You don’t know how good it felt to write that title. That’s right ladies and gents, the regular season is finally here! The games actually matter and the starters play the whole game. The Ravens kick off the 2013 NFL season when they head to Mile High Stadium to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a rematch of last years’ most exciting game. Boy, that’s a mouthful. Now that the 53-man roster is set, I’m here to show you what matchups could make or break the game for the Ravens, instead of telling you what undrafted free agent or draft pick to watch.
Peyton Manning Vs. The Ravens Secondary
Manning has historically owned the Ravens, a 7 and 2 record in 9 games, 64.7% completion percentage, 2,477 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions. Defensively, the only way the Ravens were able to counter Manning over the years were with Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, often referred to as a “Defensive Peyton Manning” for the ways he read offenses. The Ravens secondary is also one of the biggest question marks for the Ravens. Can Webb return to form and stay healthy? Will Michael Huff live up to expectations? Can James Ihedigbo really start? What’s up with Jimmy Smith? Can Corey Graham cover the outside receiver? There are so many questions, but so few answers for fans. This will probably be the biggest challenge for the secondary all season, can they make a statement or will they be picked apart? We’ll find out Thursday.
Revamped Ravens Pass Rush Vs. Ryan Clady And Orlando Franklin
Adding the like of Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty to a defense that already had Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Courtney Upshaw has many fans giddy for the type of mayhem they can unleash on offenses. Both Suggs and Ngata were hindered last year/missed time due to injuries, having them healthy should greatly improve the defense. They aren’t going up against slouches this time around though; Clady and Franklin are one of the best Tackle duos in the league. Combine that with the fact the Broncos gave up the least amount of sacks last season (21) and the quick release of Peyton Manning, you’ve got yourself a battle in the trenches.
VonDoom-less Broncos D Vs. The Ravens’ O-line And Ray Rice
Von Miller was suspended the first six games of the season and Elvis Dumervil can thank a fax machine for being able to sign with the Ravens. With those two dominating players not going to be on the field with them, the Ravens O-line can sleep a little easier Wednesday night. Don’t be fooled, the Broncos have players that can step up in Derek Wolfe and Wesley Woodyard, whom notched 6 and 5.5 sacks respectively. The Broncos will also have to keep an eye on the tandem of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce (It’d be dumb not to, right?), especially Rice who gained 131 on 30 carries and a couple of key runs against the Broncos in the Divisional round.
This one might not actually happen which saddens me. Smith torched Bailey and the Broncos secondary for 98 yards on 3 receptions and 3 touchdowns, including an incredible leaping catch over the back of Bailey towards the end of the first half. What has me worried about Bailey possibly being out is that he’s obviously lost a step and, with one-on-one coverage, Smith beats him 9 times out of ten. A younger, faster defensive back would actually have a better shot at defending the deep ball then Bailey. If Bailey does play though, I imagine there’d be a lot of jawing between him and Smith, and Bailey would be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Injury Report as of 9/3:
DT Arthur Jones – Out – Illness
TE Dennis Pitta – Out – Hip
T Ryan Jensen – DNP in Tues practice – Foot
WR Deonte Thompson – DNP in Tues practice – Foot
DT Brandon Williams – DNP in Tues practice – Toe
DE Pernell McPhee – LIMITED in Tues practice – Knee
TE Ed Dickson – FULL PARTICIPATION – Thigh
RB C.J. Anderson – DNP in Tues practice – Knee
CB Champ Bailey – DNP in Tues practice – Foot
TE Joel Dreessen – DNP in Tues practice – Knee
G Chris Kuper – LIMITED in Tues practice – Ankle
DE Robert Ayers – FULL PARTICIPATION – Achilles
T Ryan Clady – FULL PARTICIPATION – Shoulder
QB Brock Osweiler – FULL PARTICIPATION – Left Shoulder
WR Wes Welker – FULL PARTICIPATION – Ankle