The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will kick off the National Football League season tonight . . . in Denver. Normally the reigning champion opens at home, but because of a scheduling conflict with the Orioles, who play the White Sox at home tonight at 7:05 and whose Camden Yards shares a parking lot with the Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens were forced to open on the road.
This caused some minor controversy back in April when the 2013 NFL schedule was announced. As someone who is not only a huge baseball fan but also makes my living off the game, I'm hardly an impartial voice in this situation, but, as I wrote then, the whole controversy seemed petty and absurd. "Asking [the Orioles] to surrender a home game this year when they could be in the playoff hunt again," I wrote, "is nonsensical."
As it turns out, the Orioles are indeed still embroiled in a pennant race. They enter tonight's game just four games out of the second wild-card spot, currently occupied by the Tampa Bay Rays. The White Sox, meanwhile, have emerged as a patsy, the team with the second-worst record in the American League and one that could be eliminated from the playoffs entirely tonight with the right combination of results. Having just slipped behind the Indians in the wild-card tussle, the O's need to fatten up on this four-game set against Chicago before a home stretch that finds them playing 14 of 20 games against the three teams ahead of them in the AL East, the Red Sox (six games), Rays (four on the road) and Yankees (four at home starting Monday). In addition to their tough road ahead, the Orioles have just one off-day on their schedule between Aug. 27 and the end of the season on Sept. 29. All of this means the Orioles were absolutely right not to alter their schedule for a tradition that Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted in April would have no real impact on his team. The O's chances of making the playoffs (5.7 percent heading into tonight's game per Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report) are small enough without the cascading impact of their jumping through hoops to accommodate the Ravens.