As the Super Bowl champions, the Ravens will be the home team for the NFL’s Thursday night opener on September 5, and the good news for the NFL (and NBC) is that the Ravens have a very good slate of home opponents in 2013, from a TV ratings perspective.
The Ravens’ home opponents in 2013 are the Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Patriots, Jets, Texans, Packers and Vikings. Of those, only the Browns can be eliminated: There’s no way the league will put Cleveland in the marquee Week One opener.
(Well, if we want to get crazy, we’ll point out one scenario in which the opener could be Browns-Ravens: If the Ravens put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Joe Flacco, and the Browns sign him away, then Browns at Ravens would suddenly become the marquee game of the entire season. But it’s probably safe to say that won’t happen.)
Aside from the Browns, every other potential Week One matchup in Baltimore would be a good game: The Bengals, Patriots, Texans, Packers and Vikings were all playoff teams, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has long been one of the NFL’s best, and even though the Jets were a circus last year, they were a circus that plenty of people watched.
So who will the Ravens’ Week One opponent be? Only once since the NFL began playing the opening game in the Super Bowl champion’s city has there been an interconference game, and it probably won’t happen again this year: FOX only gets the Ravens twice and would surely fight to keep Vikings-Ravens or Packers-Ravens from moving over to NBC. Considering that the last three Week One opening night games have been NFC matchups that otherwise would have been on FOX, the NFL will probably decide that it’s time to take an AFC game from CBS.
Of the AFC games, one stands out as the best of the bunch: Patriots-Ravens, a rematch of the last two AFC Championship Games. The Patriots and the Ravens have developed a great rivalry in recent years, and they’ve played some excellent games that have drawn huge TV ratings. The Ravens have a great slate of home games in 2013, but none is better than the Patriots game, and that’s probably the one we’ll all be watching on the first Thursday night in September.