By Thursday evening, we will finally know the Ravens' schedule for 2020.
NFL fans love the schedule release. It's like a birthday present. We already know the Ravens' 2020 opponents, and where those games will take place. However, we don't know the exact time and date for each matchup.
Once the schedule is officially announced here on BaltimoreRavens.com at 7:30 p.m. ET, we can debate the pros and cons and discuss what we like and what we don't.
Here are five things to watch for:
Who will the Ravens face Week 1, and where will they play?
The season opener is always something to circle on the calendar. Coaches start game planning for the regular season opener weeks in advance. For veterans who see little or no preseason action, Week 1 is the game they target to be ready for 60 minutes of football. Last season, the Ravens opened on the road against the Miami Dolphins and dominated in a 59-10 victory. In many ways, that game set the tone for their franchise-best regular season. Since 2012, the Ravens have opened at home during even years, and on the road during odd years. If that trend continues, they will open at home in 2020.
How many prime-time games will there be?
Expect the Ravens to have at least four prime-time games. They are one of the NFL's must-see teams, with an MVP quarterback in Lamar Jackson and the league's highest-scoring offense in 2019. Last year, the Ravens had three prime-time games, and this year's matchup against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs sounds like a game made for prime time. Coming off a 14-2 season, the Ravens will play five games in 2020 against teams that made the playoffs last year (Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles), plus two games against the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. That should be enough to help get the Ravens on primetime frequently.
When will the Ravens face their gauntlet?
We all try to predict the toughest part of the schedule. It is difficult to judge that accurately until the season starts. When last year's schedule was released, many people viewed the San Francisco 49ers as an "easy" opponent. Instead, the 49ers were the NFC's No. 1 seed and reached the Super Bowl. In fact, San Francisco became part of a challenging seven-game stretch in which the Ravens faced six teams who finished above .500 – Seattle (11-5), New England (12-4), Houston (10-6), Los Angeles Rams (9-7), San Francisco (13-3) and Buffalo (10-6). When the Ravens went undefeated facing those teams from Week 7 through Week 13, you knew they had something special going. This season, the Ravens have the league's "easiest" schedule on paper. But in addition to facing five playoff teams from 2019, the AFC North competition looks improved with Ben Roethlisberger's return to the Steelers, Joe Burrow's arrival in Cincinnati and the Cleveland Browns' continued upgrade in talent. At some point, the Ravens will face a block of games that where they will need to play their best to win. That stretch will be easier to identify once the schedule is released.
When will the bye take place?
Most teams want their bye to take place between Weeks 7 and 9, around the midpoint of the season. Last year, the Ravens were happy to see their bye in Week 8. It came at an opportune time, following a long road trip to Seattle in Week 7, and before their Week 9 home game against the Patriots. The Ravens had extra time to recover from their longest trip of the season, and extra time to prepare for a Patriots team that was undefeated at the time. Seeing where their bye week falls in 2020 will be one of the first things that players and coaches look for.
How many times will the Ravens play back-to-back on the road, or at home?
The Ravens' schedule was unusual in 2019 in that they never played two consecutive road games or home games. They started on the road against Miami and alternated home and road games the rest of the way. The 2020 schedule is unlikely to be as balanced. At some point, the Ravens can expect to play two straight on the road and two straight at home. However, they don't want to see three straight road games. The NFL schedule makers try to avoid that, but it happens. Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles were the lone team with three straight road games.