Baltimore Ravens Schedule: 5 Most Anticipated Games in 2012

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIApril 19, 2012

Baltimore Ravens Schedule: 5 Most Anticipated Games in 2012

0 of 5

    The Baltimore Ravens have known their schedule since Jan. 1 2012 when they clinched the AFC North title. However, there really is something special about knowing the specific dates when the games will take place. This is the reason why the NFL can plug a three-hour schedule release extravaganza in mid April and still get die-hard fans to tune in.

    So now that the Ravens know all the details of their 2012 schedule, there are some obvious games that have to stand out to them. Obviously every game next year will matter, and there is no possible way of knowing how any team's season will turn out.

    But based on what has transpired in 2011, the Ravens and their fans are probably going to be extra hyped for these games. So get out your pens and be sure to mark down these dates on the Ravens schedule. If there's a Super Bowl run happening in Baltimore this season, expect it to be because of victories in these following games.

5. Week 15 vs. Denver Broncos

1 of 5

    This game may look like a surprise candidate for the most anticipated list. The Ravens are 5-3 all time versus the Denver Broncos as well as 1-0 in their only playoff meeting. The Ravens have played the Broncos twice since 2006, and both times they dominated the Kyle Orton-led offense.

    Well, you may have heard that the Broncos new quarterback is no Kyle Orton. Instead of going with the pedestrian journeyman, the Broncos have future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning leading their offense. This is one of those rare occasions where one player makes the game all that much more exciting. 

    The Ravens have a long and complicated rivalry against Manning. And for the most part it's been pretty one-sided, as Manning is 8-2 as a starter against the Ravens, which includes two victories against them in the postseason. This includes an amazing streak of eight consecutive games where Manning has beaten the Ravens, with most of them in heart-breaking fashion.

    The last game Manning played against the Ravens was the 2009 divisional round game shown in the video above. It was a horrible ending to the Ravens season as their offense was completely nonexistent in the 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Now with Manning coming to M&T Bank Stadium with the Broncos, the Ravens are going to really want revenge for not only the 2009 playoff loss, but also for all the other times Manning has gotten the best of the Ravens. 

4. Week 16 vs. New York Giants

2 of 5

    When looking at the Ravens inter-conference schedule, this matchup against the New York Giants has to be the highlight. Only a week after facing big brother Peyton Manning, the Ravens get little brother Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champions.

    Obviously with the Giants distinction as Super Bowl champions, every team will be looking forward to their game versus the G-Men. The Ravens will be particularly looking forward to it, though, as they look to get revenge from their last meeting against the Giants back in 2008. This was an ugly one where the Giants easily disposed of the Ravens 30-10 while gaining 207 total rushing yards.

    Racking up 207 rushing yards is a lot to get against anyone. For a run defense as stout as the Ravens, it's an obscene amount to give away. You know that proud defensive players like Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis have to remember that embarrassing feeling and will be determined to erase it.

    This game also comes at a crucial time for both teams. It is the second to last game of the regular seasonm meaning that it could determine playoff seeding for one or both teams. It could even be a playoff elimination game should the Ravens and/or Giants have a rough time with their brutal 2012 schedules.

3. Week 1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

3 of 5

    Although the Ravens are a regular draw on Monday Night Football, their Week 1 game game against the Cincinnati Bengals will be their first home MNF game since 2007. Obviously it's great to see that MNF will be back in Baltimore, and it's even greater that it's against the Bengals. This rivalry is one of the more underrated ones in the NFL, and if the Bengals can build on the strides they made last season, they will be a serious threat to win the AFC North.

    Although the Ravens swept the Bengals in 2011, both games were won by a touchdown. Even in bad years, the Bengals have found a way to be a thorn in the Ravens' side. Only three years ago, the Bengals swept the Ravens en route to a surprising division title, and you can't forget about the huge upset in 2010 that basically cost the Ravens the AFC North.

    Prime time games are always a big draw on any team's schedule. This is even more the case when a team opens up the season in prime time, an honor usually reserved for teams expected to contend for the Lombardi trophy. For the rest of the offseason, the Ravens are going to spend a lot of time preparing specifically for this crucial Bengals game.

    Fittingly the Ravens will also close the season against the Bengals. This matchup in Cincinnati could be huge as it could have wild-card or possibly even AFC North implications. For now I'll include the season opener as the more anticipated of the two games, but don't count out the possibility of the season finale being an extremely important game as well.

2. Week 11 @ Pittsburgh Steelers

4 of 5

    The Ravens will not face off against their most hated division rivals until mid-November. This game will take place in Pittsburgh and will also be shown to a national audience on NBC's Sunday Night Football. This comes as no surprise given the intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry which is now basically guaranteed a prime time spot every season. 

    Interestingly, though, the Ravens will not wait long at all until they face the Steelers again. Just two weeks later the Steelers will be coming to M&T Bank Stadium for the second game of the series. Add in the fact that there is a road trip to San Diego sandwiched between these two games, and this is probably the most difficult stretch on the Ravens schedule.

    Even with the strides that the Cincinnati Bengals have made, most pundits are going to have the AFC North going to the Ravens or Steelers. After sweeping the Steelers last season, the Ravens may be the current favorite. But sweeping a good team like the Steelers is extremely hard, and with there being two games in three weeks, I would expect to see a split series here.

1. Week 3 vs. New England Patriots

5 of 5

    Most years the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would hands-down be the highlight of the Ravens schedule. But that is not the case this year, not after what happened in the playoffs. 

    There is one team that the Ravens absolutely need to beat this season, and that team is the New England Patriots. The AFC Championship loss was likely the most painful loss in franchise history. With Lee Evans dropping the pass and Billy Cundiff's horrible wide left kick, it's a game that will forever haunt the Ravens.

    They don't have to wait that long for their chance at revenge. The Ravens will play the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 3. This game will be in Baltimore making it the first time the Ravens will play the Patriots in Baltimore since flags were thrown in the stand in 2007. 

    The Ravens will also be looking for their first regular season victory against the Patriots. It's hard to believe, but they are currently 0-6 against the Patriots in the regular season with their only victory against them coming in the 2009 wild-card round. As a successful franchise, this is a stat that needs to end, and given how close they came in the AFC Championship, I think the Ravens have a very good shot at beating the Pats in September.