OWINGS MILLS – In order for the Baltimore Ravens to earn a third consecutive playoff berth, they’ll need to endure an arduous launch to their regular-season schedule.
The Ravens begin the year on the road with a Sept. 13 Monday night clash against the New York Jets and former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
That marks the first of four demanding road games out of the first six weeks, including three of the first four, for the Ravens. They’ll be featured in four primetime games, the fifth time Baltimore has been selected for that many.
After the Jets game, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati Sept. 19, return home against the Cleveland Browns Sept. 26, play at the Pittsburgh Steelers Oct. 3 before a home game against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 10 followed by yet another road game against the New England Patriots Oct. 17.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl during the 2000 season after starting the season with five of their first seven games on the road.
Like Baltimore, the Jets, Bengals and Patriots were all in the playoffs last season. A total of five opponents were in the postseason last season.
The good news is that it’s possible that the Steelers might not have star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger available against Baltimore since he could be suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. An announcement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to come today.
Trouble-prone Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who has excelled against the Ravens for years when he was with the Steelers before being traded, is suspended for the first four games due to violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
"We’re excited about the 2010 season," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "We knew who we were playing, and now we know when we’ll be playing them. We’re not a team that focuses on any game except the next one. We now have targets for the preseason and the regular season."
The Ravens get a relative breather prior and after to their timely Oct. 31 bye with home games against the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins.
Besides the high-profile Jets game at their new stadium in the Meadowlands, the Ravens were selected for the NFL Network’s first Thursday night game of the year against the Atlanta Falcons Nov. 11.
Then, the Ravens play the Steelers in a Sunday night NBC game Dec. 5 at M&T Bank Stadium. Their final nationally-televised game is at the Houston Texans Dec. 13.
"It’s a challenging schedule, and with the number of primetime games, it’s flattering," team president Dick Cass said.
"We’ve made the playoffs two years in a row, and three of the last four seasons, and it’s evident that the NFL believes we will be highly competitive again."
Eleven of the Ravens’ opponents won at least half of their games last year.
After the Falcons game, the Ravens play two more games against NFC South opponents: at the Carolina Panthers Nov. 21 and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home Nov. 28.
As Goodell indicated he would do during the NFL owners meetings, the final week of the regular season is a division game.
The Ravens conclude their 16-game schedule against the Bengals at home Jan. 2.
That game is preceded by another division game against the Cleveland Browns Dec. 26.
On Dec. 19, the Ravens square off with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
The Ravens’ opponents this season have a combined .508 winning percentage, ranking Baltimore 12th in the league for toughest schedule.
The Jets’ game became even more potentially difficult since they’ve acquired cornerback Antonio Cromartie to play opposite Darrelle Revis and signed veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Jets, who are being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks program during training camp, were awarded five primetime games.
The Ravens’ season opener figures to be entertaining with the swagger of Ryan and former Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott spicing things up.
"This is not a surprise to us," Ryan said in a statement about the primetime attention. "We expected a lot of primetime games because we’re a team that people want to watch."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Ravens 2010 schedule
Sept. 13: (Monday night) at N.Y. Jets, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Sept. 19: at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Sept. 26: vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Oct. 3: at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Oct. 10: vs. Denver, 1 p.m.
Oct. 17: at New England, 1 p.m.
Oct. 24: vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Oct. 31: Bye
Nov. 7: vs. Miami, 1 p.m.
Nov. 11: (Thursday night) at Atlanta, 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Nov. 21: at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Nov. 28: vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Dec. 5 (Sunday night): vs. Pittsburgh, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Dec. 13 (Monday night): at Houston, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 19: vs. New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Dec. 26: at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Jan. 2: vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m.