The reward for winning the AFC North division title not only means the Baltimore Ravens get bragging rights over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, but they also get to play a first place schedule as well. That means that along with playing their predetermined schedule, they also play the other two division's first place teams in the AFC. The way the NFL schedule works is that the spot you finish in your division determines what other division teams you play other than the specific divisions in each conference.
This means that along with the Ravens playing their AFC North opponents twice, they will also play the AFC West and NFC East as part of the rotating schedule. The division title also means the Ravens will play the first place winners of the other two AFC divisions, which translates to the AFC East's New England Patriots and AFC South's Houston Texans.
Looking at the Ravens 2012 opponents, this means they will be facing some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL next season, and fans will get to see a nice group of them at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
(Click on the 'Jump' to see the list of QB's the Ravens will face at home and away in 2012)
Based on heir home schedule, the likes of Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos), Tom Brady (Patriots), Eli Manning (New York Giants), Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys), Carson Palmer (Oakland Raiders) and of course, Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) will be on display in front of the hometown fans here.
On the road, the Ravens will have to deal with Roethlisberger, Phil Rivers (San Diego Chargers), Matt Schaub (Texans), Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles) and rookie Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins).
That first-place schedule the Ravens will be playing is compared to the second-place one that the Steelers are playing, as well as the Bengals third-place and Browns fourth-place ones. In comparison, while the Ravens will be facing the Patriots' Brady and Texans' Schaub, Pittsburgh gets Mark Sanchez (New York Jets) and either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker (Tennessee Titans).
It doesn't seem fair, does it? That's the price you pay for winning the division and why the NFL knows what it's doing in establishing parity unlike any other sport. Either way, the Ravens will have to plan on facing some top signal-callers in 2012 and if they want to return to the playoffs and take that one final step, they will also need top play out of their own quarterback, Joe Flacco, in 2012 to prove he deserves to be mentioned along with the aforementioned ones the Ravens will be facing.