The Ravens won’t have to wait long to see where they stand in the AFC’s pecking order. Neither will national TV audiences.
A Week 2 rematch with the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs highlights a 2021 Ravens schedule with five prime-time games, all against potential conference contenders; seven 2020 playoff teams; and a challenging end-of-season stretch, punctuated by a finale against the defending AFC North champions.
The Ravens will have to wait to play their first of 17 games in the league’s newly expanded regular-season schedule. In Week 1, they’ll face former Ravens Darren Waller, Willie Snead IV and Yannick Ngakoue (Maryland) in a “Monday Night Football” matchup with the Raiders. It’s the Ravens’ first game in Las Vegas, where the Raiders relocated before the 2020 season after more than two decades in Oakland, California.
Week 2 presents a more familiar opportunity, with a “Sunday Night Football” matchup in Baltimore pitting Lamar Jackson against Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. The Ravens are 0-3 against the Chiefs in Jackson’s tenure; he called them the team’s “kryptonite” after a decisive 34-20 “Monday Night Football” loss at M&T Bank Stadium last year.
In all, five of the Ravens’ first 11 games are scheduled for prime time, matching their 2020 total. In Week 5, the Ravens will host defending AFC South co-champion Indianapolis on “Monday Night Football.” The Ravens beat the Colts, now led by quarterback Carson Wentz, in Lucas Oil Stadium last season and have won four of five overall in the series.
In Week 10, the Ravens will head to Miami Gardens, Florida, to face the ascendant Dolphins on “Thursday Night Football.” The team is 10-4 overall in “Thursday Night Football” games, including blowout wins over the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Week 12 could be the most consequential of the Ravens’ season. Their second home “Sunday Night Football” showdown will be their first of two games against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens’ top challenger in the AFC North and maybe the opponent most eager for a rematch. In a 47-42 home loss in Week 14, the Browns were no match for Jackson, who battled through cramps to throw a go-ahead touchdown and then lead a game-winning field-goal drive before time expired. The Ravens won their next three games to sneak into the playoffs at 11-5, their third straight appearance.
The rest of the Ravens’ schedule is no cakewalk. Their opponents went a combined 152-118-2 last season, a .563 winning percentage surpassed only by Pittsburgh’s slate (.574). The Ravens will play nine games total against seven teams that advanced to the 2020 postseason, including back-to-back home tests against the Los Angeles Rams and Steelers to cap their 18-week regular season.
Under the NFL’s scheduling rotation, the Ravens will face opponents from the AFC West and NFC North this season. In addition to prime-time games against the Raiders and Chiefs, they’ll travel to take on the Detroit Lions (Week 3), Denver Broncos (Week 4) and Chicago Bears (Week 11) and host the Los Angeles Chargers (Week 6), Minnesota Vikings (Week 9) and Green Bay Packers (Week 15). The Ravens also have a Week 8 bye for the third straight season.
With Jackson hoping for a bounce-back 2021 season, Baltimore could be home to a handful of epic quarterback duels. The Ravens will host Mahomes, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow (Week 7), Browns’ Baker Mayfield and Packers’ Aaron Rodgers this season. The Colts’ Wentz, Vikings’ Kirk Cousins, Rams’ Matthew Stafford and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger could also challenge a talented Ravens defense.
After a season of limited attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Ravens are expecting a return to normalcy at M&T Bank Stadium this fall. In a letter to personal-seat-license owners last week, Ravens president Dick Cass said the team is “optimistic that we will have a full stadium of fans this season.” Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that, effective Saturday, outdoor venues will be allowed to resume normal operations and operate at full capacity, though mask rules apply for the time being.
Under the NFL’s new schedule format, teams will play only three preseason games before the season opener. The Ravens first host the New Orleans Saints (Aug. 13-15) before facing the Carolina Panthers (Aug. 20-22) and Washington Football Team (Aug. 27-29) on the road. Kickoff times are to be determined.
Ravens 2021 regular-season schedule
Week 1 (Monday, Sept. 13): at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ABC
Week 2 (Sunday, Sept. 19): vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Week 3 (Sunday, Sept. 26): at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Week 4 (Sunday, Oct. 3): at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5 (Monday, Oct. 11): vs. Indianapolis Colts, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Week 6 (Sunday, Oct. 17*): vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.
Week 7 (Sunday, Oct. 24*): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 8 (Sunday, Oct. 31): BYE
Week 9 (Sunday, Nov. 7*): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 10 (Thursday, Nov. 11): at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m., Fox, NFL Network
Week 11 (Sunday, Nov. 21*): at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 12 (Sunday, Nov. 28*): vs. Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Week 13 (Sunday, Dec. 5*): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14 (Sunday, Dec. 12*): at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Week 15 (Sunday, Dec. 19*): vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Week 16 (Sunday, Dec. 26*): at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 17 (Sunday, Jan. 2*): vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.
Week 18 (Sunday, Jan. 9*): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
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* — Flexible scheduling games