(First installment of a month-by-month examination of the Ravens' 2012 schedule.)
Sept. 10Cincinnati Bengals at RavensM&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, 7 pm
Skinny: The noise will be swirling as the Ravens open their 2012 schedule with a long-desired Monday night home game, their first since 2007.
Opponent: Although the Ravens swept their AFC North rivals in 2011, they were fortunate to do so. The Bengals are young and hungry after making the playoffs as a surprise qualifier last season. Andy Dalton made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, as did wideout A.J. Green. The general consensus is they improved during the offseason with the addition of two first-round picks (CB Dre Kirkpatrick and OL Kevin Zeitler) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis loves to beat his former team and has a history of doing it.
Sept. 16Ravens at Philadelphia EaglesLincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, 1 pm
Skinny: The Ravens have the honor of playing the foil at the Eagles home opener. (Philly opens the season at Cleveland the week before.
Opponent: A year after all the Dream Team talk, expectations in Philly are tamped down ever so slightly. But honestly, the Eagles and their fans always think a Super Bowl appearance is right around the corner. Well see. The Eagles did finish 2011 with four straight wins, and Michael Vick is the kind of mobile quarterback who gives the Ravens trouble. Joe Flacco's South Jersey homecoming game could be the day Terrell Suggs absence becomes important.
Sept. 23New England Patriots at RavensM&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 8:20 pm
Skinny: It doesnt get much better than a Sunday night revenge home game against the team that barely kept the Ravens out of the Super Bowl last season. The stadium will be rocking.
Opponent: The Patriots are hoping for more balance this season after finishing second in the NFL in passing and next-to-last in passing defense in 2011. But that formula still got them to the Super Bowl, so it was hardly a disaster. The Ravens have played Tom Brady about as well as anyone, but Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and company will challenge a secondary that Lardarius Webb claimed was the NFLs best.
Sept. 27Cleveland Browns at RavensM&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, 8:20
Atmosphere: This will be the Ravens second home night game in four days and third of the young season. Expect a little crowd weariness. Steve Bisciotti said the league apologized to him for front-loading so many prime-time games into the schedule.
Opponent: Ravens coach John Harbaugh has never lost to the Browns, who are starting over yet again with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. This will be a tough spot for him, but he cant fare any worse than his predecessor, Colt McCoy, who never looked anything less than overmatched against the Ravens.