NFL kickoff pick, Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos: That spread is kinda high

broncosravensThe last time Baltimore and Denver played was an instant classic. The divisional round affair was everything you desire in a playoff game. That’s how every game should be played and hopefully kicking off the season tonight, the Broncos and Ravens will give us something just as entertaining. Peyton Manning and the Broncos were rolling heading into that dramatic playoff loss, so the 38-35 Ravens victory still has to sting Denver, but 7.5 seems high without a player as great as Von Miller. Also seems crazy so many people are on Denver’s jock as if they are the defending champs. Peyton is a beast, but damn…

Baltimore and Denver are somewhat familiar with each other, so seeing different mannerisms in each team’s personality will be something to get used to, but the changes also signifies a new season. Champ Bailey is out with a left foot sprain and while Anquan Boldin took his clutch play to  San Francisco, Denver will wish they had Champ tonight vs. Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith. Von Miller is suspended. Ray Lewis is retired. Ed Reed is in Houston. Elvis Dumervil wears a Ravens jersey. Cary Williams is fighting Riley Cooper in Philly, Dannell Ellerbe is in Miami and Paul Kruger is with Cleveland.

Arthur Brown, Daryl Smith and Michael Huff should fully understand it is their responsibility to take over what the departed champs left behind.

Wes Welker is lucky as hell going from Tom Brady great to Peyton Manning great and Shaun Phillips is another Broncos signing. How effective will Knowshon Moreno be vs. Baltimore’s front?

The Ravens, who lost 9 key players in the off season, have won 7 of the 11 times they’ve played the Broncos. Ravens have won last 5 openers…2nd to New England’s 9 opening game victory streak. Denver has won 63% of openers. Dallas is only other team with a better percentage at 67%. Since 1999, only the Giants (24-17 defeat at hands of Cowboys in ’12) have lost the opening game after winning the Super Bowl. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs are leftover and besides Tom Brady, T-Suggs told me this in ’09 about whom he wants to sack the most:

MT: Who gets under your skin and why?

TS: “Indy. Indianapolis. They don’t play smash mouth football. They just don’t line up with their eleven against your eleven. They always got some trickery. Peyton is doing some bullshit at the line. No! Line up, call your play, we’ll call ours and we’ll play football. He doesn’t want to play that way. He wants to do all this shit, calling audibles. Just line up and play. I’m still waiting for them to line up and play smash mouth against us.”

So, Baltimore will be ready. Joe Flacco is now a championship quarterback with a fat contract. Denver has a revenge factor, but Baltimore is champion and with that comes streamlined thought. They are finally younger and faster, but how will that play out regarding leadership?

Denver was on an 11 game winning streak before Baltimore ripped victory from Broncos fans chests, and the Ravens, now defending Super Bowl champions have to be very confident despite losing many games to Manning led teams over the years.

I’m sure Peyton respects the Ravens defense, but he will be relieved that Ed Reed and Ray Lewis will not be in his view when he’s under center barking out the count. What he will have to account for is former Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was an unexpected addition to a perennially great defense and though Lewis and Reed have moved on, the aforementioned Suggs and company know exactly what it takes to win any game anywhere.

Manning has a great offense and his astounding numbers of last year will probably get better adding Wes Welker to the talents of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Yes, Denver is home, but tonight, I don’t think that matters as much when the champs are in town.

Ray Rice will be the star tonight…

Ravens 27, Broncos 24.

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