Ravens to open 2021 season on Monday Night Football as one of five prime-time matchups

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After 25 regular-season wins and two trips to the divisional round over the last two years, the Ravens will once again have a strong prime-time presence in 2021 as part of the new 17-game regular season.

For the second straight year, star quarterback Lamar Jackson and Baltimore are scheduled to play the maximum five prime-time games, this time beginning with a trip to Las Vegas to open the season on Monday Night Football. It marks the fourth time the Ravens will begin a season on a Monday night and the first since 2012. The Ravens haven’t opened a campaign against the Raiders since the inaugural 1996 season at old Memorial Stadium.

John Harbaugh’s team will return to M&T Bank Stadium to open the home schedule against Kansas City on Sunday Night Football, marking the third straight September in which these AFC rivals have clashed. However, this will be the only home game the Ravens play in the season’s first four weeks, making it critical for them to come out of the gate in strong fashion. After their Week 4 trip to Denver, however, Baltimore won’t play another road game until Week 10, a remarkable stretch of 39 days between away contests.

The Ravens will host Indianapolis for Monday Night Football in Week 5, travel to Miami for Thursday Night Football in Week 10, and welcome Cleveland for a Sunday night meeting in Week 12. This will mark the first time the Ravens and Browns meet on Sunday Night Football since 2004 when that prime-time game was carried on ESPN and still played second fiddle to Monday nights.

Not taking into account the possibility of late-season flexible scheduling — or the COVID-19 outbreak that prompted multiple postponements of their scheduled Thanksgiving night meeting last year — Baltimore and Pittsburgh aren’t scheduled to play in a prime-time game for just the second time since 2006 with the other occasion being two years ago. Adding to that unusual quirk is the fact that the Ravens will play just one AFC North game — a Week 7 home tilt against Cincinnati — until after Thanksgiving.

Over the final seven weeks of the regular season, the Ravens will play five divisional games and six contests against playoff teams from a year ago. That’s quite a contrast from the favorable December slate they played last year to win their last five games to qualify for the postseason. Three of the last four contests will take place in Baltimore, however.

The Ravens will play nine games against playoff teams from last season: Pittsburgh (two), Cleveland (two), Kansas City, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Chicago, and the Los Angeles Rams. They have six games against opponents who finished below .500 a year ago: Cincinnati (two), Minnesota, Denver, Detroit, and the Los Angeles Chargers. Six of those nine games against 2020 postseason teams will take place in Baltimore, which should ease the challenge of playing the NFL’s second-most difficult schedule based on opponents’ 2020 winning percentage.

As of now, nine of Baltimore’s 17 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but most games are subject to flexible scheduling, which could begin as early as Week 6 for the Ravens.

2021 SCHEDULE

Monday, Sept. 13 at Las Vegas Raiders — 8:15 p.m. (ESPN/ABC)
Skinny: Eleven years after opening MetLife Stadium with the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, the Ravens will essentially be doing the same at Allegiant Stadium after the Raiders didn’t host any fans during the 2020 campaign.

Sunday, Sept. 19 vs. Kansas City Chiefs — 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: The defending AFC champions have bested the Ravens in three straight seasons, but a potentially full M&T Bank Stadium for the prime-time home opener would provide a dramatically better atmosphere than last year’s Monday night game in Baltimore.

Sunday, Sept. 26 at Detroit Lions — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: At least Lions fans will get to celebrate Calvin Johnson’s entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer because there’s little about which to be excited for that long-suffering fan base.  

Sunday, Oct. 3 at Denver Broncos — 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: Playing in the high altitude is always challenging with the Mile High Miracle being the only Ravens victory in Denver over the last 20 years, but the Broncos aren’t scaring anyone until they find a franchise quarterback.

Monday, Oct. 11 vs. Indianapolis Colts — 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: The Colts returning to Charm City for Monday Night Football would have been bigger news two decades ago, but Frank Reich could have one of the AFC’s more dangerous teams if a change of scenery for Carson Wentz pays off.

Sunday, Oct. 17 vs. Los Angeles Chargers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Quarterback Justin Herbert looked like a future star in his rookie season, so we’ll see if new head coach Brandon Staley, a revamped offensive line, and better health can push the Chargers back into the postseason.

Sunday, Oct. 24 vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Between kicking a last-second field goal just to avoid a Week 5 shutout and giving up an absurd 404 rushing yards in Week 17 last season, the Bengals have nowhere to go but up against the Ravens this year.

Sunday, Oct. 31 BYE
Skinny: Baltimore will be perfectly content with another bye falling very close to the middle of the season.

Sunday, Nov. 7 vs. Minnesota Vikings — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The last time the Vikings visited Baltimore resulted in one of the wildest games in Ravens history, leaving quite a bar for this latest meeting between purple teams.

Thursday, Nov. 11 at Miami Dolphins — 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFL Network)
Skinny: We all remember Jackson’s historic performance in that Week 1 drubbing two years ago, but the talented Dolphins are a meaningful step forward from second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa away from being a serious AFC contender.

Sunday, Nov. 21 at Chicago Bears — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Speaking of quarterbacks, will old AFC North adversary Andy Dalton still be the starter in Chicago or will the Bears have turned to talented rookie Justin Fields by November?

Sunday, Nov. 28 vs. Cleveland Browns — 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: After last December’s Monday night thriller, you had to think we’d see these 2020 playoff teams and AFC North rivals meet once again in a nationally televised setting.

Sunday, Dec. 5 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: Rarely in this storied rivalry have we seen one team coming off a season sweep and the other one regarded as having the brighter future, but a 15-year age difference in franchise quarterbacks will do that.

Sunday, Dec. 12 at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: After surrendering 85 points in two 2020 losses to Baltimore, the Browns could have nine new starters on a revamped defense as they try to take the next step after their first playoff victory in more than a quarter-century.

Sunday, Dec. 19 vs. Green Bay Packers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers has made only two career appearances in Baltimore, but his uncertain future with the Packers threatens to make this game far less appealing. 

Sunday, Dec. 26 at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Former LSU teammates Joe Burrow and Patrick Queen offered some friendly banter before the first meeting last season, but have the Bengals done enough to protect their young quarterback returning from a serious knee injury?

Sunday, Jan. 2 vs. Los Angeles Rams — 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: Added due to the NFL introducing the new 17-game schedule for 2021, this matchup should be a good test with the Rams envisioning veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford as the final piece to a championship-caliber roster.

Sunday, Jan. 9 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Could this be the final time the Ravens play Ben Roethlisberger, who made his NFL debut in Baltimore 17 years ago? If so, what a tremendous rivalry it’s been.