In April, the Ravens asked the NFL for a later bye, not wanting the traditional week off after their Sept. 24 game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars because they deemed it too early in the season for a break.
Several weeks later, they learned their request was granted and that their reward upon their return from London was a Week 4 home matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That sets up the team’s toughest three-game stretch of the season: a 7,000-plus-mile round trip across the pond and back to face a Jaguars team that will be playing in London for its fifth consecutive year; a game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Steelers, the AFC North favorite and the Ravens’ biggest rivals; and then a 5,600-plus-mile round trip for a Week 5 contest versus the Oakland Raiders, one of the top teams in the AFC.
Knowing what he does now, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti still feels the organization made the right call in asking for a later bye.
“We felt it was better for us to save that bye week for the middle of the year than it was to give it up,” Bisciotti said June 13 on a conference call with permanent seat license holders at M&T Bank Stadium. “We asked them – and we’re not guaranteed – to give us a home game [after London] and we got that. It’s Pittsburgh. If I had my druthers, I would have rather it been maybe some other team. But the good news about playing Pittsburgh is we know them well. We know their personnel. We play them all the time. Even though it’s going to be one of our toughest games, we certainly won’t have to get back on a plane. We’ll be playing a team, though a very good team, [that] we are very familiar with.”
Last year’s Indianapolis Colts became the first team since the NFL started playing in London in 2007 to eschew the normal bye after the overseas trip in favor of one later in the season. It worked for them as they returned from London and beat the Chicago Bears at home.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh hope a similar result plays out.
“There’s no doubt … that it’s going to be a quick turnaround,” Bisciotti said. “It was John’s and Ozzie’s opinion that we didn’t want [the early bye week]. If we were a West Coast team, that would be a different deal. It’s a 14-hour flight. But going to Seattle [from Baltimore] is about the same as going to London. It’s really not that much different.”
Instead, the Ravens were granted a Week 10 (Nov. 12) bye, which obviously will better break up the 16-game regular-season schedule.
“When you look at the pros and cons of scheduling, I think we were right to pass on that fourth-week bye and then have to play for three months without a break,” Bisciotti said.