Five thoughts on the Ravens' 2015 regular season schedule:
](https://stanza.co/button/launch?calendar=https://spoton.it/schedules/nfl/ravens&size=large&options=ticker#/all-1)I'm going to admit this: Upon initially seeing what's in store for the Ravens this year, my reaction was, simply, "Wow." Why? I think it's mostly because of the long and winding start. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone. The Ravens barely left the Eastern time zone in 2014, but this year, especially early, to paraphrase that Grateful Dead lyric, what a long, strange trip it's going to be. The Ravens open the season in Denver, then go to Oakland. Three of their first four games and five of their first seven are on the road, with all but one trip to the Pacific or Mountain time zone. That's some traveling, folks. I've got the appropriate theme for the first half of the season: "Ravens Over America." And while they compete better than a lot of teams away from home, it's never easy out there. The goal is come out on the other side with a solid record and a chance to mount a playoff push.
If they survive those trips with decent prospects, they could build some real momentum when they want it most, heading for the postseason. The stretch run of the schedule is more forgiving, certainly from a home/road perspective. At one point, from late October to late November, the Ravens go more than a month without a road game. At one point in December, they have a three-game homestand, a common occurrence in baseball but a rare commodity in pro football. True, things get tough at the end, with home games against Pittsburgh and Seattle and a trip to Cincinnati, but that's preceded by a six-week run without a game against a 2014 playoff qualifier. (San Diego, Bye, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Cleveland, Miami.) For the Ravens, who traditionally fare well at home and against teams with lesser records, it's an opportunity.
A look at the all the Ravens' opponents for the upcoming 2015 season.
It appears the TV networks and league are more optimistic about the Ravens than a year ago. In 2014, when the Ravens were coming off a .500 season in which they failed to make the playoffs, they had just three prime-time games, their lowest total since 2009. This year, coming off a season in which they struggled at times but finished strong, they're playing five games under the lights – a 66.7 percent increase, by my count. As usual, there's no home game on a Monday night (the Ravens have hosted MNF just once under Head Coach John Harbaugh,), but hopefully everyone is over that quibble. I mean, the Ravens host a PAIR of Sunday night games, and they also play twice on Monday night and once on Thursday night. That's plenty of national exposure, so much that I'm guessing the players and coaches wouldn't mind a little less. Of course, it's a compliment. The networks and league obviously think the Ravens are a good bet to play relevant games and put on a show.
The opener of the home-and-home series with Pittsburgh is a Thursday night affair at Heinz Field in week 4, and given what happened the last time the teams met there, the Steelers are going to be in a seriously vengeful mood. If I'm the Ravens, for the purposes of keeping my early record reasonable, I would much rather go into that game 2-1 as opposed to 1-2. That puts a lot of pressure on those first weeks. Opening in Denver, against Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning, promises to be tough. (The 2013 opener in Denver didn't go well, as you may recall.) Then it's on to Oakland for a week 2 contest in which the Ravens surely will be favored, but of course, perennial losing teams still have hope early in a season, so they aren't so deflated. Anyway, then comes a crucial home opener against the defending AFC North champs, the Bengals, in a replay of a game the Ravens let get away last year. My two cents, they need to get two wins out of those first three games, before they head to Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh game at M&T Bank Stadium is always big, of course, but for my money, the marquee game on this year's home schedule is the Sunday night contest against Seattle on Dec. 13. It's a matchup of two of the past three Super Bowl winners, with New England included in their company only because of the bizarre last-minute developments that denied the Seahawks a second straight Super Bowl win a few months ago. They're good, as rugged and formidable as any visiting team that has invaded M&T Bank Stadium in recent years. The Ravens, of course, also have a long history of playing tough, chin-out football. I still remember the last game between the teams, in Seattle in 2011. The Seahawks won, and a lot has gone right for both franchises since then. The Sunday night exposure is warranted. Should be a classic.