First, before anyone thinks I am jumping the gun, let me say this: no, I do not think the Cleveland Browns will host the first game of the 2013 NFL season. Because of the scheduling conflict that came to light over the past week, the Baltimore Ravens will not be featured in the league's season opener at home. Greg Aiello, the VP of NFL Communications, released the following statement regarding the issue:
"While we are disappointed for the fans in Baltimore, we appreciate the efforts of the Ravens, Orioles and Major League Baseball and understand the logistical problems in trying to schedule the teams on the same day. The Ravens will open the season on the road on Thursday night, September 5, in our annual NFL Kickoff Game on NBC. We are exploring potential fan activities in Baltimore around the Kickoff Game, including a pre-game concert."
Since they are opening on the road, Baltimore will visit one of the following cities on Thursday, September 5: Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, or Pittsburgh. On the surface, the two games there that would scream "ratings" include Denver and Pittsburgh. To a degree, you could throw Cincinnati into that mix as well.
However, you have to consider that this is a unique circumstance for the NFL. Since 2002, Super Bowl winning teams have played in front of their home crowds to begin the season. Most of the winners have squared off against teams that would generally be considered "tough" opponents. With Baltimore missing out on the opportunity, to no fault of their own, is there a chance that a less popular team like Cleveland gets the nod instead? Probably not, but there's still a chance.
Rumor has it that the Ravens might have been able to shift their home game to something like a Sunday, but that head coach John Harbaugh preferred that the team play on the road so that they would have an extended break until their Week 2 game. Over at Baltimore Beatdown, fans are pretty livid about not getting the traditional home game celebration to begin the season. What do you guys think? Would you be upset if Cleveland won the Super Bowl and then missed out on the opener? Hell, I'd be pleased just to come anywhere close to sniffing a Super Bowl at this point that I couldn't imagine myself getting so worked up about opening the season on the road.