Early games test Ravens' division skills AFC Central dates crowd start, finish of 1997 schedule

Circle Oct. 26 (at Redskins)

Team faces 2 stretches of 3 straight on road

March 27, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Based on the schedule released yesterday by the NFL, it will be imperative for the Ravens to have a strong beginning as well as finish in the 1997 season.

Three of the Ravens' first four games are against AFC Central rivals and the team closes the campaign with the Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens first two games are at Memorial Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Bengals.

"With three of the first four games coming in the division, we have to be sharp early," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "The division games are very important, and Jacksonville is going to be a tough opener. But imagine if we had to play in Jacksonville where it would be hot and the fans are still excited from a year ago?

"We had a great opener last year against the Raiders, and we anticipate another one for the upcoming season."

The Ravens will twice play three straight games on the road. That's happened only once before in NFL scheduling -- Green Bay had two three-game road stretches en route to winning the Super Bowl last season.

The Ravens play at New York (Giants), Houston and San Diego during the last three weeks in September, and then play at Washington on Oct. 26 followed by successive road games in New York (Jets) and Pittsburgh.

According to a league spokesman, several other teams play three straight opponents on the road, but not twice. The Ravens also play four teams with losing records last year, six teams that were at .500 and six with winning records.

"I think it's an attractive schedule for our fans," Ravens owner Art Modell said. "We get two quality opponents here in the first two weeks of the season, plus we have the big games with Miami, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia coming later.

"We do have three road games back-to-back twice, but with a trip to the Giants in the first group and one at the Redskins and Jets in the second grouping, we'll be OK. Thank goodness they're not lengthy trips."

The Ravens' schedule also features a nationally televised road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The Ravens' home schedule consists of games against Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Miami, Philadelphia, Arizona, Seattle and Houston.

"We'll be playing some quality opponents at home, so I think overall it's an attractive schedule," Marchibroda said. "We open with conference play, and we close out with two conference teams. We can control certain situations."

Preseason dates for games against the Giants and the Buffalo Bills at Memorial Stadium and road contests against the Jets and Eagles will be announced later, according to team officials.

NOTES: The Ravens were awarded an extra pick in the sixth round and three in the seventh by the league last night as compensation for losing a certain number of free agents. The Ravens will have a total of 12 picks. Marchibroda said Arizona defensive end Michael Bankston and Seattle Seahawks safety Robert Blackmon both had positive visits with team officials the past two days. The club will probably now choose between Bankston and re-signing defensive end Anthony Pleasant. The Ravens probably would sign Blackmon only if free-agent safety Brock Marion does not sign his restructured contract. Marion and the Ravens had agreed to a four-year deal until the team discovered his left shoulder had not completely healed from last season. The Ravens have had serious contract discussions with Denver Broncos safety Rondell Jones, who would be used mostly on special teams. Negotiations were expected to begin with linebacker Mike Caldwell and running back Carwell Gardner yesterday, according to a team official.

Ravens schedule

The Ravens' 1997 regular-season schedule, with the opponents' 1996 records and Ravens' results -- if any -- against them last season:

Date, Opp. (W-L), Time, TV, '96 results

Aug. 31, Jaguars (9-7), 4 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 30-27; L, 28-25

Sept. 7, Bengals (8-8), 1 p.m., Ch. 11 L, 24-21; L, 21-14

Sept. 14, at Giants (6-10), 1 p.m., Ch. 11

Sept. 21, at Oilers (8-8), 1 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 29-13; L, 24-21

Sept. 28, at Chargers (8-8), 4 p.m., Ch. 11

Oct. 5, Steelers (10-6), 1 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 31-17; W, 31-17

Oct. 12, Bye

Oct. 19, Dolphins (8-8), 4 p.m., Ch. 11

Oct. 26, at Redskins (9-7), 1 p.m., Ch. 11

Nov. 2, at Jets (1-15), 1 p.m., Ch. 11

Nov. 9, at Steelers (10-6), 8 p.m., ESPN, L, 31-17; W, 31-17

Nov. 16, Eagles (10-6), 1 p.m., Ch. 45

Nov. 23, Cardinals (7-9), 1 p.m., Ch. 45

Nov. 30, at Jaguars (9-7), 1 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 30-27; L, 28-25

Dec. 7, Seahawks (7-9), 1 p.m., Ch. 11

Dec. 14, Oilers (8-8), 1 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 29-13; L, 24-21

Dec. 21, at Bengals (8-8), 1 p.m., Ch. 11, L, 24-21; L, 21-14

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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