In 2012, the Ravens began the season with four games in 18 days.
Last year, they opened the regular season on the road in Denver – a rare assignment for a defending Super Bowl champion.
This season’s challenge: three straight AFC North games to open the year.
The Ravens are the only team in the NFL with three straight divisional games to begin the season. Baltimore hasn’t done it since 2008, Head Coach John Harbaugh’s first year on the job.
“We understand the challenge in front of us,” Harbaugh said.
“We’d want to win all three games no matter who we were opening up with. [We will take it] one at a time, but the fact that division games are so valuable – so important – and to open up with three right in a row … I know that the three opponents are feeling the same way about those games. Those are going to be hard-fought, highly-contested football games.”
The Ravens start with the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. Then the Steelers come to town for Thursday Night Football. The AFC North stretch ends with a trip to Cleveland in Week 3.
After flying back from the final preseason game in New Orleans early Friday morning, the Ravens practiced on Friday and Saturday before the players were given the days off Sunday and Monday. Harbaugh said the team already started working on the Bengals last week. Often times, since the starters don’t play in the final preseason game, they practice in preparation for the Week 1 opponent.
“I expect them to come back Tuesday popping out of their skin ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “I know they’re going to be excited to get back and go to work.”
The last time the Ravens opened with three straight divisional games, in 2008, Baltimore also opened with Cincinnati and notched a 17-10 win. The Ravens then beat the Browns in Week 2, but fell in overtime in Pittsburgh in Week 3.
Baltimore last kicked off the season with the Bengals in 2012, which resulted in a 44-13 Ravens victory to jumpstart the eventual Super Bowl season.