Baltimore Ravens schedule analysis

Breakdown: The defending Super Bowl champions are in demand, playing four nationally televised games this season. It starts with the expected Thursday night opener at Denver, where the Ravens won an epic, double-overtime AFC divisional playoff game last season. The other three prime-time games are in the final five weeks of the season. The highlight is a Thanksgiving night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore. The Ravens are also on national television twice in December with games at Detroit and home against New England in a rematch of the past two AFC Championship games.

The two-time defending AFC North champions face one division team in the first six weeks of the season. That's the home opener against Cleveland on Sept. 15. Half of the Ravens' final 10 games are against AFC North teams, including a regular-season finale at Cincinnati for the third straight season.

The Ravens got lucky in terms of potential bad-weather games. Baltimore plays at Denver and Buffalo in September and at Chicago in November.

Complaint department: The biggest complaint will always be starting the season on the road. The Ravens become the first defending Super Bowl champion to open away from home since 2003, because of a scheduling conflict with the Orioles.

The other trouble spot is a stretch in which the Ravens play four times on the road in a five-game stretch. Baltimore plays at Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. None of those teams made the playoffs last season. The only home game in that span is against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Of course, the Ravens are helped by the fact that they have a Week 8 bye during this road stretch.

Return of Reed: The Ravens never had to face Ray Lewis or Jonathan Ogden. But, on Sept. 22, the Ravens will go against safety Ed Reed and his new team, the Houston Texans. This will be a surreal homecoming for Reed, who is regarded as the third-best player in franchise history. When he returns to M&T Bank Stadium, it will be about seven months removed from his helping Baltimore win the Super Bowl. Reed signed with the Texans after the Ravens declined to beat Houston's three-year, $15 million offer. It will be a challenge for Reed to force a turnover out of Joe Flacco, who threw five interceptions at home last season.

Ravens Regular-Season Schedule (all times Eastern)

Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 5, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cleveland, 1:00 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Houston, 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Miami, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Green Bay, 1:00 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.

Week 8: BYE

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Cleveland, 4:25 p.m.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Cincinnati, 1:00 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Chicago, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, NY Jets, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 28, Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Minnesota, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Monday, Dec. 16, at Detroit, 8:30 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, New England, 8:30 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Cincinnati, 1:00 p.m.