ONLY ONE TRIP OUTSIDE EASTERN TIME ZONE THIS YEAR
This year's Ravens schedule doesn't start with five road games in a seven-week span.
But for the second time, it starts with an early look at an old friend.
Former Ravens defensive line coach and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his New York Jets hosted Baltimore in the 2010 season opener -- the Ravens won, 10-9 -- and Ryan's second year with the Buffalo Bills will begin with a game at M&T Bank Stadium to open Baltimore's campaign Sept. 11.
The NFL's 97th annual regular-season schedule -- unveiled April 14, seven days earlier than last year -- also features the Ravens playing on Christmas and New Year's Day for the first time in 11 years, with both games on the road.
Speaking of the road, the Ravens will play two straight games at the same venue, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey -- a team first -- when they take on the New York Giants and Jets in consecutive weeks before the bye.
With the team playing the AFC East and NFC East in the schedule rotation, it means 15-of-16 games will be played in the Eastern time zone, tying a team record.
The only exception is a November trip to Dallas, the team's second game there and first regular-season game in 8-year-old AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys are the only NFL team to have never beaten the Ravens (4-0).
The Ravens, even with plenty of defensive needs this offseason, will play only five of their 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 in total offense last year, two of them against third-ranked Pittsburgh, and one each versus sixth-ranked New England, the No. 8 New York Giants and 10th-ranked New York Jets.
Baltimore has two contests coming against 2015 top-10 defenses, with one each against the fourth-ranked Jets and the No. 9 Patriots.
There are six total games against 2015 playoff teams, one fewer than last year's total against 2014 postseason entrants. Four of them will be against division foes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The others pit the Ravens against Washington and New England.
Because of last year's 5-11 record, the Ravens have been scheduled for two prime-time games, their fewest in 10 years. They will host Cleveland Thursday, Nov. 10 and will travel to New England Monday night, Dec. 12. The team has had one Monday night home game since 2007, that coming in the 2012 season opener.
Barring any changes due to the flexible scheduling program -- and the team was flexed out of two Sunday night games last year -- this year's nighttime showcases will bring the Ravens' lifetime total of national TV games to 58. They are 30-26 in prime-time games in team history.
The regular season will end with two straight AFC North road games, against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
The season-closing game will be in Cincinnati for the sixth time in the seven seasons since the league mandated that all teams play within their division to close the campaign. Five of those games have been or will be played in Cincinnati.
In a unique arrangement, five of the Ravens' six division games will be played after the team's Oct. 30 bye, including all three home contests.
One of those AFC North battles, the home game against Pittsburgh Nov. 6, will take place right after the bye week for both the Ravens and Steelers. There are no other games on the schedule for which an opponent will have two weeks to prepare for Baltimore.
2016 Baltimore Ravens Schedule
(Radio: all games on WIYY-FM, 97.9)
Thurs., Aug. 11 -- Carolina, 7:30 p.m., WBAL-TV
Sat., Aug. 20 -- at Indianapolis, 7 p.m., WBAL-TV
Sat., Aug. 27 -- Detroit, 7 p.m., WBAL-TV
Thurs., Sept. 1 -- at New Orleans, 8 p.m., WBAL-TV
(all games Sunday unless otherwise indicated)
Sept. 11 -- Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS
Sept. 18 -- at Cleveland, 1 p.m., CBS
Sept. 25 -- at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 2 -- Oakland, 1 p.m., CBS
x-Oct. 9 -- Washington, 1 p.m., FOX
x-Oct. 16 -- at NY Giants, 1 p.m., CBS
x-Oct. 23 -- at NY Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 30 -- Bye Week
x-Nov. 6 -- Pittsburgh, 1 p.m., CBS
Nov. 10 (Thurs.) -- Cleveland, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network
x-Nov. 20 -- at Dallas, 1 p.m., CBS
x-Nov. 27 -- Cincinnati, 1 p.m., CBS
x-Dec. 4 -- Miami, 1 p.m., CBS
Dec. 12 (Mon.) -- at New England, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
x-Dec. 18 -- Philadelphia, 1 p.m., FOX
Dec. 25 -- at Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m., NFL Network
x-Jan. 1 -- at Cincinnati, 1 p.m., CBS
x -- games that could be affected by the league's flexible scheduling program
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 7-8 -- Wild Card Weekend (NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN)
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 14-15 -- Divisional Playoffs (NBC, CBS, Fox)
Sun., Jan. 22 -- NFC Championship Game, 3 p.m. (Fox); AFC Championship Game, 6:40 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Jan. 29 -- Pro Bowl; Aloha Stadium; Honolulu, Hawaii; 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun., Feb. 5 -- Super Bowl LI; NRG Stadium; Houston, Texas; 6:30 p.m. (Fox)
Joe Platania has been covering professional football since 1994.