Though the Ravens’ 16 opponents had been known since the end of the 2011 regular season, there was still a feeling akin to Christmas morning when the NFL announced the 2012 schedule on Tuesday night.
The 2011 AFC North champion Ravens will play in four nationally-televised games, including the season opener when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10 in the first Monday night home game played in Baltimore since 2007.
Also highlighting the 2012 schedule will be Sunday night contests with the AFC champion New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium and a battle at Heinz Field in November, where the Ravens won in dramatic fashion on an NBC telecast last season.
Three of the Ravens’ first four games are nationally-televised home games in prime time as the Browns will come to Baltimore for a Thursday night game to end the stretch of national exposure on Sept. 27. However, John Harbaugh’s Ravens play only two home games in October and November before playing three of their final five games in Baltimore for the month of December.
An unpopular portion of the schedule will be the league’s decision to have the Ravens play Pittsburgh twice in three weeks, a rare concurrence with the NFL schedule that leaves an intense few weeks but a void before and after the stretch for the two fan bases.
Baltimore will play the Manning brothers in consecutive weeks when Denver visits M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 16 and Eli Manning and the Super Bowl champions roll into town the following week.
The Ravens make their lone trip to the West Coast on Nov. 25 when they travel to San Diego to take on the San Diego Chargers.
Of their 16 opponents, the Ravens will play 13 games in which the projected starting quarterback has been invited to the Pro Bowl, which will create a daunting task for the Baltimore defense in order to repeat as division champions.
Monday, Sept. 10 Cincinnati Bengals – 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: The Ravens host their first Monday night game in five years and begin the season against Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, who hope to build on a surprising 9-7 campaign in which they made the playoffs under rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
Sunday, Sept. 16 at Philadelphia Eagles – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: John Harbaugh’s former team is the only one with which the Ravens have ever tied, a 10-10 barnburner at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 16, 1997.
Sunday, Sept. 23 New England Patriots – 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: The sting of the AFC Championship loss will clearly be on the Ravens’ minds as they welcome Tom Brady and Co. to town for Sunday Night Football to try to extract some revenge.
Thursday, Sept. 27 Cleveland Browns – 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Skinny: The Ravens’ 19 regular-season wins over the Browns are the most they own against any team in the NFL.
Sunday, Oct. 7 at Kansas City Chiefs – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: It’s staggering how dramatically the Chiefs collapsed under Todd Haley after losing to the Ravens in a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago.
Sunday, Oct. 14 vs. Dallas Cowboys – 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: There are some interesting subplots to this one, including Dallas coach Jason Garrett nearly becoming the head man in Baltimore, but the Cowboys are 0-3 all-time against the Ravens.
Sunday, Oct. 21 at Houston Texans – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Despite making their first-ever playoff appearance in 2011, Gary Kubiak’s Texans have spent the entire offseason wondering what could have been if quarterback Matt Schaub hadn’t gotten hurt.
Sunday, Oct. 28 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 4 at Cleveland Browns – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Browns haven’t beaten Baltimore since 2007, which clearly doesn’t make Clevelanders very happy.
Sunday, Nov. 11 vs. Oakland Raiders – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Carson Palmer will need to rekindle the magic from his days with the Bengals in order for the Raiders to beat the Ravens for the first time ever in Baltimore (four previous attempts).
Sunday, Nov. 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: This Sunday night affair marks the sixth straight season these rivals have played in a prime-time contest, with the last four night games each decided in the closing seconds.
Sunday, Nov. 25 at San Diego Chargers – 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens’ trip to San Diego last season was the only game in which Baltimore was thoroughly embarrassed, but the Chargers no longer have big target Vincent Jackson.
Sunday, Dec. 2 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: It’s unusual for these teams to meet twice in three weeks, but the Steelers will have revenge on their minds after being embarrassed in Baltimore in the 2011 season opener.
Sunday, Dec. 9 at Washington Redskins – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Redskins haven’t beaten the Ravens since Tony Banks was at the helm for Baltimore in the midst of a five-game touchdown drought during the 2000 Super Bowl season.
Sunday, Dec. 16 vs. Denver Broncos – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t beaten a Peyton Manning-led team since 2001 when the former Indianapolis quarterback threw an interception returned for a touchdown by Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson.
Sunday, Dec. 23 vs. New York Giants – 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Eli Manning once referred to his 2004 loss in Baltimore as the worst game he had ever played at any level, but it’s fair to say the Giants quarterback has recovered by winning two Super Bowls since then.
Sunday, Dec. 30 at Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Before last season’s win in the regular-season finale, the Ravens had lost five of their previous six games at Paul Brown Stadium.
***Note: The final seven weeks of the regular season are subject to flexible scheduling.