The Baltimore Ravens are heavy favorites to play in this year's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is one of the headliners of this year's Hall of Fame class, which should draw a large contingent of fans from Baltimore. Plus, the Ravens are the only active team not to have played in the league's opening preseason game.
That's why the expectation is the NFL will name the Ravens as one of the teams to square off at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 2. The league typically announces the teams sometime in February.
Based on a recent trend, the Ravens could play either the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers or Denver Broncos. Since 2014, the Hall of Fame Game has featured teams who represent an inductee that year.
This year, the modern era inductees are Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins. The Philadelphia Eagles have ties to Dawkins and Owens, but it's unlikely the league will ask the defending Super Bowl champion to play the early preseason game.
Since the Ravens' first season in 1996, every team has played in the Hall of Fame game except the Ravens, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. But the Lions, Jets, Chargers, Panthers and Jaguars all played in Canton at some point from 1991 to 1995.
The last time an NFL team from Baltimore played in the Hall of Fame Game was 1982, when the Colts played the Vikings two years before their move to Indianapolis.
If the Ravens are selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game, don't expect to see quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs or safety Eric Weddle on the field. Starters traditionally don't play in what is the first of five preseason games for the teams.
Playing in the first preseason game also means starting training camp before the rest of the NFL. The Ravens would open camp on July 18 if they're chosen for the Hall of Fame Game.
This will mark the second straight year that the Hall of Fame Game will be played on a Thursday night and not Sunday. It will kick off a weekend of events that includes the Class of 2018 being honored during a "gold jacket dinner" on Friday and the formal enshrinement ceremony at the stadium on Saturday.
In 2016, the Hall of Fame Game was canceled shortly before kickoff because of poor field conditions. Last year, the new field passed NFL operations directors' approval.