The Baltimore Ravens won’t have to wait long to defend their title as they come out of the gates playing some big-time competition.
On opening night, the Ravens will hit the road and take on the Denver Broncos in a rematch of the epic divisional playoff game won in double overtime by the Ravens. It will be the first time the defending champs will open on the road since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it in 2003. The Ravens will open up on the road because of a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles.
The game in Denver will also be a homecoming for newly-signed Elvis Dumervil, as he spent the first seven years of his career with the Broncos.
The Ravens will hoist their championship banner in Week 2 when they host the Cleveland Browns. The players will get their rings as the Baltimore fans and organization will get one last chance to bask in the collective glory from their improbable championship run. The Week 2 game will also have the departed Paul Kruger back in Baltimore, but playing for the division rival Browns.
Speaking of departed players, the Ravens will welcome none other than Ed Reed back to Charm City Week 3 as the Houston Texans come to town. Aside from Ray Lewis, Reed is the second-greatest defender in Ravens’ history and has been the preeminent safety in the NFL for a decade.
Houston walloped the Ravens last season and figures to be near the top of the AFC, so the game will have some real substance and importance aside from the Reed story line.
The final familiar face the Ravens will see occurs in Week 5, when they travel to take on Dannell Ellerbe and the Miami Dolphins. Ellerbe was groomed to be the heir apparent to Lewis after his retirement, but the Dolphins swooped in and gave him a very lucrative contract.
Unlike Kruger, Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens felt that they would have a great shot at re-signing Ellerbe, but it wasn’t the case and the Ravens will get a firsthand look at Ellerbe in his new home.
The Ravens will get their first crack at their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Heinz Field in Week 7. After an awkward schedule that saw the Ravens and Steelers battle two times in three weeks last season, this season’s schedule is more spaced out. Ben Roethlisberger missed both games against the Ravens last season, so you know he has been champing at the bit to get at the defending champs.
The Ravens’ bye week occurs Week 8, so it happens at a favorable time nearly at the halfway point of the season.
The next featured match-up occurs on Thanksgiving night in Week 13, as the Ravens will host the Steelers in a primetime battle. The state of the AFC North could be up for grabs this late in the season as these two teams have combined to win 10 of the last 12 AFC North titles.
Week 15 has the Ravens traveling to Motown to take on the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. This will be the only time the champs will be on Monday Night Football all season and it comes in the waning weeks of the season.
Then in Week 16, the Ravens face their biggest conference rival of the last two seasons, as they host the New England Patriots. The Ravens defeated the Patriots at home during the regular season as well as in Foxborough during the playoffs, so the Patriots will definitely have revenge on their minds. The magnitude of this game in regards to the playoff picture and seeding in the AFC is also immense, aside from the fact this is a rematch of the previous two AFC Championship games.
In another game with potential division and playoff implications, the Ravens finish on the road at the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.
Defending the Lombardi Trophy is never easy and that is just the case this season as the Ravens have the fifth-hardest strength of schedule. Between quality opponents and taking on familiar faces, the 2013 seasons figures to be another memorable and exciting season for the defending champs.
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