The NFL will release its regular-schedule tonight at 8 p.m. during an NFL Network special which is expected to confirm what the Ravens have suspected for weeks: They'll open the season on Sept. 5 against the Denver Broncos.
The league is holding off on the announcement until tonight and the Ravens haven't been told definitively where they'll begin defense of the Super Bowl XLVII title.
However, CBS Sports reported today that there will be no surprises for the NFL's Sept. 5 Kickoff Game, and the Ravens will face the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in a rematch of one of last season's most memorable games. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally by NBC.
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It will mark the first time since 2003 where a reigning Super Bowl champion will open on the road. However, it became a necessity for the Ravens after they failed to work out a scheduling conflict with the Orioles on the night of Sept. 5.
The Orioles are scheduled to play the Chicago White Sox that night at Camden Yards. Because of the proximity of Camden Yards and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, the downtown area wouldn’t be able to host a baseball and football games at the same time. The two sides discussed a baseball/football doubleheader, but the idea was scrapped due to logistical issues. The NFL also declined to move the game up to Wednesday, Sept. 4 because that’s the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
All along, the Broncos, who finished 13-3 last season and won the AFC West behind a resurgent Peyton Manning, were expected to be the Ravens' opponent on Sept. 5. The two teams matched up in a thrilling AFC divisional playoff game in January, won 38-35 by the Ravens in double overtime.
In that game, quarterback and eventual Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown pass as the Ravens tied the game at 35 with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Ravens cornerback Corey Graham then picked off Manning late in the first overtime, setting up Justin Tucker’s 47-yard game-winning field goal. That ended the fourth longest game in NFL history.
Since then, the Broncos signed former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, giving Manning one more weapon with which to work. The Ravens, meanwhile, underwent heavy turnover to their title-winning team, but the rebuilding of their defense included the signing of former Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. The three-time Pro Bowl selection was let go by the Broncos in March after Dumervil signed off on a restructured contract with the team, but the fax didn’t reach NFL offices in time.
The NFL may have been open to giving the Ravens a prime-time game on the first weekend of the NFL season, but coach John Harbaugh and other members of the organization preferred playing on the road on that Thursday because it will give the team nine days of rest before its Week 2 game.
While the Ravens will learn the dates and times of their games later tonight, they already know their opponents for the 2013-14 campaign. Along with a trip to Denver, the Ravens will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears on the road.