Ravens begin season against Steelers

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens kick off the regular season at home by renewing their traditional blood rivalry against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they're headlining the NFL Thanksgiving schedule through their involvement in a historic sibling rivalry.

In the first head coaching matchup between brothers in NFL history, the Harbaugh Bowl is set for Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium as Ravens coach John Harbaugh hosts brother Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers. It also represents the first Thanksgiving game for the Ravens in franchise history.

"Thanksgiving, family, football, sharing a meal and watching a football game together, what can be better than that?" John Harbaugh said Tuesday night during an NFL Network interview. "I'm excited about it. It's going to be historic. We're still trying to talk our parents into coming.

"My dad and mom said they're not going to be within three time zones of the game. We'll get them there somehow. .. We're going to try to get Jim over to the house, get some turkey. Get that tryptophan working, so he'll get tired later in the day."

Dressed in a sweatshirt during the simulcast interview while his brother was decked out in a sport coat and dress shirt, Jim Harbaugh was all business when asked about the game. "One thing I can tell you is we're not going to have time to socialize the day of the game," Jim Harbaugh said.

Of course, that game and the entire schedule hinges on whether the NFL lockout is resolved in time for football to resume.

The Ravens have been scheduled for five prime-time games, including the 49ers game as well as the New York Jets and former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan on Oct. 2 in Baltimore as well as road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 24, the Steelers on Nov. 6 and the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 18. The Ravens last played the reigning AFC North champion Steelers in the playoffs, falling to them in the AFC divisional round. "I'm not surprised," Harbaugh said. "What better way to start the season off than against our archrival?"

The Ravens were disappointed to not be given a home Monday night game for the past four seasons, a span that dates back to their last-minute loss to the New England Patriots on Dec. 3, 2007. The Ravens' strength of schedule is 31st in the league, though. Their opponents had a combined record of 117-139 last season. The Ravens play the AFC South and NFC West this season in addition to their usual AFC North schedule.

They have a decently-timed bye on Oct. 9 following their game against the Jets. Their West Coast trips to Seattle (Nov. 13) and San Diego (Dec. 18) are spaced a month apart. And they play the Indianapolis Colts and star quarterback Peyton Manning at home on Dec. 11. They play the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 24 followed by a road regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, the AFC North's last-place team from a year ago.

"Our home schedule is very attractive, including the first two games at M&T Bank Stadium against the Steelers and the Sunday night against the Jets," team president Dick Cass said. "Overall, the schedule reflects the confidence the league has in us after we've made the playoffs in the last three seasons and in four of the last five."

John Harbaugh remains hopeful that the NFL's first work stoppage in a quarter-century will get worked out.

"I still have my fingers crossed," he said. "I'm still hoping that we get here and we can coach. We're hopeful that some things get resolved. We're coaches. We want to coach. We like to have the players around and have somebody to coach."

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