The NFL wisely dumped the bad news on the first Friday of the NCAA basketball tournament: The Ravens won’t host the midweek regular-season opener at home.
It’ll be the first time the Super Bowl champion hasn’t opened the season on a Thursday (or Wednesday) at home since 2004, when the Patriots welcomed the Colts following New England’s second NFL title.
The Orioles, who face the White Sox in Baltimore on the same night the Ravens would have christened the 2013 season, opted not to bend. The NFL opted not to play on Wednesday night, in deference to Rosh Hashanah. (Here’s hoping the NFL makes that same decision the next time Christmas Eve or Christmas Day fall on a weekend.) And, as Peter King of SI.com points out in his Monday Morning Quarterback column, an Orioles conflict would have arisen if the Ravens had opened on Sunday night or Monday night of Week One.
So the Ravens will open on the road — guaranteeing low attendance and even lower TV viewership of the Orioles game that night. (That’s OK; they’re used to it.) The Ravens, we’re told, are bracing for a Thursday night opener at Denver, Pittsburgh, or Chicago.
While the Ravens will have to play at each of those places eventually during the coming football campaign, the NFL is about tradition and one of the newest traditions has given the Super Bowl champs a chance to play the first game of the season at home, where all of them (except the 2012 Giants) started 1-0.
But part of the benefit, as King explains it, comes from the mini-bye that follows starting the season on a Thursday, roughly two weeks removed from the preseason dress rehearsal. The Ravens coaches, per King, “clearly wanted” a Thursday road game instead of a home game on Sunday or Monday.
King suggests another possibility: Put the Ravens on the road for the first Thursday of the season, and then give them a Thursday night opener in Week Two.
The only problem with that potential approach is that the NFL wisely adopted in 2012 a scheduling formula that requires every team to play one — and only one — short-week game during the season. Having the Ravens play on the first Thursday night and then on the first short-week Thursday of the season would throw that system out of whack.
Regardless, the ultimate reality show has now given us something else to discuss, debate, and anticipate. When the 2013 schedule is released, we’ll find out where the Ravens will open the season.
Baltimore at Denver would be the most intriguing. Unless, of course, the NFL plans the latest installment of the Manning Bowl for the first Sunday night of the season.
And while sending the Ravens to Pittsburgh for the first week of the season seems particularly unfair to the defending champs, we’re told that the Ravens are expecting to play at Heinz Field in prime time at some point this year. Why not get it out of the way early?