Super Bowl champions are supposed to be able to celebrate their success with a home opener, but Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will play the role of spoilers when the Baltimore Ravens visit Sports Authority Field on Thursday night.
Due to a conflict with MLB's schedule, the Ravens have to open the season on the road. The NFL scheduled the Ravens to visit Denver, the same place they escaped from with a miraculous postseason victory back in January.
Joe Flacco's Hail Mary to Jacoby Jones tied their AFC divisional playoff game late before the Ravens stole a victory in double overtime from the Broncos.
Winning this game won't exact revenge for the Broncos. A regular season opener doesn't mean as much as a playoff game, especially when the Broncos were the top seed in the AFC last season.
Denver must move on and spoil Baltimore's opener. The Ravens are already at a disadvantage in having to play away from home and the talent favors the Broncos.
These teams went in different directions in the offseason. Baltimore lost legends and shed salary while Denver brought in help to try to win a championship.
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin are among the key pieces that are no longer with the Ravens.
Wes Welker was brought in to help the Broncos on offense, and he should fit right in with Manning's system. Von Miller will miss the first six games, but the team will still be able to win without him.
One interesting storyline to follow will be the return of Elvis Dumervil. Mike Klis of the Denver Post has an update on how the former Bronco is adjusting to life in Baltimore. He was the player who was cut because his agent didn't fax paperwork to the team in time and had to find a new team.
Baltimore lost a lot of talent, especially on defense, but Dumervil brings explosiveness to the defensive line. He had 63.5 sacks in six seasons with the Broncos.
Dumervil's return will be interesting to watch, but Thursday night will be all about the Broncos' offense.
Manning had one of the best seasons of his career in 2012. He threw for a career-high 4,659 yards and completed 68.6 percent of his passes. He threw for 37 touchdowns and had only 11 interceptions.
Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had a breakout season with Manning throwing him the ball, posting 1,434 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 94 catches.
Fellow receiver Eric Decker also benefited from having a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. He collected 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns on 85 catches, which helped Thomas get open.
Thomas and Decker have turned into big-play receivers. Adding Welker into the mix will only help the offense. The Ravens won't know who to cover and will have a hard time keeping everyone in front of them.
Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball will help take the pressure off Manning. Those two running backs lack experience, but they are more than capable of picking up yards in key situations. Although Ball is a rookie, the Broncos can trust that he won't fumble the football.
Baltimore will be coming off a Super Bowl victory, but the Ravens will leave Denver disappointed.
The Broncos have one of the league's strongest offenses and Manning will be looking to make a statement. He remembers what happened in the playoffs, so look for him to have a big night.
Denver improved its receiving corps in the offseason. Thomas, Decker and Welker will be tough for any team to handle and the Ravens are playing them at the wrong time. The Baltimore defense is replacing most its players from last season, so it will be a process.
Manning will have a big night and the Broncos will be poised to make a Super Bowl run this season, starting with their opener.
*All information is courtesy of NFL.com
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