That's what happens when you win the Super Bowl.
Baltimore did just that behind quarterback Joe Flacco and retiring star linebacker Ray Lewis, knocking off the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012-13 NFL finale to win the franchise's second Lombardi trophy.
While the Ravens will have six months of celebration under their belts when the 2013 season starts in September, many of the players who rode the parade floats through the streets of Baltimore will be wearing new jerseys next season.
Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard and the aforementioned Lewis have all moved on from the defending champs, but Flacco is still under center after signing the largest quarterback contract in the history of the NFL.
The Ravens are coming into the year with something the Flacco era has never had—expectations of the grandest scale. After climbing the mountain and winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore will be expected to do the same in 2013-14—roster turnover or not.
|2013 Baltimore Ravens Schedule|
|1||Sept. 5 ||at Denver Broncos||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 22 ||vs. Houston Texans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||at Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 6||at Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 13||vs. Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|7||Oct. 20||at Pittsburgh Steelers||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||BYE WEEK|
|9||Nov. 3||at Cleveland Browns||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|10||No. 10||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||at Chicago Bears||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||vs. New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Nov. 28||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|14||Dec. 8||vs. Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.||FOX|
|15||Dec. 16||at Detroit Lions|| |
|16||Dec. 22 ||New England Patriots||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|17||Dec. 29 ||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
Note: For a complete look at Baltimore's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
It's not often that the world champs don't get to celebrate their accomplishments from the previous season at home, but that's exactly the hand that Baltimore has been dealt.
It won't be a big damper on what coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are looking to accomplish in 2013, but a scheduling issue between the Ravens and Baltimore Orioles—who share a parking lot in adjacent stadiums—will put Baltimore on the road to open its season (via ESPN).
The Ravens will once again have to prove their worth against two playoff-caliber teams in their own in the AFC North backyard—the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers—and have to contend with the rebuilding effort that has left the Cleveland Browns as a dangerous dark horse in the AFC.
Baltimore's NFC divisional four-game set will be against the NFC North. Green Bay and Minnesota will be coming to town while Baltimore has the difficult task of traveling to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears and to Ford Field to battle the Detroit Lions.
A road game against Denver will be a must-see game and could decide the winner of the AFC, but Baltimore is lucky in the fact that it gets four 2012 playoff teams that are not in the AFC North (New England, Houston, Green Bay and Minnesota) at home in 2013.
The Super Bowl champs will get no breaks with this schedule, which is chock-full of tough tests for a team re-tooling at several key positions.
Most Pivotal Matchups
As always, winning the AFC North will be key.
Baltimore went 4-2 in divisional play, sweeping the Browns, but splitting with both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It was enough to win the AFC North in 2012, but might not be in 2013. So goes one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
Elsewhere, battles with Denver, New England and Houston will help decide the seeding in the AFC. When you're the best, you have to beat the best, and the NFL gave Baltimore no favors in defending its championship in 2013.
It's hard to put a finger on which game will be the most important for the Ravens next season.
With so many matchups against playoff teams on the schedule, Baltimore is going to have to approach every game like a must-win. Ultimately, though, the Raven's matchup with New England figures to have huge postseason implications.
The Ravens will have several games circled on their schedules in 2013, and the fans should too. It's a great time to be a sports fan in the Baltimore area, and the Ravens are primed with the kind of regular-season victories it's going to take to have a chance to repeat for the title.
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