The full NFL schedule isn't set to be released until Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, but an AFC-playoff rematch will open the 2013 slate as the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos will go head-to-head.
The NFL has confirmed that the Broncos will host the Ravens on Thursday Night Kickoff to begin the 2013 season (per Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star):
NFL announces Ravens at Denver for Thursday night opener. I was wrong. Expected #colts/Andrew Luck entertaining Peyton on Sunday night— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) April 18, 2013
While the Super Bowl-winning team customarily hosts the first game of the season, a scheduling conflict with Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles has forced the NFL to move the opening contest to a different locale.
Even though the Ravens won't be able to celebrate their Super Bowl victory at home in the season's premier game, there is no question that it will have a wild atmosphere. The Ravens and Broncos developed quite a rivalry last season, and Denver fans probably feel as though Baltimore cost them the Super Bowl.
The Broncos were poised to meet the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last season, and they likely would have been favored to beat the Pats. Denver led the Ravens by a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in their Divisional Round matchup, but Joe Flacco threw a miraculous 70-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones to tie the game, and Baltimore went on to win in overtime.
That loss had to leave a bad taste in the Broncos' mouths, as they were arguably the best all-around team in the NFL. Quarterback Peyton Manning will return to the helm and he'll be out for revenge in this particular game.
Denver also added former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker to the mix, while the Ravens signed former Broncos pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, so there are a number of different subplots to pay attention to in this budding rivalry.
There should be plenty of intriguing prime-time games over the course of the NFL season, but the season-opening clash between the Broncos and Ravens could very well top them all.
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