Five thoughts on the Ravens' 2017 schedule:
Ravens Can Shout, "Finally!"
If allotted just one word to describe it, I would use "finally." The Ravens finally have a Monday Night Football home game, their first since 2012. They finally get to play in London, where 23 NFL teams have gone before them. Most importantly, they finally don't have to travel to Cincinnati and play the Bengals in their season finale. That's how they've concluded the past two seasons and five of the past six: by going on the road to face one of their toughest divisional rivals, usually with playoff ramifications involved. I'm not going to say it was unfair, but the schedule makers were overdue to come up with a new idea, and it's fitting that that idea is a simple reversal: the Bengals coming to Baltimore to finish the 2017 season. Hey, if they do it five times in the next six years, we'll call it even.
**Be Careful What You Wish For
It was reported that the Ravens asked the league NOT to give them a bye after they play in London on Sept. 24. Some teams take a post-London bye to give them more time to recover from the lengthy trip, but the Ravens apparently prefer to take their bye later in the season, presumably because their players are more banged up and in need of a break. Well, the league gave the Ravens what they wanted, a November bye in Week 10, as opposed to post-London in Week 4. But the Ravens are going to pay a price for continuing without a break after travelling to London and back. They'll play at home the following Sunday, but it's a huge game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, seven days after that AFC North showdown, the Ravens will play the Oakland Raiders in California, nine time zones away from London. That's some serious travel in a short time. (And no, none by boat.)
Nothing Outrageous To Complain About
If allotted just one other word to describe the schedule, I would use "sane." Unlike in prior years, there's nothing outrageous on it like a bunch of cross-country trips early in the season, a gauntlet of late-season crucibles or a crazy-long homestand. It's just … normal. The Ravens' entire slate of divisional games is located in the first and final quarters of the season, as (I think) it should be. They'll simply alternate home and road games well into November. In fact, they don't play at home or on the road in successive weeks until they face Houston and Detroit at M&T Bank Stadium within six days in late November. (An earlier pair of back-to-back road games against the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans is broken up by the bye.) All in all, it's your basic, straightforward schedule.
**Joining The Applause For A Monday Night Home Game (I Guess)
I'll be honest: I've never quite gotten the anger that has welled up over time because the Ravens seldom host a Monday night game. They've hosted plenty of games on Sunday night, which long ago surpassed Monday night as pro football's premier primetime stage. They've also hosted plenty of Thursday night games. Monday Night Football was once a larger-than-life media event that could shine a light on your city and team, but that was a long time ago, and things have changed. The only reason to get upset now was the sheer ridiculousness of the disparity. i.e., the fact that the Ravens have played 16 road games and just six at home on Monday night since 1996. What's that about? So I guess I'll join the applause for the rare sight of a Monday night home game this year: Houston at Baltimore on Nov. 27. I guess what goes around doesn't always come around, but it does occasionally.
Quick-Hit Things To Like And Dislike
Things to like about this schedule: opening the season with three straight games and five of seven against teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2016; closing the season with a pair of home games (after closing with a pair of road games in 2016); playing in Green Bay before winter sets in; a home schedule dominated by seemingly winnable games. Things not to like about this schedule: opening in Cincinnati, where the Ravens have struggled; playing five of the last six road games against teams that went .500 or better in 2016; the "London, Baltimore and Oakland in two weeks" journey referenced above; the home-and-home series with the Steelers concluding with a December trip into Pittsburgh, where life is never easy.
A look at the Ravens' history with each upcoming opponent, what happened in their last meeting and a key matchup to watch.