Five thoughts on the Ravens' 2013 regular season schedule, which was released Thursday night:
Time To Get Over Season Opener
Sure, it's a shame the Ravens aren't celebrating their Super Bowl title with a primetime home opener, like other recent winners. But it's not as if a centuries-old tradition is being violated. It was only a decade ago that the NFL started giving its Super Bowl winners a season opener in primetime, and even then, the idea was more about generating ratings than paying homage to some high sporting custom. I know the impasse between the Ravens and Orioles has been a hot-button issue, but it's time to move on. The situation lacked an easily workable resolution. The Ravens have to start against the Broncos in Denver, a tough spot, but they'll still play eight home games and eight on the road. Switching the opener does not impact their chances of getting back to the playoffs. End of story.
League Shows Champs Respect All the talk before Thursday night's unveiling was about what isn't on the Ravens schedule, i.e., a home opener. Let's talk about what IS on the schedule. There's a lot to like, in my opinion. There are four primetime games, a respectable enough recognition of the Ravens' stature after winning it all. There's a Thanksgiving night home date with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a dramatic piece of scheduling if ever there was one. There's Ed Reed's return to Baltimore with the Houston Texans on Sept. 22, certain to be an intensely emotional day. There's Bill Belichick's trip to M&T Bank Stadium – smack in the middle of the holiday season, no less. The Grinch visits Charm City. Didn't someone write that screenplay?
Toughest Games At Home
During the past two regular seasons, the Ravens were extremely strong at home and just a .500 team on the road. With that in mind, the Ravens could be catching a break with this year's schedule. Seven of their 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs in 2012, and five of those seven games are in Baltimore. In other words, most of their toughest games are at home. They get the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium; each of those games would look a lot tougher on the road. They also get the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings at home – teams that can be tough on the road. Opening in Denver against the Broncos is going to be a major challenge, but after that, the Ravens don't play another road game against a 2012 playoff team until the last week of the season. Between their season opener and season ender, they'll play six straight road games against teams that didn't make the playoffs.
Three-Game Homestand At Good Time
Homestands are a baseball thing. A team plays two or three three-game series in its ballpark, then goes on the road for the same amount of time. You seldom see an NFL team stay at home or go on the road for more than a couple of weeks. But the Ravens will have a well-timed and rare three-game homestand in late November and early December, just when teams want to start building momentum for the playoffs. They'll start with a Sunday afternoon game against the Jets, host Pittsburgh four nights later in the Turkey Bowl, then get a mini-bye and face the Vikings on a Sunday. I'm sure some fans would be screaming foul if they had to play three straight games on the road, but three straight at home, without a horrifying road swing to even things out … it' hard to complain about that.
1) The late October bye is well timed, coming almost exactly halfway through the season, just when it most needed.
2) It's nice to see the Ravens-Steelers home-and-home series back to normal, not crammed into the first half of the season (like in 2011) or crammed into a three-week span (like in 2012).
3) After opening in Denver, the Ravens will leave the Eastern time zone only once more, to play in Chicago in mid-November.
4) Looks like the league gave the Ravens a homecoming-style home opener (Cleveland) in exchange for not getting to open the season at home.
5) There's no getting around it: Denver is going to love this home shot at the Ravens to open the season. The Broncos will always believe they should have made it to the Super Bowl in 2012, that it took a miracle for the Ravens to beat them. They'll plot revenge, but no matter what happens, they can't get that playoff game back.