The Ravens will begin the season on the road against an old friend and a longtime foe and things won't get much easier after that.
A Sunday, Sept. 13 matchup against the Denver Broncos, coached by former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and led by veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, highlights a rigorous start to the 2015 season for the Ravens, who will play just two home games through October.
The Ravens learned Tuesday with the NFL regular-season schedule release that they got the two consecutive West Coast road games that they were seeking — they'll face the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 following the opener at Denver — but they'll also play five of their first seven games away from M&T Bank Stadium, with four of those games against teams that made the playoffs last season.
It marks the first time since 2000 — their first Super Bowl-winning season — that the Ravens will play five of their first seven games on the road, and just the second time in team history they'll open with consecutive road games.
The unforgiving start, which also includes another set of back-to-back West Coast road games, highlights a schedule that features the Cincinnati Bengals as the Ravens' home-opening opponent for the third time in four seasons, a Week 9 bye and five prime-time games (three of them on the road). That's the team's most prime-time games since 2011.
Both of their matchups with their archrival, the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers, will be at night, with the Ravens visiting Heinz Field in Week 4 for a Thursday, Oct. 1 showdown, and the Steelers coming to Baltimore for a Sunday night game on Dec. 27.
The Ravens' other three prime-time matchups are at the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, Oct. 26, at the Cleveland Browns on Monday, Nov. 30 and at home against the reigning NFC champion, Seattle Seahawks, on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Flex scheduling will begin in Week 5 this season, meaning the NFL will have the ability to change game times from Weeks 5 through 17. However, as things stand, the Ravens are scheduled to play 8 of their 16 regular-season games at 4:05 p.m. or later.
The Ravens will undoubtedly talk up the difficult schedule as an opportunity, rather than using it as an excuse. However, the slate is loaded with challenges, including the road-heavy beginning, the four West Coast games over the season's first seven weeks and a road game against the Miami Dolphins (Dec. 6) on the heels of a Monday night road game in Cleveland.
However, the silver lining is that the Ravens will play six of their final nine games at M&T Bank Stadium, where they are 45-11 under head coach John Harbaugh. After playing five of their first seven games on the road, the Ravens won't leave Baltimore for nearly a month as they'll face the San Diego Chargers at home on Nov. 1, followed by a Nov. 8 bye week, and then home games against the Jacksonville Jaguars (Nov. 15) and St. Louis Rams (Nov. 22).
The Ravens, who finished 10-6 last season and made the playoffs for the sixth time in Harbaugh's seven-season tenure, will play seven games next season against teams that made the playoffs last year.