By Mark Viviano

We’re in the midst of a time in the sports year that’s prone to great over-reaction: the first few weeks of the Major League Baseball season (the sky is falling!) and the release of the NFL schedule (we got screwed!). There are 162 games in a baseball season, so we know the truth will reveal itself as games are contested every day for the next six months. As far as the NFL schedule: there are no meaningful games for five whole months, so all we can do until then is over-analyze and over-react.  So, let’s do it!

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We already knew the opponents the Ravens would face and where they’d play, but now we know WHEN. We knew they had trips west to Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona. Now we know that that those four trips are in back-to-back pairs: opening at Denver, then going to Oakland for the second game, then a San Francisco/Arizona back-to-back in October. Sounds like a “grueling” set-up, but remember, NFL teams don’t travel by stage coach- they’re transported on charter flights and stay in luxury hotels. I’ve traveled with the Ravens over the years and compared to what we go through on commercial airlines, professional sports teams have it great (and they should). They ride to the airport on buses that are escorted through traffic by a police convoy.  There is no standing in lines at the airport for baggage check, security or boarding. There’s minimal security screening and the flights have abundant food, televisions and movies. There’s no waiting for luggage upon arrival and there’s a police escort to the luxury team hotel, where there’s no waiting at a counter for check in. So, let’s not overplay the travel concerns.

Remember, too, travel from the Eastern Time Zone to the west is not detrimental to the players’ body clocks as the games will start at what would be the same time in the east. More problematic is traveling Western Time Zone to east, and the results over the years bear that out: Western Time Zone teams playing early games in the Eastern Time Zone have a history of difficulty. So the Ravens stand to have an advantage when San Diego visits Baltimore for a 1 p.m. ET game on November 1. Their game against Seattle in Baltimore on Sunday night, December 13 shouldn’t matter to either team. The only difficulty will be the Seahawks late flight back across the country. They can sleep on their comfy plane.

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The Ravens play five of their first seven games on the road. Well, every team plays eight at home and eight on the road, so no matter how you stack ’em- it’ll even out. The Ravens get six of their last nine games at home. If there’s any disadvantage in the early road games, then there’s a late advantage of so many late home games. Again, it evens out either way.

America will see plenty of purple in prime time this season as the Ravens are featured in five (5) prime time games: one Thursday night at Pittsburgh (Oct. 1 on WJZ), two Monday nights (Oct. 26 at Arizona and at Cleveland Nov. 30) and two Sunday nights (Dec. 13 vs. Seattle and Dec. 27 vs. Pittsburgh). Baltimore fans like to play the conspiracy card that says the NFL has a bias against the Ravens. Well, a franchise-high five prime time games would suggest otherwise. The Ravens are popular, and it shows with their many prime time appearances.

We can cut it up, parse it out, debate and ultimately over-analyze it all we want- and it’s fun to do. The Ravens have five whole months to prepare, and they’ve proven that they’re VERY good at preparing for what’s ahead. So whether the schedule is fair, unfair, easy, challenging or whatever- to use one of Brian Billick’s favorite quotes: “It is what it is.” I expect the Ravens to continue to spoil their fan base with another strong season that has them in playoff contention to the end. That’s what they do. And now we know the order of games in which they will try to do it.

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Now, as far as that baseball season……