Ravens' schedule requests are met

Early Monday night game among 4 on national TV

Billick `pleased with the pacing'

Team will open season against 3 AFC North foes

Pro Football

April 15, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Conspiracy theorists can take a break.

For once, the Ravens got everything they wanted from the league office regarding their schedule - and maybe even a little more.

The NFL released the regular-season schedule yesterday and gave the Ravens their requested early-season Monday night game, a bye in October and three other nationally televised night games.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti asked the league to grant his team a Monday night game during the first four weeks of the season to avoid a conflict with daytime Orioles home games on Sept. 12, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.

The Ravens will play on the road those first two dates and host the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 4, which will be the first Monday night game in Baltimore in two years.

Before the Chiefs game, the Ravens will play their first three games of the season against AFC North opponents - opening at Cleveland (Sept. 12), hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 19) and finishing the stretch at Cincinnati (Sept. 26).

The Ravens wrap up the season Jan. 2 at home against the Miami Dolphins. In between, the team has back-to-back road games only once in trips to Indianapolis (Dec. 19, a Sunday night game) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 26).

"I'm pleased with the pacing of it, that it is primarily home and away, home and away," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I like the fact that we are in the division early. We will set a tone one way or the other early, and the division is going to shape up quickly."

Soon after the Ravens are done jockeying for position in the AFC North, the team will play perhaps its most anticipated game of the year on a Sunday night against the Washington Redskins (Oct. 10). The third Sunday night game is Cleveland at home (Nov. 7).

The Redskins game will be the rubber match of the much-hyped Beltway Battle. The Ravens handed the Redskins their first loss at FedEx Field in 1997, but lost by a touchdown at Washington in the 2000 season.

This will be the last time the teams meet until 2008, when the Redskins are scheduled to make their first trip to M&T Bank Stadium.

"I know our fans love it when we play Washington because that is a big game for them," Billick said.

As it will be for the fans when the Ravens travel to face the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles three weeks later on Oct. 31. Receiver Terrell Owens got his offseason wish to play for the Eagles after the San Francisco 49ers originally traded him to the Ravens.

The case drew national interest, but the game is slated for a 1 p.m. start.

"I don't imagine the league wants to draw a lot attention to that when it comes down to it," Billick said.

The Ravens will face five playoff teams from a year ago, including the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Nov. 28 in Foxboro, Mass. The Eagles and Colts also made it to their respective conference title games.

But the Ravens do have a number of games they should be favored to win. Half of their games will be against teams that won six games or fewer last year, including two apiece against division rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Also, unlike last year when the Ravens had three trips across the country, the 586-mile trip to Indianapolis is the farthest the team will travel. The Ravens will travel by train to Washington and Philadelphia, Billick said.

With such a geographically friendly schedule that features no more than two road trips per month and a midseason bye that might allow the Ravens to move into their new training facility, one would think Billick would have little to gripe about.

"No, they screwed us again," he said jokingly. "I promise you, someplace in there ... I've always said, I like to open up in the division, and I like finishing the year in the division. I know you can't do that with every team.

"It's going to be an ambitious schedule. ... Of those playoff teams, a majority of them are on the road. That's going to be a challenge for us."

Ravens 2004 schedule

(All times p.m.)

Date Opponent Time TV

Sept. 12 at Cleveland 1 13

Sept. 19 Pittsburgh 1 13

Sept. 26 at Cincinnati 1 13

Oct. 4* Kansas City 9 2

Oct. 10 at Washington 8:30 ESPN

Oct. 17 Bye

Oct. 24 Buffalo 1 13

Oct. 31 at Philadelphia 1 13

Nov. 7 Cleveland 8:30 ESPN

Nov. 14 at N.Y. Jets 1 13

Nov. 21 Dallas 1 45

Nov. 28 at New England 1 13

Dec. 5 Cincinnati 1 13

Dec. 12 N.Y. Giants 1 45

Dec. 19 at Indianapolis 8:30 ESPN

Dec. 26 at Pittsburgh 1 13

Jan. 2 Miami 1 13


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