Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Denver Broncos' Week 1 Action

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12:  Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos breaks up a pass intended for Torrey Smith #82 of the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The final roster has been decided, and the countdown is almost over.

The Denver Broncos and their fans have been patiently waiting for a chance at redemption ever since giving away a playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens on January 12, 2013.

Of course, the Ravens turned the momentum of that victory into a Super Bowl championship.

On Thursday night, the two teams square off again from Sports Authority Field. There is plenty to talk about as these two teams will kick off the 2013-14 NFL season, but here we will concentrate on the most important matchups in the game.

The team that gets the better of these particular matchups will likely come out victorious, starting the campaign 1-0.

Champ Bailey vs. Torrey Smith

In the playoff game last year, Torrey Smith had probably the best game of his career, leading to one of Champ Bailey's worst.

The immediate aftermath included questions of Bailey's ability to play the cornerback position at an elite level now at the age of 35 years old. The Broncos were also quick to bring in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a free agent.

In the playoff loss last year, Smith only caught three passes. But he had touchdowns of 59 and 32 yards and beat Bailey badly on both plays.

With Anquan Boldin now playing in San Francisco, Joe Flacco will likely lean on Smith even more, and because of that, Bailey will be challenged.

Flacco has proven he isn't afraid of going right at the 12-time Pro Bowler, and Bailey will have to be ready.

Of course, there is a chance Bailey won't even play in the game as he is still dealing with a foot injury that occurred during a preseason game against Seattle.

If Bailey is unable to suit up, Rodgers-Cromartie would likely draw the assignment of Smith.

Rough, rough half for #Broncos CB Champ Bailey. He can't run with Torrey Smith.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 12, 2013

Ryan Clady vs. Elvis Dumervil

Because the Baltimore Ravens use a 3-4 defense, Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil won't necessarily be matched up one-on-one.

But make no mistake, the Ravens' best pass-rushers come in the form of their outside linebackers.

The tandem of Dumervil and Terrell Suggs has amassed 148 career sacks. Dumervil will be especially hungry to make an impression against his former team after an offseason error involving a fax machine led to his departure.

Clady, who is coming off shoulder surgery, will be put to the test in protecting Peyton Manning. He only gave up one sack all of last season, and Dumervil has never had a sack in a season-opening game.

Denver Linebackers vs. Baltimore Tight Ends

The Broncos struggled matching up against opposing tight ends on a consistent basis last season. Not only could they not cover them, they picked up huge chunks of yards after the catch as well. 

Fortunately for Denver, the Ravens will be without Dennis Pitta, who will miss most if not all of the season with a hip injury.

In two games against the Broncos last year, Pitta had 10 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Without him, the Ravens will look to Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark.

Part of the problem Denver had with the tight end last season was due to the play they received from the middle linebacker position.

Wesley Woodyard has been placed in this spot for the time being due to the six-game suspension given to Von Miller.

Woodyard has been good in coverage throughout his career and even had three interceptions last season. Many of the tight end assignments could fall on him in this game.

If Woodyard gets beat, the safeties need to be ready to pick up the slack. Denver can't get torched by tight ends the way they did in 2012. Hopefully, this was a big point of emphasis with the defense this offseason.

2012 OpponentPlayerReceptionsYards Per Catch
PittsburghHeath Miller412.5
AtlantaTony Gonzalez710.0
San DiegoAntonio Gates613.5
New OrleansJimmy Graham512.6
CincinnatiJermaine Gresham618.0
CarolinaGreg Olsen911.3
BaltimoreDennis Pitta717.9
ClevelandBen Watson315.7
BaltimoreDennis Pitta318.3

Manny Ramirez vs. Haloti Ngata

Manny Ramirez has been given the starting job at center this season, largely because the team didn't have a better option. His first assignment will be to line up across from one of the most physically imposing players in the league, Haloti Ngata.

Ngata is easily one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL and has been for years. He could deal a severe blow to the Denver running game if Ramirez isn't up to the challenge.

Ramirez will almost certainly need help from either Zane Beadles or Louis Vasquez as the Broncos should game plan to double team Ngata almost constantly.

This will be a very key matchup to watch in this game.


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