Since 2002, the winner of the Super Bowl has opened the NFL's regular season the following season, at home, and in prime time. Due to a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles, the Ravens were unable to host the NFL's annual kickoff on Sept. 5 and the league ruled out opening the season on a Wednesday — which it had in 2012 to accommodate President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention — as Sept. 4 is the start of Rosh Hashanah.
In addition to their three AFC North rivals — Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers — the Ravens' road slate includes the Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Once talks between the NFL, Major League Baseball, the Ravens and Orioles failed, and it became apparent that the Ravens would have to open the 2013 season on the road, the Broncos were the logical choice.
The Ravens and Broncos split their two meetings during the 2012 regular and post-season. The Broncos soundly defeated the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore on Dec. 16, but the Ravens would get their revenge with a 38-35 double overtime win over the Broncos in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs on Jan. 12.
In that playoff game, Denver had a 35-28 lead in the final minute, which was erased when Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones got behind the Broncos' secondary to haul in a 70-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to force overtime. With one minute to play in the first overtime session, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was intercepted by cornerback Corey Graham. The Ravens worked their way into field goal range and rookie Justin Tucker connected from 47 yards out to end the Broncos' season and put the Ravens in the AFC championship game for a second consecutive season.
The Ravens have lost several key players this offseason. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis retired, safety Ed Reed and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger left via free agency, while wide receiver and playoff hero Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the Broncos have re-loaded, signing wide receiver Wes Welker to improve their production from the slot and adding cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the size and speed that should allow the Broncos to better defend against receivers like Torrey Smith, who caught three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns against Denver in their playoff game in January.
The NFL will release their full 2013 schedule at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 18.
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