Ravens justify declining bye after London, face brutal midseason travel

The Ravens will play the Raiders at the end of a brutal three-game series. (Getty)

The Baltimore Ravens are in for one of the more brutal three-game travel stretches in recent NFL history, and it’s in part their own doing.

The Ravens will play the Jaguars in London on Sept. 24, and while the London trip has become routine for most teams — especially the Jaguars — most teams then turn around and take a bye the next week. Not only did the Ravens decline the bye, they then play bitter rival Pittsburgh at home, and then fly out to the west coast to play Oakland.

That’s 12,000 air miles in less than three weeks. That’s rugged by any standard, but throwing three football games, including two against playoff teams, in the mix? Baltimore’s got its work cut out for it long before Halloween.

“We felt it was better for us to save that bye week for the middle of the year than it was to give it up,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told season-ticket holders in a conference call. “We asked them – and we’re not guaranteed – to give us a home game [after London] and we got that. It’s Pittsburgh.”

Of course, the Steelers and Ravens have a bit of history, meaning Baltimore will have to come home from London and immediately get fired up for a bitter divisional rival.

“If I had my druthers, I would have rather it been maybe some other team,” Bisciotti said. “But the good news about playing Pittsburgh is we know them well. We know their personnel. We play them all the time. Even though it’s going to be one of our toughest games, we certainly won’t have to get back on a plane. We’ll be playing a team, though a very good team, we are very familiar with.”

The Ravens saved their bye week for mid-November, giving the team a break with just a few games left before the season concludes. Given the opponents Baltimore faces prior to the bye (Browns, Vikings, Bears, the aforementioned Jaguars), it’s entirely possible that the Ravens could still be deep in playoff contention even dropping both the Steelers and Raiders games.

“When you look at the pros and cons of scheduling,” Bisciotti said. “I think we were right to pass on that fourth-week bye and then have to play for three months without a break.”

The London game will be streamed live by Verizon, the new corporate parent of Yahoo Sports. Be sure to keep an eye out here for how to watch the game on your device of choice.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.