Ravens face demanding schedule

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' 6-10 campaign didn't provide them with many breaks from next season's schedule. Between playing the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers twice in the AFC North and opening on the road against the defending NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 10, the Ravens will play seven games against five playoff teams.

The Ravens will have two nationally televised games, including a Monday night game on ESPN against the defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos on Oct. 9 at Invesco Field, and a Nov. 30 game at the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals. The Thursday night game against Cincinnati will be broadcast on the NFL Network, and comes only four days after a home game against the Steelers.

"Obviously, like all schedules, it's tough," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The balance of it seems to be good. There are a few challenges in there, but it will certainly be interesting."

The Ravens' home opener is against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 17, and their first divisional game is Sept. 24 at Cleveland. There's a fairly long lag between division games with Baltimore not playing an AFC North opponent again until Nov. 5 when it hosts Cincinnati.

Unlike last season when the Ravens had a bye in the third week, they will have a week off Oct. 22 after playing the Carolina Panthers at home the previous week.

"We are happy with the spread of the schedule," Ravens team president Dick Cass said. "The fact that we only have one set of back-to-back road games [Nov. 30 at Cincinnati and Dec. 10 at Kansas City] is beneficial for us. It's a challenging schedule, particularly because we play two very strong divisions in the NFC South and AFC West, but also we have a later bye week than usual, which will help our players."

In consecutive weeks, the Ravens play the Broncos [Oct. 9], which made it to the AFC title game last season, followed by a short week of preparation for the Panthers [Oct. 15], which made it to the NFC title game.

The Ravens play three defending division champions. Their opponents have a combined win-loss record of 95-97 last season, including games against Oakland (4-12), New Orleans (3-13) and the Tennessee Titans (4-12).

Six of the Ravens' final eight games will be played under the flexible schedule the NFL is implementing for Sunday schedules. Twelve days prior to the Sunday games late in the season, the league will decide which games will be televised on NBC on Sunday nights along with which games may be moved to 4:15 kickoffs.

For the final week of the regular season, the decision can be made on six days notice to try to arrange a Sunday night game with playoff implications.



BALTIMORE RAVENS COMPLETE 2006 SCHEDULE

Sept. 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m.
Sept. 17 Oakland Raiders 1 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Cleveland Browns 4:05 p.m.
Oct. 1 San Diego Chargers 1 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Denver Broncos 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Oct. 15 Carolina Panthers 1 p.m.
Oct. 22 Bye
Oct. 29 at New Orleans Saints 1 p.m.
Nov. 5 Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Tennessee Titans 1 p.m.
Nov. 19 Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m.
Nov. 26 Pittsburgh Steelers 1 p.m.
Nov. 30 at Cincinnati Bengals 8 p.m. (NFL Network)
Dec. 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 1 p.m.
Dec. 17 Cleveland Browns 1 p.m.
Dec. 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 1 p.m.
Dec. 31 Buffalo Bills 1 p.m.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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