home -- the scheduling conflict with the Orioles for Thursday, Sept. 5 simply couldn't be worked out -- but overall, there's a lot to like about this schedule from the Ravens point of view.
In addition to the season opener and Thanksgiving night game, the Ravens will play on Monday Night Football against the Lions in Week 15 and are on prime time again the next week when they host the Patriots. They have no West Coast trips, which have been a problem in years past. And almost all of their toughest opponents -- based on last season's performance -- will come to Baltimore.
Overall, the Ravens' schedule ranks fifth-toughest based on the 2012 winning percentage of their opponents (.535) and a good start to 2013 could be vital. The soft spot in this schedule appears to be early in the season -- with games against the Browns, Bills and Dolphins in a four-week span. Those teams were a combined 18-30 last season. When the schedule grows progressively more difficult later in the season, many of those games will be at home.
Make no mistake, the opening night game in Denver will be a tall order, and should the Ravens lose and the Orioles game be rained out that night, the howling will probably be heard as far away as Ocean City as irate fans clamor that the Ravens should have opened at home. But once it was determined the Ravens would open on the road, Denver was the no-brainer destination. Heck, the NFL has already put out a movie-type trailer to hype the game.
The Broncos will be frothing at the mouth for another shot at the Ravens after that double-overtime stunner in the playoffs, and the guess here is that Jacoby Jones will not be sneaking behind any safeties late in that game.
Between Weeks 2 and 5, the Ravens face just one team with a winning record last year and that will be at home, when the Texans and Ed Reed make a visit. The Ravens will host Paul Kruger and Cleveland in the home opener in Week 2, allowing Browns fans to do their own howling over the fact that the former Browns franchise will be raising another Super Bowl banner in the presence of the new Browns franchise.
The Ravens then host Green Bay and visit Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks before a well-timed Week 8 bye. Thank goodness the schedule makers didn't set up the Ravens and Steelers to meet twice in a three-week span, as they did this past season.
The second half of the schedule features a stretch of four home games in five weeks, including the Thanksgiving night game with the Steelers and a Week 16 matchup against the Patriots. They also host the Jets and the Vikings in that span, and travel to Detroit for the Monday night contest in Week 15. For the third straight year, the Ravens end the season in Cincinnati in a game that could have huge playoff implications.