The very first snap the Baltimore Ravens will take in their Super Bowl title defense will take place in Raymond James Stadium.
The NFL's 2013 preseason week-by-week schedule was released on Thursday, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' four-game slate, which begins with a home game against the Ravens in Week One. The Buccaneers will also finish their preseason at home, welcoming the Washington Redskins to town in Week Four.
In between, Tampa Bay will play a pair of road games against familiar AFC preseason opponents: at New England in Week Two and at Miami in Week Three.
Specific dates and kickoff times will be announced in the coming weeks, with one exception. In addition to giving the 2012 champs their first test, the Buccaneers also have one other significant highlight on their preseason schedule, as that Week Two game in New England will be nationally televised by FOX on the evening of Friday, August 16, with kickoff scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.
Here is another look at Tampa Bay's 2013 August slate of games:
at New England
Obviously, the regular season is when Baltimore's title defense begins in earnest. Still, the Ravens are a compelling story after their Super Bowl win and a subsequent series of high-profile roster moves, from an enormous new contract for quarterback Joe Flacco; to the departures of Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Anquan Boldin and Dannell Ellerbe; to the acquisitions of Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Spears, Chris Canty and Michael Huff.
Moreover, this will mark the first time in nearly four decades of football that the Buccaneers will play the reigning Lombardi Trophy-holders to start the preseason. It will even be the first time that the defending champs have started the season in Tampa, because the Buccaneers opened their 2003 season in Tokyo the summer after winning Super Bowl XXXVII.
Speaking of firsts, the 2013 August opener also marks the first time that the Buccaneers and Ravens have ever met in the preseason. In addition, this will be the first season that Tampa Bay has played at home in Week One of the preseason since 2007.
That is definitely not true of the Bucs' other three preseason opponents. The Dolphins, in fact, are Tampa Bay's most common summer foe; the two teams have met 27 previous times in the preseason, with Miami holding a 16-11 edge in victories. The Buccaneers won last year's matchup, 20-7 in Miami in Head Coach Greg Schiano's sideline debut. Tampa Bay and Washington have met a dozen times in the preseason, with the Redskins holding a 7-5 edge. The Bucs and Patriots have 10 previous preseason meetings, and Tampa Bay has a big 8-2 advantage in that series, including a 30-28 win last summer.
It is not particularly surprising that the Buccaneers will head to Foxborough this August, given that the Patriots have played at Raymond James Stadium in each of the last two preseasons. However, it does set up a somewhat unusual double-dip, in that the Bucs will also play on the road against the Patriots in the regular season. The last time the Buccaneers played in the same location in the same campaign, in both the preseason and the regular season, was in 2000. Coincidentally, that involved the exact same set of road trips – at New England in the third week of the preseason and again to open the regular season. The Bucs also played at Miami in both the regular season and preseason that year.
This marks the third straight season that the Buccaneers will wrap up their preseason action against the Redskins, though the first time in that stretch that the game will be at Raymond James Stadium. Washington hasn't visited Tampa for a preseason game since 2002. Though preseason playing time is always unpredictable, the Redskins' visit will conclude a very intriguing run of opposing quarterbacks for Tampa Bay's defense this summer. In addition to Flacco, who is coming off a masterful 2012 postseason that sealed his big new contract, the Bucs will also draw the Hall of Fame-bound Tom Brady of the Patriots and 2012 first-round pick Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins.
Three of the Bucs' four preseason opponents are coming off playoff seasons in 2012. Baltimore and New England met in the AFC Championship Game last January while Washington won the NFC East before losing to Seattle in the Wild Card round.