In a league where players and coaches try to treat every game as equal, there is still something different about Monday Night Football.
The weekly game is a privilege typically reserved for marquee matchups on the NFL schedule, and it is consistently the most viewed television show on cable. As the Ravens prepare to face the Detroit Lions this week, they acknowledged that playing in the primetime game does carry more significance.
"Playing on Monday night is something that usually happens maybe once a year if you're fortunate. And it is special," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "The whole country is watching."
This is the seventh time the Ravens have played on MNF since Harbaugh took over in 2008, and the team is 4-3 in those matchups. Overall, the Ravens are 8-9 in MNF games since 1996.
This marks the first time this season the Ravens have played Monday night. Last year, they opened the season with a 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on MNF.
As a consistent playoff contender the last several years, the Ravens have become accustomed to playing in primetime. They are 1-1 in their two primetime games this season, which have both come on Thursday nights (Week 1 vs. Denver and Week 13 vs. Pittsburgh). The Ravens have a 14-7 record in primetime under Harbaugh.
"Monday night is primetime, the limelight, all of that, and I like it," running back Bernard Pierce said. "At the same time, you can't get yourself too hyped up because it's just another football game."
A big challenge to a road MNF game is waiting around all day to play the game. Rather than waking up at the hotel, grabbing a bite to eat and heading to the stadium, the players and coaches have an entire day to kill at the hotel.
"The toughest thing about Monday Night Football is Monday," Harbaugh said. "Monday, 8:40 p.m. – that is a few hours until you get to that game, and that is one of the challenging things on the road. Road teams historically have been at a disadvantage on Monday night. That is why they schedule it the way they do. We understand all that stuff."
Harbaugh said that Ravens have some ideas about dealing with the long wait, and they will try to make the most of the extra time during the day. The players and coaches also had a chance on Sunday to watch games around the league, which they rarely get to do.
Once they take the field Monday night in Detroit, they know that all eyes will be on them for a critically important game that is expected to have a playoff atmosphere.
"It's something our players get excited about," Harbaugh said. "We always have."