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2016 Baltimore Ravens preseason schedule opens with NFC champ

The NFL released the preseason schedule on Thursday. Dates and times haven’t been announced, but here’s a first look at the opponents for the Baltimore Ravens:

Week 1 (Aug. 11) vs. Carolina Panthers

Comment: There hasn't been an exact timetable on the return of wide receiver Steve Smith, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in November. But would he miss a chance at playing against his former team even if it's only for a couple of series? Considering this could be Smith's final game against the Panthers, this will serve as extra motivation for him to get back in time for the preseason opener.

Week 2 (Aug. 18-22) at Indianapolis Colts

Comment: This marks the first time the Ravens will play the Colts, who relocated from Baltimore 32 years ago, in the preseason. It's also the Ravens' first of two preseason games against a former coordinator. Colts coach Chuck Pagano was Baltimore's defensive coordinator in 2011. Both perennial playoff teams are looking to bounce back from disappointing 2015 seasons.

Week 3 (Aug. 27) vs. Detroit Lions

Comment: It's the homecoming of Haloti Ngata, one of the best defensive linemen in Ravens history. Baltimore traded Ngata to the Lions last offseason for fourth- and fifth-round picks, which were used to draft linebacker Za'Darius Smith and move up to get tight end Maxx Williams in the second round. This is also a reunion with Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who was the Ravens' offensive coordinator in their 2012 Super Bowl season.

Week 4 (Sept. 1) at New Orleans Saints

Comment: It's the third straight year that the Ravens will meet the Saints in the preseason and second time they'll wrap it up in the Superdome. The chances of seeing either Joe Flacco and Drew Brees in this one are very slim. Baltimore hasn't hosted a preseason finale in eight years.