Breakdown: Baltimore, after a 12-4 season, caught the biggest break among AFC North teams with a 31st-ranked strength of schedule. Based on last year's records, the Ravens have the easiest schedule in the division and in the AFC.
The two games against the Steelers are always the highlight of the Ravens' schedule, and I love the idea of both teams setting the tone early and playing in Week 1. Coming off a divisional playoff loss in January, Baltimore will get its chance at revenge by hosting Pittsburgh on Sept. 11 at M&T Bank Stadium. The second meeting between the Steelers and Ravens will be in Pittsburgh on Nov. 6.
With key players such as linebacker Ray Lewis (35) and safety Ed Reed (32) getting up there in age, the window for Baltimore to make a title run is closing. With the exception of several tough games, the schedule is certainly set up for the Ravens to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Complaint department: It's surprising that the Week 1 matchup between the Ravens and Steelers turned out to be a 1 p.m. start. This is the best rivalry in football and will involve two likely playoff contenders. At the very least, this could have been a highlighted by television networks for a later, 4 p.m. start.
Beware of QBs: Baltimore's stellar defense will face several top quarterbacks in 2011. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has always been a thorn in the Ravens' side and will travel to Baltimore on Dec. 11. Obviously, Baltimore will battle Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers twice within the division. It also has games against Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers (Dec. 18) and the up-and-coming Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams (Sept. 25). Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is 9-4 in his career against the Ravens, but Palmer wants out of Cincinnati.
Ravens Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at St. Louis, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Houston, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 24, at Jacksonville, 8:30 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, San Francisco, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at San Diego, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM