Could Ravens Open 2024 Against Defending Champion Chiefs?

The Baltimore Ravens could be the first team that the Kansas City Chiefs see in their upcoming Super Bowl defense.

Just wait 'till next year.

Hope is officially renewed for the 31 NFL teams left empty-handed after the 2023 season, as the Kansas City Chiefs retained Tiffany silver with a 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. While Kansas City celebrates, the focus for everyone else can turn to next season, which is set to open with a Thursday night game against Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Andy Reid, and more at Arrowhead Stadium come September. 

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With rare exceptions, the NFL Kickoff Game has routinely featured the defending Super Bowl champion hosting a high-profile opponent. The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City's victim in the AFC title game to punch its Super Bowl ticket, are on the shortlist of Arrowhead visitors come next fall. Are they the most attractive option to fill in the invitation?

View the possibilities, ranked:

8. New Orleans Saints

The Saints hardly seem like a team ready for one of the NFL's most prestigious prime time slots. Two of their nationally-televised appearances were relegated to streaming and the outlier was an early Monday night game against division rival Carolina. With franchise face Alvin Kamara probably on his way out and the lack of any potential animosity with an interconference rival, the Saints are perhaps the least likely possibility for the opening of the championship defense. 

Related: How Far Are Ravens From Competing In Super Bowl LIX?

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As little as two years ago, this probably would've been the most likely possibility. Tampa Bay is the one team (to date, at least) to get the best of the Chiefs in the Super Bowl and there's enough lingering firepower from that championship match (i.e. Chris Godwin, maybe Mike Evans) for a nostalgic sell. Tampa Bay is also coming off a surprisingly lucrative season, having won the NFC South and a playoff game to boot. But one certain departure ... namely one bearing the No. 12 ... will probably keep the Bucs out of the Week 1 slot. 

6. Denver Broncos

Denver worked through a surprisingly competitive season albeit one mired in controversy concerning the fate of Russell Wilson. That campaign featured a surprising win over the Chiefs, but, once again, hard to get too excited over any name-brand talents currently stationed on the Denver roster. Besides, the kickoff games tend to avoid divisional matchups in the early going: while there was a brief departure from the norm in 2019 (when the non-championship Green Bay Packers faced Chicago for the NFL's 100th anniversary), the last defending champion to face a familiar foe was the New York Giants in 2012 (hosting Dallas).

5. Las Vegas Raiders

The football world has often tried to make the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry happen and it's been thrust into the spotlight following Sunday's events: the win over the 49ers rendered Kansas City more successful at Allegiant Stadium than the current residents, who ironically stand as the most recent team to get the best of them. There's enough optimism to get excited about the Raiders as well, especially after they promoted fan-favorite interim head Antonio Pierce to the lead role. But there's so much uncertainty around franchise faces (i.e. Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs) and the franchise quarterback spot to justify a prime-time role in the 2024 season's kickoff.

4. Los Angeles Chargers 

Rounding out the divisional possibilities are the Chargers, who have a most intriguing case for Week 1's opener despite the traditional avoidance of such get-togethers. For one thing, Los Angeles seems tailor-made for the modern NFL with a plethora of offensive talents even if Austin Ekeler moves on. There's now renewed hope around Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert, and Mike Williams thanks to the prescience of Jim Harbaugh, who is back in the NFL after nearly a decade on the collegiate level. Matching Harbaugh up against Andy Reid would create a rare showdown between the reigning college and professional football championship leaders.

3. Baltimore Ravens

Though some faces could be missing from the AFC finalists' rematch (i.e. Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Queen), the Ravens undoubtedly stand as one of the Chiefs' top threats to not only a third straight Vince Lombardi Trophy hoist but possibly even more. But the NFL has often avoided a high-profile rematch in the Kickoff Game slot, especially after staging a Super Bowl 50 rematch for 2016 (Denver-Carolina). The NFL has often avoided playoff do-overs entirely in the Week 1 Thursday nighter, as they're more often keen to shift them to other prime time slots. Expect the league to repeat the process for the Ravens' upcoming visit to Arrowhead.

2. Houston Texans

The Kickoff Game often tries not to dwell on the past but rather the future. In recent seasons, those on the cusp of contention have been called upon to show how far they've come and that was purely the case when the league situated the future NFC finalists from Detroit against the Chiefs last time around. The one thing working against the Texans, who boast one of Mahomes' primary, lasting threats to conference dominance in CJ Stroud, is the fact that they've been in this slot before, as they previously helped Kansas City ring in the new year back in 2020.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Fans of the Ravens' AFC North rivals have claimed that their team would've been able to hang with Kansas City if not for Joe Burrow's season-ending injury. Indeed, the Bengals do stand as the one that spared the football world from five consecutive Super Bowls starring the Chiefs, topping them in the 2022-23 AFC title game before falling victim to revenge a year later. If Cincinnati truly does have the antidote to Kansas City's dominance, the NFL would perhaps give them a chance to immediately prove. Sans Burrow, the Bengals did play the Chiefs to a 25-17 final back on Dec. 31.

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