Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For the honor of winning the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens get to play a "first-place schedule," meaning that they will be playing the first place teams in all three AFC divisions in the 2013 NFL regular season.
In addition to the Baltimore Ravens rotating schedule finding the AFC North playing all four teams in both the AFC East and NFC North, they will also play the first place team in the AFC South and West. That means they will once again face the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos in the 2013 regular season.
Their schedule, which won't be released for a few more months, is the 5th toughest in the NFL, based on 2012 records, according to a story on NFL.com. The combined record of the Ravens' next year opponents was 137-119 in 2012, a winning percentage of .535.
The only other teams facing a stronger strength-of-schedule next season than Baltimore are the St. Louis Rams (.539), New Orleans Saints (.539), Detroit Lions (.539) and Carolina Panther (.543), whose opponent's 138-116-2 record is the toughest in the entire league.
The Denver Broncos have the weakest schedule (.430) next season, but that's because they play in the AFC Worst, er, West, as four of the five easiest schedules belong to the four teams in that division.
The Ravens will have seven of their 16 regular season games against teams that made the playoffs last season, and that does not include facing the Pittsburgh Steelers twice. The will see both opponents from the AFC Divisional Round (Broncos) and AFC Championship Game (New England Patriots) once again.
They will also face the Cincinnati Bengals (twice), Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in 2013, all of whom made the post season this past year, and will love to dethrone the reigning Super Bowl Champs.
Repeating as Super Bowl Champions is a tough task and the combination of losing their free agents to teams that want playoff experience on their rosters, picking last in the NFL Draft and playing a first-place schedule all add up to a significant challenge that will certainly test this Ravens team in 2013.