The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens get the 2013 National Football League season underway with a Thursday night encounter against the Broncos in Denver. The game will be televised by NBC at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.
These two teams last saw each other in January during an AFC Divisional playoff game, also in the 'Mile High City,' where Raven quarterback Joe Flacco flung a touchdown pass to tie the score late in the fourth quarter. Baltimore eventually won the playoff contest in double overtime.
For Manning and the Denver offense, the biggest acquisition was former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker who signed on as a free agent. He joins Denver wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to form a potent aerial attack.
“I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while,” Welker told DenverBroncos.com Tuesday. “And being in the kickoff classic – I’m definitely excited about it.”
Baltimore's offense, with Flacco and running back Ray Rice, has added former Manning teammates tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Brandon Stokely. They ranked fifth in total offense last season in the American Football Conference.
It's a little different story on defense for the Broncos. Standout linebacker Von Miller will miss the contest as part of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey is out with an foot injury. And former Bronco pass rusher Elvis Dumervil is now with the Ravens, because of a contract snafu involving his agent that allowed him to sign a free-agent deal with Baltimore.
"It’s just as a player and as a competitor – I’ve been doing it for almost eight years now – you’ve got to prove yourself. And that’s the great thing about the NFL, is you have opportunity, and whenever you have an opportunity to prove yourself, I think you should take full advantage of it. So, I’m looking forward to that,” Dumervil told BaltimoreRavens.com.
For the NFL world champions, former All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis has retired. But the Ravens defense, including Dumervil, will still be formidable. Inside linebacker Terrell Suggs will take up the leadership mantle from Lewis and will get help from nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
As far as which team might prevail in this first NFL matchup, four of the five game analysts for NFL.com are going with the Broncos. The majority of analysts on ESPN.com are also siding with Denver over the Ravens.
Other big matchups in the NFL opening weekend include the return of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III from injury as Washington meets the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night. On Sunday, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton returns from a one-year suspension for player bounties as the Saints host the Atlanta Falcons in an early NFC South meeting, Green Bay travels to San Francisco to play the 49ers, and the New York Giants play the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday night.