Ravens get early bye week, four games in prime time

Team is off after two contests, but Billick still likes schedule

Pro Football

April 14, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Coach Brian Billick took a look at the Ravens' schedule yesterday and pronounced it good. His players, however, might feel otherwise.

While the Ravens have back-to-back road games just once, the all-important bye - which players use to get away from football, let dings from the season heal and reconnect with out-of-town family members - falls in the third week of the season. A date that early figures to limit the number of days the players will get off, as the Ravens will still be focusing on working out the early-season kinks.

"They understand that this early, we are going to have to work through it to a degree," Billick said. "I'm still going to try and give them a little time away. But they understand that is just the way it falls, and they will adapt."

It is the second earliest bye week in the team's 10-year history, an unkind fact the schedule makers more than made up for by giving the Ravens four nationally televised night games. It is the most a team can have and the second time in franchise history the Ravens have played that many.

The Ravens will begin the season hosting the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 11 in a Sunday night game that was announced a couple of weeks ago. The Ravens will also play host to the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 19 on Monday Night Football, then play at home against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas night. Pittsburgh will host the Ravens in their other Monday night game Oct. 31.

Packers quarterback Brett Favre will play for the first time at M&T Bank Stadium.

"The players are always energized by that," Billick said. "We'll see that as a sign of respect. Now comes time for our obligation to step up to that sense of anticipation that we're good enough to have four prime-time games."

The game against Pittsburgh will be the first of two against the Steelers in a four-week span, ending when the rivals play Nov. 20 at M&T Bank Stadium. It will be the first time since the NFL created the AFC North division that the teams have not met in the last couple of weeks of the year.

Only one of the final five games is against a division opponent, the season finale at Cleveland on Jan. 1. The Ravens also play host to the Bengals (Nov. 6) after the first Pittsburgh game, then travel to Cincinnati (Nov. 27) the week after the second Steelers game.

"To play both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati twice within a month's period of time, it's a little bit different than we've had before," Billick said.

The difference, though, is not necessarily beneficial. Three of the final four games will be against playoff teams, including a Dec. 11 matchup at Denver. Overall, the Ravens play six of their games against teams that made the playoffs last year and have five games against teams that had double-digit losses (two against the Browns).

It is tied for the sixth-toughest schedule by winning percentage in the league and could put the Ravens in as many as seven nationally featured games.

The Ravens have just the lone night road game at Pittsburgh before coming home the next week, a scenario Billick favors.

"They are all good teams, and everybody is going to talk about how tough the schedule is and the league didn't do us any favors," Billick said. "That aside, just the pacing of it, I like the look of it so far."

NOTES: The Ravens' intrasquad scrimmage is tentatively set for Aug. 5 at M&T Bank Stadium, a change from the usual site of McDaniel College. The Ravens will report to the school for training camp July 31.

Ravens' schedule

* Sept. 11 Indianapolis 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 at Tennessee 1 p.m.

* Sept. 25 Open date

Oct. 2 N.Y. Jets 4:05 p.m.

* Oct. 9 at Detroit 1 p.m.

Oct. 16 Cleveland 1 p.m.

* Oct. 23 at Chicago 4:15 p.m.

Oct. 31 at Pittsburgh 9 p.m.

* Nov. 6 Cincinnati 1 p.m.

Nov. 13 at Jacksonville 1 p.m.

* Nov. 20 Pittsburgh 4:15 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Cincinnati 1 p.m.

* Dec. 4 Houston 1 p.m.

Dec. 11 at Denver 4:15 p.m.

* Dec. 19 Green Bay 9 p.m.

Dec. 25 Minnesota 8:30 p.m.

* Jan. 1 at Cleveland 1 p.m.

Home games in bold *

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