Last time the Broncos and Ravens played, it was the 2013 season opener. Because the Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to play that Thursday night, the Ravens did not get the pleasure of dropping their Super Bowl 46 banner to open the NFL season, like most Super Bowl winning teams.
Broncos, on their home soil, would dominate the Ravens 49-27, Peyton Manning throwing 7 Tds to three different receivers. As a Baltimore native, that game was hard to watch.
Now in 2015, both teams will once again meet to open the season but there will be a few new faces for the Ravens -- Broncos on the other hand still have the bulk of their offense. Peyton Manning will still be tossing the ball to Demariyus Thomas and Wes Welker, only missing tight end, Julius Thomas, who I don't think is hard to replace. Emmanuel Sanders, fresh off his career year, will be new to this somewhat rivalry.
Sanders did not play any of the preseason games this season but will have duties in both the passing game and punt return.
This will be Manning's 11th time playing the Ravens, already 8-2. Manning career stat line against the Ravens is nothing short of great, throwing for 2,939 yards, 25 Tds (5 INTs), completing 64% of his passes, and a QB rating of 109. Manning seems to always have his way against the Ravens, who has always been known to have a great defense.
The Broncos will have two newcomers on the offensive line, Matt Paradis and Ty Sambraila making their first starts. That could have a negative effect on the Broncos offense, going against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil could have a field day depending on how the two newbies hold up; not to mention Brandon Williams will be clogging up the middle playing defensive tackle.
Timmy Jernigan is doubtful for this game, not practicing on Wednesday. That could even the playing field for the Broncos but definitely a major loss for the Ravens. Jernigan has high expectations for this season, being one of the reasons why the Ravens let go all-pro defensive tackle, Haloti Ngata. Missing the first game of the season is a good way to start off.
The Broncos will be without one of their defensive starters, safety TJ Ward being suspended for violating the league conduct rule – whatever that is. Josh Bush will replace Ward, starting his first game in his 4-year NFL career. Bush previously played for the Jets, playing in all 16 games as a rookie, so starting shouldn't be too different for him.
The Ravens receiving corp doesn't pose too much of a threat, especially without their 1st round pick, Breshad Perriman, who is sidelined with a PCL injury he suffered in training camp. Kamar Aiken is expected to be the #2 receiver, and the young route running has the support of Steve Smith just in case anyone was wondering.
I don't blame Steve for believing in his teammate, he is supposed to, also Aiken isn't as bad as that reporter was trying to make him seem. Only time will tell if this young receiving group will be able to step up, and be what the Ravens' organization thinks they are. The absence of Perriman will be costly because he was supposed to be the big play guy opposite side of Smith. I'm not sure if Aiken or Marlon Brown, who has flashes of being a bonafide starter, can be consistent enough for an entire NFL season, which doesn't give me much confidence in the offense.
My prediction for the game is 28-17 Broncos. The Ravens haven't shown me enough for me to be confident in them right now. Manning will test this secondary and we will see if the acquisition of Kendrick Lewis was a good one or another Michael Huff situation – I think we all remember how that went. Offensively, Flacco will have to play at an elite level to match, or even better Manning, something he has done before.