Ravens to get plenty of exposure this fall

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens begin the season with a perusal of their three AFC North rivals before embarking upon a slate of four nationally-televised contests.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's request for an early Monday night game for the defending AFC North champions was granted by the league office with an Oct. 4 game against the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium.

This decision prevented Baltimore from having to play on the road in three of its first four games because of a scheduling conflict with the Orioles. The Chiefs' game marks the Ravens' fourth Monday Night Football game, and Baltimore has won its three prior appearances.

The Ravens' other nationally-televised games will be broadcast Sunday nights on ESPN: Oct. 10 at the Washington Redskins, Nov. 7 at home against the Cleveland Browns and Dec. 19 at the Indianapolis Colts.

""Evidently, they think we're OK," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of tying a franchise-high for national games. "I'm thrilled about the Monday night game early in the season for our fans. That's going to be good for them, against maybe again one of the best teams, certainly in the AFC, if not the NFL."

After a Sept. 12 season-opener at Cleveland, Baltimore will host the Pittsburgh Steelers and travel to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Then, the Ravens play the Chiefs, which edged Baltimore, 17-10, last season on Dante Hall's game-winning kickoff return.

The Ravens finished 10-6 last season with a 4-2 mark in the division, including three consecutive wins against Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Baltimore only has two consecutive road games this season, the Colts' game and Dec. 26 at Pittsburgh.

"Obviously, I'm pleased with the pacing of it, primarily home and away, home and away," Billick said. "I like the fact that we're in the division early.

"We will set a tone in the division one way or the other early, and the division is going to shape up quickly. It's going to be an ambitious schedule."

After the Redskins' game, Baltimore has a bye during which it may move into its new training complex in Owings Mills if the facility's construction remains on schedule.

The Ravens will face off with the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles and All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens in a Halloween road game.

This contest is liable to be hyped considerably because of Owens' brief association with the Ravens this off-season during a disputed trade before a settlement of a special-master case sent him to the Eagles.

It will only be televised regionally after the controversial resolution to Owens' noisy protest following the four-time Pro Bowl selection's trade to the Ravens from the San Francisco 49ers.

"I don't imagine the league wants to draw a lot of attention to that when it comes down to it, so, no, it doesn't surprise me too much," Billick said of the Eagles' regular-season game not being nationally-televised, although CBS is televising a preseason pairing of the teams on Aug. 20.

The Ravens play all four teams from the NFC East and AFC East, including the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., on Nov. 28.

Besides the 50-mile journey down the highway to Landover to play the Redskins in October, Baltimore hosts Dallas on Nov. 21 and the New York Giants on Dec. 12.

Baltimore concludes the season at home against the Miami Dolphins on Jan. 2. Under Billick, the Ravens have a combined 28-13 record in November and December for the fourth-best mark in the league.

Baltimore plays five playoff teams, including the AFC title game participants in New England and Indianapolis and the Eagles who lost in the NFC title game.

"You get excited because this makes the season real," Billick said. "You know who you are going to play, but until you get it down and put it to a specific date, it's just kind of this ambiguous thing that is hanging off in the horizon. It is real now and your mind begins to work the minute you get it towards the opener."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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