The Ravens won’t get their season-opening home game, like reigning Super Bowl champions have for the last decade. But they will play four prime-time games, including a Thanksgiving night showdown at home against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, and a much-anticipated rematch with the Denver Broncos to kick off their Super Bowl XLVII title defense.
The NFL released its regular-season schedule Thursday and it’s highlighted by the Ravens’ Sept. 5 matchup against the Broncos, a pairing that produced one of the league’s most memorable games from the 2012-13 campaign. The league’s annual kickoff game will begin at 8:30 p.m. and be televised by NBC.
Because of a scheduling conflict with the Orioles for the night of Sept. 5, the Ravens will become the first title-winning team since 2003 to open the following season on the road. They will get a chance to unveil their championship banner 10 days later when they face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Sept. 15.
That’s part of a home schedule that includes the Thanksgiving clash with the Steelers (Nov.28), a Sunday night game against the New England Patriots (Dec.22) and matchups with Ed Reed’s Houston Texans (Sept. 22) and Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers (Oct. 13).
The Ravens’ two prime-time road games will be an opener in Denver and a matchup with the Detroit Lions before a Monday Night Football audience on Dec. 16 at Ford Field.
The Ravens’ bye comes in Week 8, following games against the Packers and the Steelers (Oct. 20) at Heinz Field. They play four of five games on the road from Week 4to Week 9 and then four of five games at home from Week 12 to Week 16 before traveling to Cincinnati for the regular-season finale for a third straight year.
Overall, the Ravens play seven of their 16 games against playoff teams from last season though five of those games will be at home, where the Ravens are 33-7 under head coach John Harbaugh. Based on 2012 records (137-119), the Ravens have the NFL’s fifth-toughest schedule in 2013.
It will all get underway on the road after the Ravens and the Orioles failed to find compromise for Sept. 5, the night the NFL earmarked for its annual kickoff game. The Orioles are scheduled to play the Chicago White Sox in Baltimore that night and because of the proximity of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, the downtown area wouldn’t be able to host a baseball and football games at the same time.
Both teams discussed a baseball/football doubleheader but the idea was scrapped due to logistical issues. The NFL also declined to move the game up to Sept. 4, citing the first night of Rosh Hashanah.
The result is the Ravens heading to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to face one of the Super Bowl favorites. With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Broncos went 13-3 last season but were eliminated by the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs.
In the Ravens’ 38-35 double-overtime victory, quarterback Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown pass as the Ravens tied the game with 31 seconds remaining. The Ravens then won the fourth longest game in NFL history on Justin Tucker’s 47-yard field goal.
Following the season, the Broncos signed former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. The Ravens, meanwhile, underwent heavy turnover, but the rebuilding of their defense included the signing of former Bronco pass rusher Elvis Dumervil.
The season-opening matchup will have no shortage of storylines, nor does the rest of the Ravens’ 2013-14 schedule. Here’s a closer look:
At Denver Broncos
Thursday, Sept. 5, 8:30 p.m. Skinny: Flacco against Manning, Torrey Smith against Champ Bailey, Rahim Moore against Jacoby Jones, Dumervil against old teammates — the subplots are endless as the Ravens begin their title defense.
Vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Sept. 15, 1 p.m. Skinny: The Ravens will unveil their Super Bowl XLVII banner at M&T Bank Stadium against an opponent they haven’t lost to in the Harbaugh era. Since 2008, the Ravens are 10-0 against Cleveland.
Vs. Houston Texans
Sunday, Sept. 22, 1 p.m. Skinny: It figures to be an emotional day for new Texans safety Ed Reed, who returns to Baltimore after playing for the Ravens for 11 seasons. The Texans ended a six-game losing streak against the Ravens last October.
At Buffalo Bills
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Sunday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m. Skinny: The Ravens make their first trip to Buffalo since the 2007 season and it’s anybody’s guess what quarterback they’ll be facing. It looks like Kevin Kolb and Tavaris Jackson will compete for the Bills’ starting job.
At Miami Dolphins
Sunday, Oct. 6, 1 p.m. Skinny: The Dolphins, who spent big this offseason, have their eyes on returning to the playoffs, where they haven’t been since 2008. Miami’s offseason makeover included the signing of former Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
Vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Oct. 13, 1 p.m. Skinny: Aaron Rodgers has faced the Ravens just once in his career, throwing three touchdowns in a 27-14 Packers’ win in 2009. The Packers haven’t been in Baltimore for a regular-season game since 2005, when they were beaten 48-3.
At Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, Oct. 20, 4:25 p.m. Skinny: The Ravens have won three straight regular-season games at Heinz Field, but their third road game in four weeks will be a tough challenge, especially if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy.
At Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Nov. 3, 4:25 p.m. Skinny: Following a Week 8 bye, the Ravens will head to Cleveland and reunite with new Browns linebacker Paul Kruger, their leader in sacks last season.
Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, Nov. 10, 1 p.m. Skinny: After opening and closing the regular season against Cincinnati last season, the Ravens don’t see the Bengals until Week 10. The Bengals are looking to go to the playoffs a third straight year, which would be a franchise first.
At Chicago Bears
Sunday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m. Skinny: This will mark the Ravens’ first trip to Soldier Field for a regular season game since 2005. The Bears have made the playoffs just once in the past six seasons.
Vs. New York Jets
Sunday, Nov.24, 1 p.m. Skinny: Will Mark Sanchez still be the Jets’ starter at this point? The Ravens are 7-1 all-time against the Jets in the regular season.
Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Thursday, Nov. 28, 8:30 p.m. Skinny: One of the NFL’s best rivalries will be renewed on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore. In their last visit, the Steelers ended the Ravens’ 16-game home winning streak.
Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. Skinny: At home for a third straight game, the Ravens’ revamped defense will be challenged by hard-charging running back Adrian Peterson who rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
At Detroit Lions
Monday, Dec. 16, 8:40 p.m. Skinny: In their only Monday Night game of the season, the Ravens will face the Lions, one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments last year. Detroit finished 4-12 last year.
Vs. New England Patriots
Sunday, Dec. 22, 8:30 p.m. Skinny: With a postseason berth or playoff positioning potentially on the line, the Ravens welcome their opponent from the last two AFC title games. In eight career games against the Ravens, Tom Brady has thrown eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
At Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, Dec. 29, 1 p.m. Skinny: The Ravens have lost six of their past eight meetings at Paul Brown Stadium and that included last season’s regular-season finale when Harbaugh rested most of his starters.