OWINGS MILLS — A year ago, owner Steve Bisciotti took issue with the fact that the Baltimore Ravens had to play two Monday night road games last season and hadn’t been granted a Monday night home game in five years.
That situation was rectified Tuesday night when the NFL announced the regular-season schedule as the defending AFC North champion Ravens will kick off the season Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals with a Monday night game at M&T Bank Stadium.
This marks the Ravens’ first home Monday night game since a loss to the New England Patriots on Dec. 3, 2007 where former linebacker Bart Scott tossed an official’s penalty flag into the stands due to frustration with calls.
The Ravens currently have four prime-time game and they were blessed with an ideally-timed midseason bye on Oct. 28.
The schedule is demanding, though, statistically the fourth-toughest in the league as the Ravens’ opponents had a combined record of 134-122 for a .523 winning percentage.
The Ravens play eight games against playoff teams from last season, tying the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns for the most in the league.
The Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are the lone teams to square off with the Super Bowl teams from last season: the champion New York Giants and the Patriots.
The Ravens’ rematch against the Patriots following their AFC championship game loss is at home on Sept. 23.
Three of the Ravens’ first four games are nationally-televised and at home.
Another challenge: consecutive games against the Manning brothers in December at home.
The Ravens host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16 and Eli Manning and the Giants on Dec. 23.
The Ravens don’t play the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers until a Sunday night Nov. 18 game at Heinz Field.
Strangely, they play the Steelers just two weeks after that game at home on Dec. 2.
This is a challenging portion of the schedule as the Ravens travel to the West Coast to play the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 25 after being trounced by them last December.
The Ravens’ first road game is Sept. 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Four days after the home game against New England, the Ravens play the Cleveland Browns in a Thursday night game.
The Ravens went undefeated at home last season and swept their season series with the Steelers, Bengals and Browns.
However, they only have two home games during October and November. And the Ravens won just half of their regular-season road games last season.
The bye week offers a respite from a tough run where five of seven games are on the road.
The Ravens could wind up playing at least one more prime-time game through flex scheduling.
The Broncos and Giants games are among the candidate to potentially be flexed.
Under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have made the playoffs for four consecutive years and have made it to the AFC title game twice. They’re the lone NFL team to win a playoff game each of the past four seasons.
To defend their division title, the NFL’s third-ranked defense from a year ago will need to have another strong campaign while breaking in new starters in outside linebacker Paul Kruger, the top candidate to replace Jarret Johnson, and defensive ends Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones who are vying to replace Cory Redding.
With new defensive coordinator Dean Pees taking over, the Ravens are slated to face 11 quarterbacks who have been named to at least one Pro Bowl.
That includes the Bengals’ Andy Dalton, the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the Manning brothers, the Patriots’ Tom Brady, the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, the Eagles’ Michael Vick, the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo, the Oakland Raiders’ Carson Palmer, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Matt Cassel and the Houston Texans’ Matt Schaub.
The Ravens fortified their secondary by signing cornerback Lardarius Webb to a $50 million contract this month.