Heavyweight fight: Ravens vs. Broncos

Heavyweight fight: Ravens vs. Broncos | Chris Schisler | July 9, 2013

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The NFL opens up in Denver, with the defending champion Baltimore Ravens fighting the Broncos on a Thursday night. The season opener is a rematch of one of the most exciting playoff games in NFL history. It took two overtimes but the Ravens finally beat their nemesis, Peyton Manning; who had one his previous 8 matchups against Baltimore. The game felt like a clash of AFC powers. The rematch will have this same feel. Both the Ravens and the Broncos are poised to be top AFC teams. The Ravens are already being called underdogs in the week 1 contest by the national media. This is fine with the Ravens as they were told they had no chance of victory in their triumphant victory in Denver just a few months ago.
This has been a very memorable offseason for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens seemingly held an NFL style garage sale where 9 players of the championship squad left Baltimore. Fans were in a frantic state of disbelief. Losing Anquan Boldin was the last straw. Baltimore’s beloved wide receiver was traded for a 6th round pick. The Ravens planned on getting rid of Boldin before it was too late, as the receiver lost a step with each year. Ozzie was able to get a 6th round draft pick out of Boldin instead of cutting him. There was logic behind all the moves Ozzie made. Most fans of the Ravens could have cared less; they were angry.
The Ravens ended up bettering themselves, at least on paper. The Ravens defense expects to be better than it was last season. People forget how disappointing the Ravens defense was last year. Teams gashed the Ravens for big yards, especially on the ground. The saving grace of the unit was that they were stingy in the red zone. The Ravens retooled the defense completely in preparations of 2013. Marcus Spears, Chris Canty and 3 defensive lineman drafted will improve the defensive line. Baltimore selected the steal of the draft in Arthur Brown, the linebacker from Kansas State. I had a first round grade on Brown, who the Ravens got late in the second round. The Ravens also added veteran linebacker Darryl Smith from Jacksonville as an insurance policy to Jemeel McClain’s health issues.
Elvis Dumervil thanks to a faxing error is wearing purple and in combination with fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the pass rush should be the strength of the Ravens. The secondary is also improved with the additions of Michael Huff, Matt Elam and Ladarius Webb returning from injury. The Ravens lost two hall of fame players in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Other than that what did the Ravens really lose, that they did not replace. Lewis and Reed were not the players they used to be and it was time to move on for the Baltimore Ravens. There is more talent on the defense than there was in the Super Bowl run.
The Broncos offseason was less dramatic. As Peyton Manning continues to come back to his pre-injury form, the Broncos are looking forward to seeing their newly acquired weapon, Wes Welker. The Broncos loss of Elvis Dumervil must have been a little embarrassing. Dumervil was ready to sign off on a restructured contract when a fax error (yes in this day and age a fax error) made Dumervil a free agent. The angered Dumervil signed with the Ravens, who could be the Broncos biggest challenger to reach the Super Bowl. Dumervil is a big loss to the Broncos. Now Von Miller has to prove he can keep producing sacks without a top tier pass rusher across from him. Due to a conflict with the Baltimore Orioles and the MLB the Ravens are being sent to Denver for the season opener.
The Ravens are the first Super Bowl champion to open their season on the road since 2003. The NFL has set the precedent that the Super Bowl Champion opens up the NFL season at home in front of a national audience. Personally I do not care who is to blame, the Ravens were disrespected. If the 49ers had won the Super Bowl I have a hard time believing a San Francisco Giants game would have prevented them from getting the home opener (But hey that is the Baltimore chip on the shoulder talking). The Ravens have played it down, which shows they are a class act organization. You have to believe inside the Ravens facilities, in practices and the locker-room head coach John Harbuagh can use this to motivate his team. The Ravens will come into the season opener ready to punch Denver in the mouth, ready to fight for the respect they never got after winning it all. John Harbuagh will have his team ready with the unmatched enthusiasm the Harbuaghs are known for.
If you have been reading between the lines you probably already know I expect the defending champion Ravens to beat the Broncos in the week 1 showdown. Emotion is on the Ravens side and they match up. Denver’s thirst for revenge is played down compared to the Ravens thirst for revenge. Secondly I think the Ravens match up well against the Broncos. If it were not for two Trindon Holladay kick returns, the Broncos would have lost last season’s playoff game in regulation. The Broncos secondary is still suspect; a secondary that was carved up by Flacco in the teams’ playoff meeting. The Broncos defense lost Dumervil and now the offensive line can focus more on Von Miller. The Ravens were able to get to Manning in the playoff game, with a less talented front 7. Now with former Bronco Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs coming after him Peyton will have an even rougher day.
The season opener will feel like an epic battle between two great teams because that is exactly what it will be. Both teams have a legitimate shot at winning a Super Bowl in 2013. The Ravens match up well against the Broncos. The game will have a playoff atmosphere. It is the kind of situation that elevates the play of quarterback Joe Flacco and his team. The Ravens will start 2013 with an impressive road win.

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