The NFL season kicks off this Thursday with our Ravens versus the angry Denver Broncos. This game has been seen as possible retribution for Denver fans after last season’s amazing playoff game. However, don’t count out the Ravens’ feelings towards this game.
On the line this Thursday are two active streaks: the Ravens have never lost in week 1 under Harbaugh & the Ravens haven’t beaten Manning in the regular season since 2001. One of these streaks will end, and I sure do hope it’s the latter.
Bronco fans have been circling this date ever since the regular season schedules came out. They feel angry, maybe even cheated, out of a Super Bowl win that seemed all but guaranteed all season long. Suddenly, they feel that there is a new rivalry between the Broncos & the Ravens. If you look for youtube videos on that playoff game, you will see tons of Bronco fan uploads where they are just disgusted and saddened at what happened. (I watched an interesting upload this weekend that included a prep rally, a concert, and parts of a Denver Nuggets game. Starting in the 4th quarter, the whole stadium had everyone dancing wildly, unaware of the amazing play to come…)
The team may regret their fatal decision to force Elvis Dumervil to renegotiate his deal in the offseason. They enter this game without Elvis, their other star pass rusher Von Miller, and also their top backup who is out with an injury. If they thought the pass to Jacoby Jones was “lucky,” then they may see a whole mess of lucky plays with the amount of time Flacco will have to pass!
Our defense this year is not only stacked with new starters, but also with a lot of depth behind them. Depth is very key with good teams, especially when injuries can occur at any given time and can just dismantle a team’s progress. Every team can have this disaster hanging over their heads when playing. Good teams might have players that they drafted come in and contribute following a starter’s injury, but none can be 100% guaranteed to work. If you recall, Flacco was scheduled to be the 3rd string QB his rookie year in 2008 but wounded up starting as both Troy Smith and Kyle Boller were ruled out.
One of my favorite comparisons that I like to prematurely make is between Manning’s now second season as a Bronco compared with Brett Favre’s 2nd season with the Minnesota Vikings. The 2009 Vikings had such a dominating season (the Ravens were a missed field goal away from beating them in a game that year as well) and were very close to the Super Bowl. The next year is where everything fell apart and Favre retired (his third and last time) after the season. Also, for comparison, Farve’s Vikings started the season against the defending Super Bowl champion, the Saints, after losing to them in the playoffs in overtime and lost again!
Peyton has informed the media that his neck “will never be 100%.” This may be an early indicator that his body has taken enough punishment to retire from football. As a player ages, he also requires a longer period to recover from injury. Considering that Manning is in his late 30s, this could very well be his last season.
Flacco, however, is barely into his prime. We may be treated to the best offense in Ravens history this season, pending on injury factors of course. Jim Caldwell has had more time to install his offense, which is the same offense that propelled the Ravens to victory in the playoffs. Their out of division rivals this year include the NFC North and AFC East, which are two divisions that used to pride themselves on defense but have lacked in that category in recent years. Those are also two divisions who look to have only have one playoff entrant from each.
After enduring the preseason games, nothing is more welcome than actual football games. The Ravens have a little streak going in the previous two openers, where they seem to have one of their biggest scoring games of the season. This is more evidence that I really see the Ravens not only winning, but winning easily this Thursday. A lot of sports “analysts” would disagree with that assertion.
Then again, as this is football, expect the unexpected at all times.
Enjoy the game and go Ravens!
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