As Super Bowl champions, or what's left of that team, the Baltimore Ravens get the honor of kicking off the 2013 season with a home Thursday night prime-time game. The opponent for the season-opening game is typically announced at the NFL owners meetings, which are currently taking place in Phoenix, Ariz.
My prediction is the Ravens will open against the Patriots, which is a rematch of the past two AFC Championship games. The popular choice on the AFC North blog, according to a SportsNation poll last month, is the Steelers (41 percent). Based on the Ravens' home schedule, the top other candidates are: the Bengals, Packers and Texans.
The reason I'm going with New England is based on a couple of trends. In the nine years of the defending champion opening on Thursday night, only twice has the matchup been against a team in its own division, and both times it was the NFC East (which makes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati long shots). Also, there was just one time when the reigning champion played a team in the other conference (which makes Green Bay unlikely).
So, if the choices are New England and Houston, it makes sense to go with the Patriots considering their playoff history with the Ravens. Of course, the Texans would have a stronger storyline if they sign safety Ed Reed.
The AFC North blog will pass along the news as soon as the NFL announces it.