The Ravens open up their season with one of the toughest challenges they can face, a road appointment against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Here are five things to watch:
In Week 1, when teams haven't seen recent game tape of their opponent, it's always difficult for coaches to predict what their opponent will do. This week's matchup is particularly interesting in that regard considering the Ravens know the Broncos well and vice versa since Denver Head Coach Gary Kubiak spent last year in Baltimore. That means each team will have some different tweaks and surprises in store for the other side. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said in-game or halftime adjustments will be especially important.
Both Teams' Potent Pass Rush
Denver outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are one of the game's best pass-rush duos. Miller posted 14 sacks last year and Ware had 10. They didn't slow down this preseason either. The Ravens were one of the league's best in protecting Joe Flacco last year. They need to get off to a good start in Denver, which will be quite loud. On the other side, Ravens fans are well aware of what pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil can do. This will be Dumervil's second game back in Denver since leaving the Broncos following the 2012 season.
Ravens' Run Attack
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman won't be playing. The Ravens are going to be in a hostile road environment. Baltimore's strength is its offensive line. Running back Justin Forsett has fresh legs at the start of the season. It sounds like a recipe for the Ravens to run the ball in Week 1. Running the ball would not only help move the offense down the field, but it would eat up more clock and keep Manning off it. Baltimore does have limited depth behind Forsett, however, with Lorenzo Taliaferro (knee) ailing.
Good Test For Revamped Secondary
The last time the Ravens secondary faced Manning, in the 2013 season opener also in Denver, the future Hall of Famer threw an all-time NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes. This week, every Raven not named Suggs said that game has no bearing on this week, and they've blocked it from their memories. Baltimore has the same starting cornerbacks, but different depth. The Ravens also have two different safeties in Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill. It will be a tough test, and the secondary can't be expected to have a lockdown night versus a very talented passing attack, but it will still be a barometer of just how far the Ravens* *secondary has come since last year.
Stopping The Run Without Haloti
With Kubiak on board, you better bet the Broncos are also going to run the ball. That's Kubiak's bread and butter. Lost in Manning's shadow is talented Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, who ran for 849 yards and eight touchdowns in just seven starts last season. The Ravens will play their first regular-season game with Haloti Ngata in Detroit and Timmy Jernigan is a question mark as he is trying to bounce back from a preseason knee injury. If Baltimore can't stop the run, it's going to make life a lot easier for Manning.